Celebration of Life Party: Ideas for Saying Goodbye to a Special Lady

When we lost Chris’s mother Betty earlier this year, we knew she deserved a special farewell.  She would not have wanted a funeral or a sad memorial, so we opted for a celebration of life party to honor all the phases of her 94-year life and all the people she touched along the way.

Summer was coming and we wanted to host this celebration in our garden.  But how to make it special?  How to make it “Betty?”

Using Family Photos

We had boxes of old family photos, some dating back to the 1920s. And luckily Betty was very photogenic.  I was struck by how classically beautiful she looked in the black and white photos.  She looked like a movie star from Hollywood’s golden age.

And some the of the photos from the 1960s, like Betty with a Jackie Kennedy dress and hairstyle standing beside her 1962 Impala, were priceless.  Then there was Tomboy Betty, dressed in plaid flannel on hunting trips with her family.  A prettier tomboy never existed.

Cleary these photos had to be incorporated into the party. But a slide show would have been next to impossible on a sunny day.  So I scanned about 40 of the best Betty photos from all phases of her life and ordered 4 X 6 prints of them.  Then I simply took 8½ X 11 brightly colored cardstock, cut it in half horizontally, and glued a photo onto each piece of cardstock.

Now I had photos with simple mats. And strung together on a clothesline, they would make a colorful banner on one side, and a photo gallery of Betty’s life on the other.

The day of the party, we set up the party tent that would shade the food table, and we strung clothesline around all 4 sides of it at eye level and affixed the photos with clothespins.

Celebration of life: party ideas - use of family photos
Family and friends enjoying the photo gallery

Gifts for Guests

We told our guests that they could unclip and take home any photo they liked. That way they would each have the photo of Betty that meant the most to them and, since it was already on a simple mat, it was frame-ready.

A Place for Memories

Our little potting shed, standing in close proximity to the food tent, become the “memory room,” where we placed more portraits of Betty, her high school yearbooks, ceramic projects, wedding photo, bibles, and other memorabilia. I also put a laptop in there with a running slide show of all the photos I had scanned for the party banners.

Celebration of life party ideas: memory room
Potting shed converted to a memory room

Personal Touches

I rented white folding wooden chairs from a party rental store so that the party had a more unified look, and we scattered small tables and the chairs around the garden.

Betty had a lot of great little pieces of old linen and lace which I, being the vintage textile junkie that I am, had held on to.  I topped the small tables with her vintage fabrics.  I also used her teacup collection to create rose-filled cup and  saucer centerpieces for the tables.

When we lose someone like Betty after a long illness, it’s easy at first to only remember that person at their worst, during their illness.  But a party like this creates a relaxed atmosphere where friends and family can remember the good times and share those memories with each other.

Betty would have loved it!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

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Decorating and Holidays
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