Celebrate Life

Celebration of Life Ceremony

Celebration of Life Ceremony

Why do we wait until we die to tell the good stories and say the lovely things? Imagine if we could say it all beforehand from the comfort of our favourite place and write it all down as a keepsake? At living wakes we  can gather our people, share our stories, instead of everyone feeling obliged to spend 20 depressing minutes at the crematorium once we’ve gone. Living wakes enable you to create memories, start processing grief and preserve your life story as a legacy. They are a celebration of life for all to enjoy, which is more about life than death.

A group of people in a gathering. They are all white and wearing colourful clothes, they are engaged in conversation

Celebrating life… what does it mean?

Celebrating life is a positive approach to funerals. At a living wake you get to celebrate life.

Funerals still serve an important purpose in enabling healing. However many believe that funerals are a pointless waste of time and money.

In my experience doing ‘nothing’ is not the answer and there are alternatives to conventional funerals. Living Wakes are one option.


Celebrate the good thing and tell the real stories

If you feel like this then celebrating life in the form of a Living Wake is for you and it will also create a great resource should people decide to have a funeral later.

You can celebrate the good things, the good times and tell the real stories of the person who knows they are nearing the end of their life.

These are colourful, joyous, truthful occasions and not the usual depressing 20 minutes in a drafty grey building with a stranger telling a story that could be about anyone. The best thing is that nobody misses out, not even the person who knows they are nearer the end of their life than the beginning.

Lots of beautiful paintings hung in a ceremony space

Celebrating life with a living wake


Have you or someone you love been given devastating news of a life limiting illness and you want to celebrate your life now AND leave a legacy to help  those you love with their grief.

Is someone you love dying and insisting that they don’t want a funeral, or perhaps you hate funerals too but want to do something to honour their life and tell their story

Do you have a parent who has dementia and you are worried about losing their story and history?


Living wakes are a new alternative to funerals but also create resources for funerals at a later date.


Imagine if you could gather all of your favourite people in a place of your choice, eat, drink, tell your  stories and record your life story  for future generations.

Imagine if they could instead sit in good company with you, share their stories and hear you say all the beautiful things you would have said at their funeral but they would never otherwise hear.

Imagine that you had the opportunity to gather all their memories into a little keepsake book with photos and tales of their life capturing them forever.

What happens at a Living Wake?

At your living wake I take you and all your favourite people on a shared journey of memories and connection for three hours and then take away all the golden nuggets of your life and write your story as a keepsake. 

A Living Wake is a relatively new concept, particularly here in the UK. When you work with me it is not usually the same as a Living Funeral at which you literally attend your own funeral ceremony but it can be…beccause it’s your gig!

However here is a wonderful article about a Living Wake which also involves a little bit of ceremony. It gives gives you a really good idea of what it is all about if you work with me. Click here for A great example of a Living Wake

Celebration of Life Services

I am a  highly experienced, extremely skilled facilitator who can empathise, listen sensitively and enable you to navigate a difficult time in your lives and grief as a group.

  • 1 hr Discovery meeting (zoom or in person)
  • Living Wake Pack
  • 3 hour Living Wake on the Day
  • Keepsake copy of your story digital and printed

Discovery meeting 1 hr over zoom or in person

  • A listening session to determine your needs!
  • We will create an outline of the person’s life.
  • We will consider who is to be involved.
  • Work out what you want and need.
  • Answer your questions about anything you need to know.
  • Design an outline for the Living Wake
  • Make sure that it is tailored to your circumstances, bespoke and personalised.
  • Mapping out a structure to include hour 1, hour 2 and hour 3.
Jess May, Funeral Celebrant on the phone with rainbow coloured hai in front of the Brighton Pavillion
A Rainbow coloured dream catcher being held in the wind by the sea on the beach. It has the words Your Living Wake in orange letters

Living Wake pack

  • A comprehensive pack including:
  • A questionnaire about the person’s life.
  • Creative activity ideas
  • Suggestions regarding where to have the Living Wake
  • Ideas for setting up the space, including choosing flowers, snacks and drinks. 
  • A checklist of things to bring i.e. photos, videos, songs, keepsakes. Life timeline
  • Booking form for agreeing practicalities and logistics
  • To include agreed date, venue, time, how many guests, logistics including parking and directions.

Living Wake 

  • Hour 1: Beginning!Jess arrives and meets everyone. 
  • Light a candle setting the space and intention. A simple activity of your choice.
  • Hour 2: Middle! We share your favourite snacks an drinks get out the photo albums. We talk about your memories and favourite stories. Jess takes notes
  • Hour 3: End! We bring out the questionnaires, play favourite music. If you wish we can collate a simple funeral wish list at the end. We blow out the candle!
At a Living Wake two children are drawing with a bunch of flowers on the table. The light i pink
packaged Keepsake copy of a script with a turquoise ribbon in a bow and thistles behind it on a table outdoors

Keepsake Story

The end of this process produces your very own unique family keepsake copy of a 20 page beautifully written and printed life story for all of you to keep.

You can keep it for whenever you need it. You can have use it at a future date for a Celebration of Life and you can order additional copies as gifts!


1 FREE DISCOVERY CALL Start with a free discovery call with me.

2 BOOKING FORM If you decide to go ahead I will send a booking form.

3 LIVING WAKE PACK When you book me I will send you a pack of what we would need for the day including questionnaires, suggestions for a creative activity and a list of things I would need from you. Flowers, favourite snacks, photos, videos, and most importantly your favourite people to invite.

4. CHOOSE A VENUE Make sure that it has capacity for the number of people. Your front room, hospice room or back garden is just fine!

5 CHOOSE A TIME SLOT 10am-1pm or 2pm-5pm.

6 THE BIG DAY 3 HOURS AT LIVING WAKE.Jess arrives and we have 3 hours together at the Living Wake.

7 JESS CREATES YOUR KEEPSAKE Jess spends 2 -3 weeks creating a 10 page keepsake, memory book with 10 photos and 10 pages of text filled with your stories.

8 DIGITAL COPY AND PRINTED KEEPSAKE STORY SENT TO YOU this includes 10 pages of text and 10 photos.


Digital copy included, a printed copy included. then you have a range of options to suit every budget!

Extra options include

  • Multiple printed copies as keepsakes for close people.
  • An audio recording with Jess’ voice to use at a Celebration at a later date.
  • A short form edited version of the story as a eulogy for you to use at a DIY Celebration of Life, or with any Celebrant anywhere at any time.
  • A Celebration of Life Order of Service prepared in advance for you.
  • Jess’ Celebrant Service in person on the day.

Client Love

Jess was kind, intelligent, compassionate and interested in our family. She was very supportive and caring and really made a sad, difficult time a bit easier. Very grateful to her.


‘I must have spent hours looking for a celebrant for Joe’s Celebration of Life. He died young and we were so devastated. We needed someone who could appreciate and celebrate Joe’s fairly wild lifestyle, and in keeping with Joe’s life be completely inclusive, not only of his straightlaced family but also his diverse group of friends of all faiths and none… Jess came highly recommended by a natural funeral directors..and she did not disappoint…Her beautiful, colourful style but serious and profound appreciation of the sacred work she is doing, led to her creating the kind of, inclusive, beautiful and utterly bespoke ceremony I thought could only be possible in my wildest dreams. There was a lot of gratitude afterwards from people attending that Joe had been respected and celebrated in keeping with who he was… Jess did this by knowing how to really listen and by taking the time to get to know Joe well through our stories, photos, videoclips and long supportive phonecalls where I got to talk about Joe and his death to someone who knows how to really be there…
I wish we hadn’t needed to have this ceremony, We miss you Joe!…but Jess made it that much easier and helped us give Joe the kind of send off he would have enjoyed: Family and friends, loud reggae, Rumi, live folk music, procession and all!!..Thank you Jess’

Jess was the best celebrant – funerals are never fun, but Jess enabled a joyous celebration of a life very well lived and very much loved – thank you


My Mission

Funerals are going out of fashion but telling our stories is as relevant as ever.

I see a need to be a realist and embrace change but also to replace what is left behind with something new.

I am on a mission to make sure that whether you choose not to have a funeral ceremony, want a DIY Funeral Ceremony or a Memorial with ashes that you get what you need, rather than nothing at all.

I have witnessed the transformative power that the process of telling our life and death stories has in helping us to heal. I know that surrounding yourself with your people will lessen your pain.

I know that we need to find new ways of celebrating life and acknowledging loss.

That is what I am here for….


What is a celebration of life ceremony?

This is a new way of approaching death. It could be a tricky topic. But they will want you to have what you want. That is important to remember. It is also a good idea to ask someone to be with you when you propose it. You can also be careful about how you introduce it. Perhaps you could refer to it as a ‘party’ or a ‘get together’.

Where can I have a Living Wake

Living Wakes can take place anywhere you like. 

In your hospice room, your back garden or a favourite place.

Isn't it adding cost? we don't want to waste money!

First of all, funerals are literally never a waste of money, they gather people to hug, hold hands, eat together and tell shared stories, but right now some people really need to budget which is a different thing.

Many people are looking for Low Cost funerals because of budgetary constraints or because they can’t think of anything they less want to spend money on. Or perhaps a holiday is more of a priority.

The average cost of a funeral is debated but sit at around £4000 for your traditional funeral led by a Funeral Director.

A Direct Cremation or a Family led funeral is dramatically less, hence their popularity.

With the addition of a Living Wake alongside a Direct Cremation you have the flexibility to have anything from a Direct Cremation with no ceremony, a Family Led Ceremony with a ready prepared eulogy or perhaps an audio recording of the eulogy from me. You have the written keepsake book to give to people, or a script to hand to any celebrant if you wish to work with one.

My Living Wakes are from £950 and even with the cost of Direct Cremation you will halve the cost of a traditional funeral but not lose out on the healing properties of a funeral.


Won't it feel weird?

Won’t it feel weird? Understandably people often feel that the experience of meeting with people because you know that you are nearer to the end of your life than it’s beginning can feel unusual.

But it is only unusual because it isn’t being done yet…You will be a TRAILBLAZER.

Ultimately you are simply meeting with the people you love the most and telling the stories which matter the most. 

It is worth a little initial discomfort.

Is it like attending your own funeral?

No, it really is very intentionally different. You will be experiencing something more akin to sitting around a campfire chatting rather than sitting on pews listening to someone waxing lyrical from the pulpit….

Isn't this something we could just do by ourselves?

No, because the presence of a facilitator manages all the dynamics so that you don’t have to and makes the meeting very focused and intentional.

With the best will in the world even if you have amazing skills at facilitation yourself and work in this field, you cannot do this for yourself or someone close without comporomising someone’s experience.

In addition, what you are paying for is my expertise and experience at gathering, hearing and telling stories….

Can you make it so that I'm not 'centre of attention', I don't like the limelight.


If your people know and love you they will know this, we will get to know each other before we plan the occasion and make sure that it is not an event that makes you feel attention seeking or uncomfortable.