The way we think about funerals is changing. Where once everyone had a traditional religious ceremony, with a set dress code and standard order of service, people are now beginning to opt for more personal, unusual funeral services.
With more and more choice available in every aspect of funeral arrangements, people can choose every detail of a funeral to reflect their loved one’s personality. Data published by Co-operative Funeralcare suggests that almost half of people in the UK now realise that they have alternative funeral options, with three fifths aware that almost every aspect of their funeral can now be personalised. Many major religions are also embracing the move towards alternative and personalised funerals, cooperating with families and funeral directors to plan a unique and fitting farewell for their loved one.
You may be surprised to learn that there are no legal requirements on what someone has to be buried in (unless they are to be buried at sea or in a natural burial ground).There are a number of alternatives to the conventional hardwood coffin.
Cardboard coffins are one option growing in popularity in the UK. They can be personalised to feature almost any design you want – Doctor Who fans can have a Tardis coffin, movie buffs can have one designed like a bag of popcorn, and golf enthusiasts can choose one resembling a pack of golf balls.
If you want something more unique, however, why not get a custom coffin designed and made just for you? Malcolm Brocklehurst, a former aeronautical engineer from Blackpool, did just that. He decided that after his life working in the aerospace industry he wanted to be buried in an aeroplane coffin. It came complete with it’s very own propeller, tail and two detachable wings.
Malcolm isn’t alone in such special and extravagant requests. The manufacturer, Crazy Coffins, has also made coffins resembling a Louis Vuitton handbag, a 1930s Rolls Royce, an Orient Express carriage and a Les Paul Guitar.
For those wanting a more low-key, green funeral, there are a number of options available, including hand-woven wicker coffins, felt cocoons and burial shrouds.
Travelling to your funeral
One way people choose to make their funeral unique is by making sure they get there in style. According to Co-operative Funeralcare’s survey, eight per cent of people in the UK would prefer a non-traditional hearse as a way of personalising their funeral.
Sometimes the hearse is chosen based on the person’s line of work. Farmers have been known to be transported by tractors, bus drivers in buses and milkmen in milk floats. Roll Royce hearses, pink Cadillac hearses, even tandem bicycle hearses have all been used to reflect a person’s interests and tastes. The VW Camper Van hearse and motorcycle hearse remain strong favourites for alternative transport options.
Fitting funeral venues
Over half of people in the UK believe that a funeral has to take place in a religious setting. Although funerals in religious buildings are still preferred by many in the UK, other settings are growing in popularity, even for religious services.
One in four people in the UK said that they would like to have their funeral by a lake or river, while one in five would opt for a location in the countryside. More personal locations are also being considered, with one in six of those surveyed preferring a funeral at home, and one in 25 wanting their funeral to take place at their favourite team’s football ground.
Replacing the wake with a celebration of life
The way people plan their funeral is even changing the role of the funeral director. Two fifths of adults in the UK now see them being more like event planners than ever before. One area that highlights this change more than most is the growing tendency of having a party instead of a wake.
Wakes are traditionally sombre occasions, where friends and families gather and share stories of their loved one. These traditional occasions are slowly being replaced by parties celebrating life. In fact, 30 per cent of UK adults said that they would prefer to have a party over a sombre wake.
Whereas traditional wakes tended to take place in a family home or in a specific room in a church, these type of occasions can happen anywhere, such as your loved one’s favourite pub or restaurant. In additional to providing food and drink, some people are choosing to have music and even dancing, as a way of celebrating their loved one's life and reflecting the happiness they brought to those around them.
Personalised funeral themes
When people think about arranging a funeral, the question of themes is not likely to spring up too often. You may be surprised to learn, however, that one in six adults want their funeral to have a theme.
There was a time when wearing any other colour than black would have been seen as disrespectful. Today, on the other hand, it is not unusual for mourners to to wear bright coloured clothing on the request of the bereaved family. Almost three quarters of funeral directors in the UK now claim that they have helped arrange a funeral like this.
Other more elaborate themes are also growing in popularity. One funeral recently gained attention in the media for having a fancy dress theme. The funeral director joined in too, leading the procession dressed as Darth Vader. This isn’t an isolated case. Almost half of funeral directors say that they have organised funerals where mourners were asked to wear something personal or of special significance.