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Alternative funeral ideas for a more personal funeral

Alternative motorbike hearse

Alternative funeral ideas have become more popular in recent years and more people than ever are making personalised funeral arrangements.

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 unique funeral services.

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 funerals, cooperating with families and funeral directors to plan a unique and fitting farewell for their loved one.

With greater choice available in each aspect of funeral arrangements, people can choose every detail to reflect their loved one’s personality. Everything from coffins and caskets, locations, transport options are able to be personalised to the finest degree.

What types of alternative coffins and caskets are available?

There are a number of alternatives to the conventional hardwood coffin. 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).

As they are environmentally minded projects, woodland burials look to avoid any long lasting impact on the environment. This means coffins and caskets made from environmentally friendly materials that will biodegrade over reasonable periods of time. Woodland burial grounds also almost always prohibit the embalming of people prior to their burial.

Alternative material options for coffins and caskets:

  • Bamboo
  • Wicker
  • Wool
  • Cardboard

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 golf bag.

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.

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 burial alternatives, hand-woven wicker coffins, felt cocoons and burial shrouds are available. You can discuss alternative funeral options with your funeral director before making a decision.

What sort of alternative funeral transport is there?

One of the most popular alternative funeral ideas is making sure your loved one arrives 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.

Alternative funeral transport examples:

  • Rolls Royce
  • Pink Cadillac
  • Tandem Bicycles
  • Victorian Horse-drawn Carriages
  • VW Camper

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. The VW Camper Van hearse and motorcycle hearse remain strong favourites for alternative transport options.

What kind of alternative funeral venues are there?

Almost anywhere could be chosen as a personalised funeral venue, so long as you have the full permission of the land or property owner. Even if the burial or cremation takes place in a traditional setting, you can arrange for alternative funeral services to be held somewhere unique with your funeral director.

Since 1993, the number of natural burial grounds has exploded, with most areas of the country having a location open near them. In terms of burial alternatives, they are fast becoming one of the most popular choices.

These green burial grounds offer more opportunity for personalised funerals as well due to their not being tied to any religious institutions. The restrictions placed on them almost all revolve around making these modern funerals as environmentally friendly as possible.

Alternative funeral venue examples:

  • Natural burial ground
  • Football club
  • A favourite beach
  • The garden of a family home
  • Local pub

Over half of the 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, 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.

What are some alternatives for a wake?

A celebration of life is a modern alternative to a traditional funeral wake. Wakes are traditionally sombre occasions, where friends and families gather and share stories of their loved one.

Alternative funeral ideas are 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.

These occasions are slowly being replaced by parties celebrating the person's 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 addition 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.

What are personalised funeral themes?

A personalised funeral theme is a way of representing your loved ones passions by styling their final farewell after their favourite activity, film, sports team, band or other interest.

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 wear bright coloured clothing on the request of the bereaved family. Almost three quarters of funeral directors in the UK now say 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.

Alternative funeral directors are appearing everyone and almost half of funeral directors say that they have organised funerals where mourners were asked to wear something personal or of special significance.

Read more about arranging a funeral with our helpful resources and guides and contact a funeral director to discuss the available options.