Alternative funerals, green and DIY funerals

Traditional funerals are making way for a range of alternative funeral ideas including DIY and home funerals, green funerals and direct cremation.

There’s nothing to stop any one of us from organising and leading a funeral ourselves. Or not having a funeral at all.

We’re often consulted by the media looking for juice on what sort of way-out, wacky funerals Final Flingers are planning. In fact, that’s not what it’s about for us at all. It’s not about the Darth Vader and Beetlejuice Hallowe’en funeral or the Star Trek or Elvis themed events. When we talk about alternative funeral ideas it’s actually just about people having real choice. Whether to have a funeral or not. Having natural materials like a wicker casket or bamboo shroud. What sort of music to have when you don’t do hymns.

See funeral ideas for more.

10 benefits of DIY and home funerals

  • organising a funeral yourself means you stay in control
  • playing a more active part in planning a funeral helps us come to terms with loss
  • DIY funerals gives us more options on arranging a ‘greener’ funeral
  • DIY funerals can be less expensive (not the same as ‘cheap’)
  • it means you have the option of a more creative, meaningful and celebratory event
  • you may feel more connected to the event, more ownership, able to customise to suit
  • DIY funerals can feel more personal and less of an assembly line affair
  • you can spend more private time with the body
  • DIY funerals can be more intimate celebrations
  • it can bring families and friends closer.

Alternative vs traditional funerals

It’s not all or nothing. You can create a funeral yourself that’s just like a traditional funeral. Without professional help, you will have to be able to switch into event organiser mode and that may or may not work at a vulnerable time. You can always take control and use professional support. See who can help.

If you do decide to opt for a DIY funeral and intend to organise the send-off yourself, think structure, culture, flow.

Structure = the set up – venue, location, where tables, chairs, sound system and any decoration goes, where people stand or sit, where refreshments go in relation to ceremony space; structure of the ceremony -number of readings, speakers or pieces of music. (See traditional funerals to see what the norm is and the usual timing for a funeral.)

Culture = the tone of the event: solemn, celebratory, reflective, a mix of all these moods. Think about how the celebrant, the space and the use of music, lighting, clothing, decoration, souvenirs can create the right vibe and how the timing and pace affects the tone and style.

Flow = think about where guests arrive, whether you meet and greet people, how they arrive, whether you process together, how they’ll move around, if there are any physical issues for people with prams or mobility issues, timing if you are moving between spaces, and think about how you depart.

Check the space or place in advance at the time of day you’ll be there. This will give you the best chance of getting it right. It lets you plan for noise, traffic, parking and other not very glamorous but critical factors. If it’s outdoors you can think about sun and wind direction, and think about contingency plans in case you need shelter.

Changing attitudes to funerals

See how attitudes are changing.

Read Angus Townley’s blog about his family’s experience of organising his mum’s funeral without a funeral director.

Doreen and family wore bright colours at husband Victor’s funeral. In her 80s, Doreen went to the beach with her daughters and a few friends to scatter his ashes a year later. They threw flowers on the water for him – to honour his expressive life as a keen gardener. “I think some of the folk in town thought it was odd that we wore bright colours and went to the beach. I did what I wanted to do, what we’d talked together about doing,” said the bold Doreen.

One woman in California planned a ‘housewarming’ with friends for her burial plot.

See this interesting article from poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch on whether or not a body should be on view at a funeral.

See death rituals around the world in our A-Z.