Saying goodbye is never easy, but increasingly, many people prefer to pursue more celebratory vibes as they pay homage to loved ones they’ve lost. Hence, the growing popularity of the celebration of life as an alternative to the traditional funeral service

A celebration of life brings friends, family members, and acquaintances together to remember the unique personality and achievements of the individual who has recently passed away.

This memorial service can provide a sense of closure and much-needed solace, but it’s often stressful to plan. Attention to detail is essential, as the stakes are high: this is the ultimate send-off and you don’t want it to reflect poorly on the person you’re trying to honor. The right decorations can set the stage for a wonderful celebration, so we’ve outlined the best decorating ideas for celebration of life events: 

1. Personalized Photo Displays

Photos should form the basis for any celebration of life decor. Attendees will enjoy gazing at images of loved ones and using these as conversation starters. Framed photos and collages are lovely, but nothing conveys a loved one’s personality quite like cardboard cutouts. Add a few life-sized standees to make the event’s decorations more dynamic.

Woman standing next to her life-size standee of herself.

Smaller displays, such as funeral or memory cards, can be passed out so that attendees know what to expect and can also bring special quotes or photos home with them. 

2. Meaningful Flower Arrangements

Flowers have long been the funeral go-to, but chances are, loved ones have already received plenty of floral arrangements. If you want to go this route, make it extra meaningful with flowers that reflect the preferences of the person who passed away. Otherwise, chrysanthemums, lilies, and roses are always safe options that can make an instant impression. 

3. Inspirational Candlelight Tributes

Candlelit ceremonies are some of the most meaningful, but they call for extra effort above and beyond the ‘typical’ celebration of life planning process. An outdoor vigil at a meaningful location will be especially impactful, but you’ll want to have a backup option available in case of bad weather.

Provide a generous supply of candles so that all attendees can get involved. Simple white candles are typically favored, although you can also order personalized candles if desired. 

A candle light tribute for someone who past.

“The light will keep Andre’s memory alive — JAGS foundation, by Harshil Shah” by NCVO is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

4. Sentimental Keepsakes and Memorabilia

The best celebration of life decor doubles as keepsakes for family members to cherish in years to come. DIY options are available, although many of these special keepsakes can also be commissioned. These can be displayed at a dedicated memory table.

Meaningful ideas include:

  • Shadow boxes filled with mementos
  • Memorial quilts and blankets
  • Framed handprints and footprints 

5. Tribute Slideshows and Video Displays

The best decorations aren’t always tangible. Photo slideshows and videos provide a powerful reminder of special moments shared with loved through the years. Ask loved ones to contribute favorite photos or video clips and compile them into a remembrance slideshow that can be displayed via a projector. Feel free to also display digital photo frames throughout the space, as this will maximize the number of photos you are able to show off. 

6. Personalized Decorative Banners and Signs

Welcome attendees to the celebration with personalized banners or yard signs that let them know they’ve made it to the right place while also conveying the intended mood for the event. This is a great option for outdoor celebrations, where decor options might otherwise feel limited in scope. A unique option worth considering? Personalized cardboard cutouts that incorporate text. 

7. Thoughtful Balloon Releases

A balloon release serves as a powerful symbolic gesture. Nothing compares to the visual spectacle of seeing colorful balloons float away while you allow your grief to float away as well. Environmental concerns should be top of mind, however. Opt for biodegradable balloons and leave ribbons out of the equation. 

A balloon release of heart shaped balloons.

“Luftballonherzen – Love Balloons” by bonho1962 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

8. Music and Soundscapes

The ideal celebration of life will draw on all the senses to memorialize the person who has passed away. The sense of sound, in particular, can make any celebration feel more meaningful. That being said, music has the power to drive a range of emotions, so you will want to be purposeful about how this is incorporated.

Live music is always welcome, so feel free to get a pianist or guitarist involved. Otherwise, a playlist featuring the honored individual’s favorite tunes could add a cheer to the occasion. The concept of the soundscape is also worth exploring. This is a common tool for helping people relate to their surroundings while being more present in the moment. 

9. Remembrance Trees and Planting Ceremonies

Did your loved ones enjoy spending time in nature or tending to a beautiful garden? If so, a planting ceremony could serve as the perfect tribute. This is a common strategy for honoring loved ones who have opted for cremation. Begin by selecting a meaningful location, plus a young tree that is well-suited to that area. Invite family members or friends to say a few short words of remembrance and consider adding live music during the memorial tree planting process. 

10. Decorative Memory Stones and Plaques

There is something reassuringly permanent about memory stones and plaques, which bring a tangible reminder of your loved one to the forefront. Stones, in particular, are ideal for planting ceremonies or other outdoor celebrations of life, although they can also be displayed indoors and then eventually moved to a loved one’s garden. These can be engraved and may feature touching quotes or even images. 

A memory stone of someone who past,

“Acocks Green Library, Shirley Road, Acocks Green – Memorial stone to World War One and Two” by ell brown is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

11. Meaningful Color Schemes and Themes

Don’t underestimate the power of color symbolism. While black has traditionally been the go-to for grief and especially during funerals, a celebration of life may call for different colors that relate to the person being remembered. Favorite colors are a natural option for a color scheme — for example, someone who adored pink would naturally want lots of bright pink at their celebration of life. Otherwise, vibrant colors that reflect unique personality traits should also work. 

12. Collaborative Art and Craft Projects

Arts and crafts can be wonderfully therapeutic, but they also provide a great opportunity to share memories and spark conversation. Loved ones can work together to create scrapbooks, memory quilts, or artwork. This is a great activity for the celebration itself, although previously created crafts can also be put on display.

Other projects can provide touching reminders of loving relationships for celebrations that take place near the holidays. DIY ornaments, for example, can be personalized with special messages or photos. Painted rocks, memorial wreaths, and even wind chimes are great options for showing off DIY skills. 

13. Food and Beverage Displays

It’s only natural to gather around food, but this moment should feel just as special as every other aspect of the celebration of life. This is a great chance to display special images of loved ones, particularly if you anticipate that the lines for the food or beverages might be long. Use poster stands or even cardboard standees to create mobile displays that show the honored individual throughout their lifespan. 

14. Outdoor Celebration Ideas

If the weather cooperates, an outdoor celebration can make for a pleasant or downright stunning occasion. Venue selection matters; when in doubt, opt for a garden setting with a gazebo and plenty of natural beauty. This could be an amazing opportunity to recognize the honored person’s love of the great outdoors.

Enjoy a charming picnic and amp up the decorations with quaint archways or fairy lights. As we’ve mentioned, candlelight vigils and tree planting ceremonies make for lovely outdoor ceremonies. 

15. Memory Book and Guestbook Stations

Loved ones are often surprised to discover what an outsized impact their departed friends or family members have had on the community at large. A guestbook immediately conveys this while also providing a touching keepsake. Provide an easy-to-access station where visitors can write stories of their time together and share other special memories. 

Someone who is signing into the guest book.

“Signing Guest book at Gagarin’s office in Star City’s museum (as backup crew)” by AstroSamantha is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

16. Memorial Art Installations

Collaborate with talented artists to bring your loved one’s distinct personality to life. This is also a great chance to give a local art student an opportunity to create something meaningful.

The memorial piece work doesn’t need to directly depict the person who passed away, although a portrait is certainly a possibility. Beyond this, however, something that conveys the essence of this person may prove more powerful. Symbolism is always valued, especially if there is a particular plant or animal that the person in question adored.

Where this art is ultimately displayed will be just as important as what it depicts. While it may initially be a focal point for a celebration of life, it can later be featured in the home of a bereaved spouse, at a church, or even in a coffee shop or other local business the special person used to frequent. 

17. Incorporating Religious or Cultural Traditions

Deeply faithful individuals often express their desire for celebrations of life that abide by their most cherished religious or cultural traditions. Consider how they marked key events while they were alive, and don’t be afraid to ask their most trusted religious contacts (priests, pastors, or rabbis, for example) for guidance. Respect is key when taking this approach, so verify that every detail abides by important traditions. 

18. Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Decor

There is no need to leave a huge carbon footprint when celebrating the life of a loved one. Eco-friendly decor abounds, with many essentials constructed from sustainable materials.

This is also a great opportunity to reuse high-quality items, rather than strictly opting for disposable goods. If you’re planning a smaller celebration and have access to a setting with a commercial dishwasher, classic cutlery may be your best bet.

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19. Memorial Video Montages

Video has the power to convey the essence of any special person. We’ve already mentioned the value of projecting a slideshow throughout the event, but you can take this to the next level with a dedicated montage that all attendees are asked to watch. This could include clips depicting special events and memories, plus favorite songs, poems, or quotes. Later, this montage or tribute can be shared digitally to provide a powerful reminder that can be accessed whenever it’s needed.

20. Personalized Table Centerpieces

Build meaningful decor into the event’s table settings, where centerpieces provide meaningful reminders of just how special and beloved the person at the heart of the celebration truly was. Florals are a top option, but DIY projects and even cutouts can be used to form impactful centerpieces.

Honor Your Loved One with Cardboard Cutouts

A well-planned celebration of life service or party will help you and your loved ones find solace in community. As you plan a celebration that feels true to the special person you’ve lost, consider building cardboard cutouts into the occasion. These can form the basis of a unique and impactful tribute.

At Cardboard Cutout Standees, we are committed to helping you mark all of life’s milestones, including both joyous and difficult occasions. We offer a range of customization opportunities, so you can create the tasteful displays you need for an upcoming celebration of life. Get started today by uploading meaningful images — or reach out if you have any questions.


  • Jason Frank

    Jason Frank is the Co-Founder and Vice President at Cardboard Cutout Standees. After 25 years of selling factory automation he started the company with one of his college roommates. The company has grown to one of the largest providers of large format custom printed products in the United States. Along with the namesake cardboard cutout standees, they also provide BigHeads, Point of Purchase Displays, Wall Murals, and Wall Decals to a diverse client base across the US and Canada. When not focused on the business, you usually find Jason either on the road biking or our in the woods and fields of western Wisconsin.

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