Living Wakes – an alternative approach

Be the star of your last hurrah

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.

It’s more about life, than death.

Jess May Brighton Funeral Celebrant smling at the camera surrounded by religious artefacts. She has rainbow coloured hair.

The UK’s first Living Wake Celebrant

Jess May Celebrant


Are you feeling like this about the ‘D’ word?

A gathering of people looking to the front. Jess May Funeral Celebrant is at the front.
Have you or someone you love been given the 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?
coffin decorating, brightly coloured designs on a white coffin
Is someone you love dying and insisting 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?
A central flower arrangement with pinks and blues.

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

Imagine if…

Three people smiling warmly and looking on at a ceremony.

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 to enjoy.

A curved formation of chairs around a coffin with votive candles in niches in the walls.

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.

Two people hugging. both are wearing yellow. One has a face to the camera and is a person of colour with a yellow headband.

You could gather all of the memories into a little keepsake book with photos and tales of their life capturing them forever.


“My friend chose Jess herself knowing she was end of life so Jess got to meet her…

“Jess is the most amazing human and even more amazing celebrant. Jess delivered my friend’s woodland burial at Westall Park, and although it was a truly sad occasion it was one of the most wonderful days. Sincere, bright, well-composed and appropriately humorous. It really was the most perfect day. My friend chose Jess herself knowing she was end of life so Jess got to meet her. She is perfect for the job! The day and celebration were so genuine and heartfelt and Jess was so warm and personable, and she befriended everyone there in the most wonderful way. It went way beyond anything I was expecting. If you’re reading this you already know you’re going to book her. She’s amazing. Do it. Ps – She also gives the best hugs EVER 😍.”

– Sarah –


“You could tell the amount of time she had spoken with my sister and friends, it was a personal tribute…

“Jess is an exceptional celebrant. I was lucky that Jess met my sister and arranged her celebration of life before she died. As Jess spoke you could tell the amount of time she had spoken with my sister and her friends so it was such a personal tribute. Jess spent so much time preparing, making sure that the day ran perfectly, you could feel her passion for her job. Jess is a beautiful person, who did a beautiful service for a beautiful day.”

– Jane –

Living Wake Service

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. 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.

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

BEFORE: Discovery call 1 hrs online or telephone

  • A discovery call to see if we are a good fit.
  • Either in person or online/telephone.
  • I can answer any questions you have.
  • I will share some examples and ideas from previous funerals I have delivered.
At a Living Wake two children are drawing with a bunch of flowers on the table. The light i pink

ON THE DAY: Living wake

  • A listening session to determine your needs
  • A ‘story telling’ Questionnaire about their life
  • 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.
  • Jess takes away all of the pressure and stress and offers emotional support.
packaged Keepsake copy of a script with a turquoise ribbon in a bow and thistles behind it on a table outdoors

AFTER: Keepsake book

A printed copy of your ceremony Funeral Service and Eulogy. A catch-up support call at a time of your choosing. Find out more about my Keepsake Story service digital and printed.

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!

What is a living wake? Is it the same as a living funeral?

Living wakes are a relatively new concept, here in the UK. Living wakes are an alternative to funerals but also create resources for funerals at a later date.

Whereas a living funeral is attending one’s own funeral ceremony. 

A living wake involves a bit of ceremony but can be whatever you want them to be.

It is a more informal occasion where you gather all of your favourite people on a shared journey of memories and connection and then take away the golden nuggets of life and record your story in a keepsake book.

Two white men hugging. One is facing the camera and his eyes are filled with tears.
Annie Werner Guardian Article

CREDIT: Annie Werner, whose terminal breast cancer has metastasised to her liver and bones, held a living wake on the New South Wales south coast, near Bega. Photograph: Jay Black. Article: The Guardian.

More Client Love

“Recount memories of good times…

“it was so rewarding to tell her our anecdotes and recount memories of good times.”


‘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’

“Made a sad, difficult time a bit easier…

Jess was the celebrant for my Mum’s Celebration of Life – she was so brilliant. She offered us such kindness and was so sensitive, and thoughtful. It felt really important to have a celebration of life that celebrated my mum and Jess understood entirely what we wanted. We felt “held” in such a difficult and sad time – Jess has a gift and I’m glad she gets to offer this to individuals, couples and families at whatever stage in their lives – whether the death of someone close or a happy wedding. She was curious and involved and I really felt that she cared about doing our mum justice. She was extremely professional but also just a lovely human! I would recommend her wholeheartedly to anyone.


“I felt it flow through me…

“Thank you again from the bottom of my heart you truly are an amazing spirit and I felt it flow through me when you took my hands in yours xx”


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.


“Those childhood memories are now in the forefront of our thoughts…

She took us back to our childhood, bringing back happy memories that had been forgotten over the years. This really helped us through the sad, heart-wrenching time we had with him in the months leading up to his passing. I’m happy to say that those childhood memories are now in the forefront of our thoughts and for this I can’t thank Jess enough. She is amazing 🤩.


“Recount memories of good times…

“Jess is an exceptional celebrant. I was lucky that Jess met my sister and arranged her celebration of life before she died. As Jess spoke you could tell the amount of time she had spoken with my sister and her friends so it was such a personal tribute. Jess spent so much time preparing, making sure that the day ran perfectly, you could feel her passion for her job. Jess is a beautiful person, who did a beautiful service for a beautiful day.”


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 around Living Wakes

Working with funeral directors who are gatekeepers and dictate how long a celebrant has to deliver a eulogy (and how much to be paid) has been tough.

As a funeral professional with xx years of experience and knowledge I empathise that funerals, as important as they are, are tricky events.

And as a human being who has suffered loss, this is the problem as I see it… 20 minutes to summarise a life (however old the person) isn’t enough.

People often don’t remember funerals into the future, what was said etc and just go through the motions and often dread it.

Some people may reflect on funerals and feel it didn’t do justice to their loved one and have regret.

Family politics, disagreements and other dynamics affect things.

This leaves a gap, a disconnect or an expectation that doesn’t feel right in a lot of cases.

Something aimed at people who have more a sense of being nearer the end of their life than the beginning.

Jess May, Funeral Celebrant on the phone with rainbow coloured hai in front of the Brighton Pavillion

Hello, I’m Jess

Funeral Celebrant

Contact me to discuss a Living Wake you are arranging

Frequently asked questions

How will i approach this with the people I love?

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.