The times they are a-changin. A recent article in The Telegraph highlighted that the traditional funeral service is dying a death, with the headline figures quoting an 80 per cent decline in religious funerals over the past eight years. Where once people sought the comfort of a church funeral complete with hymns and prayers to say farewell to their loved ones, the tendency these days is towards having a much more personal, sometimes even quirky, send-off.
Each and every funeral is personal, in my opinion, whether that’s in a church, a crematorium, a golf club or a meadow. But it’s true that there is a growing awareness and acceptance that it’s OK to say goodbye in a more individual way.
Less than 20 per cent of those I look after are what I’d call religious funerals. There’s often something in between, around another 20 per cent, which have the service at a crematorium but still include a hymn. Then the rest, around 60 per cent, are completely bespoke – every one of these is absolutely different to the next. Whether that’s about specific colours or music, funny hats or bubble machines, people nowadays want a much more personal touch. They want to set the scene for the person they’re there to remember, to help them celebrate the personality they know and love.
In some cases, people don’t want anything at all – no service, just straight to the crematorium, and even this isn’t that unusual anymore. One lady in her nineties told her family she didn’t want them spending money on a funeral service, she’d rather they spent it on a slap-up meal in her honour, so that’s exactly what they did! We handled the formalities but they commemorated her life in their own personal way.
My approach is always that people can have whatever type of funeral they want. I am there to help them celebrate that person’s life in whichever way they choose. I always say that we don’t just do funerals, we celebrate life, and that’s a theme that runs through everything we do – it’s all about personal care and attention.
I hold people’s hands every step of the way and make sure they know they can have anything they want. There’s no right or wrong way – if a widow prefers to sit at the back of the room rather than in the front row so she can see who’s there, that’s exactly what I’ll arrange. Or if the person who has passed away wanted a green funeral or a pagan funeral, that’s precisely what we’ll do.
I think bespoke funerals will become absolutely the norm over the coming years, as more and more people are pre-planning their funerals. The key is to find a funeral director who’s happy to go with your wishes, and who you know will carry out each and every one of them to their very best of their ability.
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