'Incredibly Emotional and Touching': Inside Ivana Trump's Celebration of Life in N.Y.C.

"My mother hated funerals," Ivanka Trump said while delivering a eulogy. "She wanted to celebrate life"

It was a scorching afternoon in New York City on Wednesday as the Trump family gathered at St. Vincent Ferrer Roman Catholic Church to mourn Ivana Trump's sudden death last week. Inside the church, guests settled in to honor her life and legacy in a way friends say she would have loved.

"The room was filled with joy and drenched with tears," society columnist R. Couri Hay, who attended the service, tells PEOPLE, noting that the tone managed to capture the dichotomy of emotions that come with a celebration of life.

Before the altar lay a mound of red roses surrounded by 73 burning candles — one for each year of Ivana's life.

Ivana Trump funeral inside https://app.asana.com/0/1202556224425358/1202639449439572

Ivana's funeral Mass was invite-only, limited to close friends and family, which created a sense of genuine community and celebration among guests, Hay says.

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Other guests echoed his assessment, telling PEOPLE the experience was "incredibly emotional and touching," and calling it "an excellent service."

"My mother hated funerals," Ivanka Trump reportedly told the room at the beginning of her eulogy. "She wanted to celebrate life."

Donald Trump, Barron Trum, <a href="https://people.com/tag/melania-trump/" data-inlink="true">Melania Trump</a>, Jared Kushner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr., <a href="https://people.com/tag/ivanka-trump/" data-inlink="true">Ivanka Trump</a> and <a href="https://people.com/tag/eric-trump/" data-inlink="true">Eric Trump</a> Ivana Trump funeral, St. Vincent Ferrer Roman Catholic Church, New York, USA - 20 Jul 2022
Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

Ivanka went on to share several funny memories about Ivana, shedding tears along the way.

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump also delivered eulogies about their mother, in addition to two of Ivana's friends.

Former President Donald Trump — Ivana's ex-husband and father to her three children — did not get up to speak during the event, though he appeared visibly saddened leaving the service.

Ivana Trump funeral inside https://app.asana.com/0/1202556224425358/1202639449439572

Ivana made a name for herself not only as the first wife of Donald, but as a fierce businesswoman, fashion designer, New York socialite, former model and professional skier.

At the Wednesday Mass, her former magazine covers were on display, a reminder of the glamour she oozed throughout her life. "Majestic and elegant," Hay says, just like her.

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Ivana died unexpectedly on Thursday in her Upper East Side home, a short distance from the church where her memorial was held.

A medical examiner ruled her death accidental, determining the cause to be blunt force injury to her torso sustained from falling down the stairs.

Since Thursday, many loved ones have shared memories and tributes to Ivana, painting a picture of a woman whose life extended far beyond her family's political reputation.

"She was always supporting charities and everything. She was like an angel," longtime friend Zach Erdem told PEOPLE on Saturday. "Whoever needed help, she would be there. She didn't care about any politics or religion or whatever, she was ready to help whoever needed it."

Updated by
Kyler Alvord

Kyler Alvord leads PEOPLE's digital politics coverage as a senior news editor for the brand. He joined the publication in 2021 on the crime beat.

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