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Five Lessons from an 80's themed Celebration of Life

  • Author: Christina Andreola is the founder of New Narrative Memorials, an event planning company dedicated to planning and managing the details of End of Life events. Christina works with families to determine event details and then takes the lead in communicating with venues, caterers, florists, and family members who have a role to play on a very important day. She believes that families should spend less time on the event details and more time with each other. Learn more about New Narrative at


    “I don’t want a f****ng* sobfest” was the primary instruction Teresa gave to her family before she died. She wanted a party and her family was set on honoring her wishes. They hired New Narrative, my memorial event planning company to coordinate her 80's themed Celebration of Life.


    Each family’s grieving process is different and no way is more right or wrong than the other. T’s family wanted her favorite people dancing to her favorite music and enjoying lots of red wine - her drink of choice. Her family knew she would have wanted the celebration of a lifetime.


    Teresa’s memorial was held eight months after her death and New Narrative was hired to manage the logistics of the evening. We coordinated a complex furniture load in, decided where to place the band, ordered 45 extra-large pizzas at 11PM, and stayed until the last of the guests had left.


    Planning this memorial taught me quite a bit about the uniqueness and personalization that can happen with a Celebration of Life. Here are five elements that I will never forget:


    1. You can wait a few months to host a Celebration of Life event

    T’s memorial was held eight months after she died. If you want to wait a few months before planning a big event, you are allowed to take it.


    2. Themed memorials can be a fantastic tribute to a loved one

    T loved the 80s and we made sure to incorporate as many 80s elements into the day as possible: themed outfits, a spray-painted photo backdrop, and 80's themed venue. The event was true to what she wanted and who she was.


    3. It is perfectly acceptable to host a Celebration of Life at a kids’ Science Centre (or anywhere, really)

    T loved Expo ‘86, a World’s Fair held in Vancouver, BC in 1986. After a special request and funds set aside for a venue rental, her family made sure to book the space. If your person loved a particular place, there are no limits on the venue to hold a memorial.


    4. Select your activities (guest book, speeches, etc) and set up the room for congregating

    You’ll want the timing of the day to flow naturally and guests will naturally congregate together and share stories. T’s family had a photo table in a central area of the room where they could gather around and reminisce over photos. Your guests will likely gather around memories so have space for hugs, tears, and lots of laughs.


    5. Kung Fu Fighting is the perfect song to play at a memorial “because nobody can be unhappy when they hear [it]”

    Noted. Thank you, T.





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