Here are some helpful funeral ideas… whether you want a traditional funeral, a simple service, a big fanfare, an alternative funeral, a funky funeral, a green funeral, a home funeral or no ceremony at all.
Glance at the rules and regulations to discover there are very few rules and lots of options.
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You can pare it back and keep it simple. Something that is growing is ‘direct cremation’. You ask a funeral director to take care of the body, have it cremated and return the ashes to you. That frees you up from organising a funeral and allows you to instead have an ash scattering as a private or celebratory event when you feel ready. See our friend Poppy’s website to get an idea of the service and costs: Poppy’s Funerals. You can ask your local funeral director for this service too. You can also organise to take the body to the crematorium yourself. It’s perfectly legitimate.
At the other extreme, if you really want to put time and effort into creating a rich ritual, you could work with one of our associate artists to design something different. See celebratory artists or contact us to chat it through. We’ve come up with a few alternative Final Fling themes to inspire thinking.
Remember, thought, it’s often the simplest of things that can make a funeral or celebration more personal. Here are some thoughts:
- invite guests to wear a bright colour or bring a single bright flower
- hold the event in your home or garden, by the sea, in a woodland
- put something personal on top of the coffin – a favourite hat, scarf, instrument, tool, book, photo
- invite people to bring a photo or item that has a memory attached to display, share, talk about
- have a big photo of the person who’s died central to the event
- show a slide show or home movie of the person’s life during the ceremony or at any gathering afterwards
- potato print your own bunting, banners or flags to decorate the space and carry the theme onto any order of service, lyrics for songs, memorial cards
- lead a procession up the main street
- post photos and stories of the celebration in your account
- invite friends to join hands at some point to reflect together: it’s simple, supportive and powerful making a physical connection
- play a favourite song and sing along: it’s cathartic
- light candles, light a fire or lantern, float lit lanterns on water or in the air
- invite family and friends to paint or decorate a cardboard or wooden coffin
- get together to prepare the food: bake bread – in the shape of a heart, a plait – and break it together
- ask people to bring a dish and cater yourselves
- have the after-funeral ‘do’ in the village hall, community centre, your home, the local pub
- have a barbecue if it’s summer
- have a jazz band or samba band lead a procession up the street and a party in the local hall
- have a bonfire at the beach
- invite everyone to write a message and tie it to a tree, a pebble or rock
- make a labyrinth out of salt on the floor or ground with a candle at the centre and invite people to think about the person you’ve lost as they walk their way to the centre of the maze and back out: it creates a dramatic procession and meditation and can be good for entertaining children
- hire a VW campervan, motorbike sidecar hearse, Buddhist temple hearse or a horse-drawn carriage for the final journey
- use a dramatic setting – a beautiful ruin, a theatre, a lush garden, a cirlce of oaks in the woods, a country house.
There is a wide range of services and products out there for anyone who wants to create a send off that is unique, alternative or simply within their control. See our Marketplace for ideas. Coffins come in all shapes and sizes. Transport can be just as diverse. Wicker caskets dressed with ivy, hand crafted urns, environmental artworks, ‘green’ memorials, sculptures and carvings, stone poems, oak tree seats, rustic follies, a living willow bower, felted robes, hand carved nameplates, customised headrests.
If you’re inspired and thinking about your own send off, capture your preferences in your Wishes.
Dead Good Guides design and deliver creative, sensitive and celebratory events. Their book is a helpful guide to organising celebrations. You’d be amazed how good it feels to sit down, like a kid again, and make some bunting, or print invitations or the order of service with potato printing or paints, or to get together to bake and make food for the funeral.
See the Natural Death Centre‘s handbook too.
In those difficult days between a death and the funeral, get together with friends and family to make, bake and prepare for a personal, customised send-off. It’s therapeutic, productive and you can support each other. See more on home funerals.
All hands on deck
Tune into your inner child; try your hand at potato printing. Make bunting, flags, decorations, cards, orders of service. This is a great way to involve children, rather than keeping them out of what’s going on. Use an old dishwash sponge to sponge print.
Make a labyrinth
Walking a labyrinth can be a lovely part of a ritual or ceremony. Again, it’s a good way to engage children on the day. There are films on YouTube and websites showing how to draw a labyrinth and companies that provide kits. One carton of salt should be enough for a walkable labyrinth. Get a couple just in case. Find a level space – playground, paved area, floorboards in a hall – and start at the centre, sprinkling a trail of salt to create the shape. It sweeps away easily. You could use seeds or pulses instead of salt. If you’re out in nature, lay stones on grass or sand. It’s a lovely way to engage children and adults in a meditation, walking the labyrinth.