How to Say Farewell to a Loved One with a Dove Release

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Dove releases are a timeless gesture that can be a comforting way to end a memorial service. If you’re considering including a dove release during a funeral or celebration of life, read on to find out if it’s the right choice for you and your family.

What do doves symbolize?

While the symbolism of doves varies from culture to culture, they always have a positive connotation.

In Ancient Egypt, the dove was a symbol of quiet innocence. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion as sacred birds to Aphrodite and Venus.

To this day, in China, the dove is a symbol of peace and longevity. In religions such as Judaism and Christianity, doves mean peace, love and hope.

In Canada, two doves released at a wedding signify the love of the new couple as they set out on their journey together. At a funeral, doves may represent setting out on a journey to the afterlife, depending on the religion.

Is there a meaning behind the number of doves released at a funeral service?


The symbolism behind the number of doves is predominately rooted in Christianity:

  • The release of two doves symbolizes the departure of the deceased’s soul, followed by their guardian angel
  • Three doves followed by the release of one dove symbolize the Holy Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) accompanying the departed to heaven.
  • One dove, followed by the release of several more doves, represents the deceased’s soul being guided by angels to heaven.

No matter how many you choose, or if you come from a different tradition altogether, a dove release is a beautiful, cross-cultural way to reflect on the life of your loved one and symbolize the peace they’ll find in their final rest.


Can you have a dove release in the winter?

Yes! This is a crucial question here in Canada, where winters are long and cold. Doves are very resilient birds, so you can release them at any time of year because the cold isn’t an issue. The only potential concern is if the sendoff occurs on a particularly windy day.


Plus, it’s an environmentally-friendly choice.

While releasing helium balloons is another option, the popularity of this practice has declined over the past few years as people have become more aware of the environmental impacts that come with them.

Doves provide a greener alternative while holding onto the sentiment of releasing your loved one to move on.


How much time do you need to prepare?

 At Arbor Memorial, dove releases are very flexible and can be arranged within as little as 48 hours. You can certainly decide on a dove release during the funeral pre-planning process, but the final details, such as the number of doves, still commonly get decided at the time of passing. That’s because families consider how many people will be at the ceremony, whether every attendee will have a dove to release or if it’s limited to the immediate family.

At what point during a memorial service does a dove release typically happen?

If there’s a burial (for either a casket or cremated remains), the dove release typically happens after the internment while loved ones are gathered outside.

A dove release typically happens at the end of a celebration of life where there’s no burial. This can be initiated by inviting everyone to go outside. In this case, having a dove is usually reserved for the immediate family.

While the doves are released, it’s common for a poem or a piece of religious scripture to be read or to play music. Once released, the doves fly up and do 3-4 laps around the site before returning home to their aviary.

How long has Arbor been doing dove releases? Is this service offered at every location?

Dove releases can be arranged at most Arbor funeral homes and cemeteries across Canada. We’ve offered dove releases for the past 20 years in Montreal, Quebec, with a longstanding partner who helped us prepare this article for you!


A dove release adds a heartwarming touch to any memorial service. In the past, families have shared that releasing doves to symbolize sending a loved one to their peaceful rest brings comfort and begins their healing process.

Please visit our Time to Remember resource to learn more about the many other personalizations we offer you at Arbor Memorial.

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