Here Come the Alternative Funerals

A funeral director dressed as Darth Vader leads a cortege. (Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA)
A funeral director dressed as Darth Vader leads a cortege. (Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA)

Poll shows a third of people would consider a non-church location for their funeral and a quarter would ask mourners to wear colourful clothes

The traditionally sombre funeral is being challenged by a surge in popularity for so-called destination funerals held in gardens, sports venues and beauty spots, research suggests.

Mourners are likely to dispense with the traditional hearse, choosing buses, motorbikes, horse-drawn carriages and even white vans instead, according to the research carried out among Co-operative Funeralcare’s 2,500 funeral directors, and a separate poll of 2,000 UK adults.

Nearly half (49%) of Co-op funeral directors said they had arranged a service in a location other than a church or a crematorium in the last 12 months. More than a third of adults (37%) said they would consider an alternative location for their own sendoff.

Locations mooted included a lake or river (25%), the countryside (20%), at home or in the garden (17%), at a beach or out at sea (20%).

The Co-op said the shift away from sombre tributes was also being reflected in the clothes being worn by funeral attendees. A quarter of respondents said they would like their funeral guests to wear anything but black, and nearly three-quarters (72%) of funeral directors said they had arranged services in the last year where this was the case.

Nearly half (48%) of funeral directors had arranged services in the last year where the congregation wore clothing significant to the deceased, such as football shirts or fancy dress.

Sam Kershaw, operations director for Co-operative Funeralcare, said: “What we’re seeing is a culture shift in the way that we deal with loss. It’s becoming ever more common to hear people refer to funerals as a celebration of life and that’s certainly a trend we are seeing even more frequently from the families that we support.”

Organisers of the Ideal Death Show, which took place in Winchester, Hampshire, last weekend, said more than 300 people attended. There was a session on human remains by Carla Valentine, an ex-anatomical pathology technician and curator of Barts Pathology Museum, and an opportunity to bake a “funeral cake” in memory of a loved one for a competition.

The actor Richard Wilson, star of One Foot in the Grave and narrator of the end-of-life documentary Two Feet in the Grave, said: “Death is the most certain thing in life but as a nation we struggle so terribly to talk about it and come to terms with our own and others mortality. Life is short and so I understand why people don’t want to dwell on the inevitable, but as the possibilities are endless, it makes sense to at least share some thoughts about what you may want.”

SOURCE: Rebecca Smithers
The Guardian

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