Mahogany and brass no longer dominate the world of coffins + caskets.
Cardboard, wicker, chipboard, banana leaf, cocostick, jute, wool, bamboo, wild pineapple; earth sleepers and ecopods; hand painted, designer and artist created; in your team colours, featuring a favourite photograph, printed with sunflowers, wicker caskets with wildflowers woven through, or scribbled with good wishes like a giant stookie; flat pack for self-assembly; reusable; coffins that double as furniture – like bookcases – so that you get best value for money; novelty shapes to celebrate passions… planes and boats and trains, fish, fowl and fauna.
If you want to be more hands on, there’s a DIY option . If you choose to make the coffin yourself, you must pay attention to the material, size and strength so that it’s fit for the job, has a waterproof lining and is non-toxic for burial or cremation. Natural Death Centre can advise on this – their Natural Death Handbook offers a pattern and directions.
Of course, you don’t have to have a coffin at all. You can opt for a shroud – material that swathes the body.
A funeral director can show you a range of coffins to select from. A good funeral director will be open to your ideas and source products for you will also be happy to use a coffin you provide – that you’ve sourced or made yourself.
See our Marketplace for ideas.
Traditions for carrying coffins vary. In the west its usual for family and friends to be coffin bearers and carry it from the hearse to crematorium, church or graveside. The outdated tradition is for the males of the family to do this, often with a pecking order of eldest son taking cord 1 and so on with the 6 cords. For Asian cultures, coffin bearing is often a role for people outside the family.
The funeral director can organise coffin bearers – doubling often as drivers and passengers in the funeral cars.
Ghana in Africa has the reputation for the best coffins in the world. They often design coffins to remember and celebrate a person’s life and interests. There’s a great gallery of pictures here in the Guardian.