What do people want? That’s the big question in every service profession, but it seems that keeping up with consumer trends related to funerals can prove more difficult – each individual and family is different, after all. How do we anticipate whether families want a more traditional funeral or something unique, tailored specifically to the deceased?

One way to anticipate what families want is to look at the decisions they’ve made in the past. In this new series, we look at trends in how families talk about the deceased in the obituaries they write and the arrangements they’ve made. In this first study, we examined celebrations of life.

About the Research

Legacy set out to determine whether the percentage of celebrations of life differed in various parts of the United States. For this analysis, we reviewed more than 1 million obituaries in our database from 2011 and 2016, then calculated the percentage of obituaries for each state that contained “celebration of life” to capture patterns related to this trend.

The article continues below this map.

Percentage of Obituaries Referencing “Celebration of Life”


For both 2016 and 2011, we can see that the Pacific Northwest shows heavy usage of the term “celebration of life.” This trend continues in the West with California and Nevada, fading with popularity all the way to the East Coast.

However, as we compare the change in consumer behavior over five years, we see that “celebration of life” increases in popularity in nearly all states. The average percentage of mentions of the term across all states was 6.7% in 2011. This number jumped to 10.7% in 2016.

What Does this Mean?

Overall, we see that families are increasingly interested in “celebration of life.” This is a good indication that consumer behavior will continue to trend away from the typical traditional funeral. Depending on where your funeral home is located, what that looks like specifically will vary, but families will continue to rely on your expertise for unique remembrances and other memorialization options. As personalization becomes more ubiquitous in funeral service, funeral directors should be ready to introduce and provide new services that better fit how people are remembering and paying tribute to their loved ones.

Download a printable PDF with the maps and “celebration of life” percentages broken out by state here.

Priscilla Liu

Sr. Marketing Associate

Priscilla is a Senior Marketing Associate at Legacy.com with experience in content strategy, marketing strategy, photography, web design and graphic design. She has a passion for creating quality, relevant content that make ideas and tips accessible for everyone.