wreath on grave

Why people are choosing alternative funerals

Posted by AK Lander | On June 28, 2017 11:52

2017 is all about customisation, whether it is how you take your coffee or how to make your retirement plan work, we no longer live in a society that lives with the Mantra of ‘one size fits all’. The wedding industry has undergone a transformation, with people choosing their own vows, throwing off the white dress code and ditching the staid photographs.

2017 is all about customisation, whether it is how you take your coffee or how to make your retirement plan work, we no longer live in a society that lives with the Mantra of ‘one size fits all’. The wedding industry has undergone a transformation, with people choosing their own vows, throwing off the white dress code and ditching the staid photographs.

However funerals have been slow to follow this trend. Whether death is the last taboo, or tradition give structure to grief at this time, much like men’s formal wear, the funeral has been slow to evolve. Now however, we are seeing far more choice of final farewells, made even more accessible by technology.

Fun Funerals

If you have ever found yourself wanting a tear free funeral, then you are in good company. Kyle Tevlin is the genius behind ‘I Want a Fun Funeral’, a service that helps you plan your funeral in advance giving you choices beyond the traditional. We asked Kyle why she thought the industry was moving away from the accepted standard:

“Times have changed. People want to feel something, they want an experience that makes an impact on them, touches them in some deeper way. With the ubiquity of interactive entertainment (theme parks, 3D movies, reality TV shows, electronics providing instant ability to record, enhance, and share) we’re no longer satisfied being observers of formal rituals that don’t offer any kind of distinctive expression or involvement.

“The rise of life celebrations instead of more traditional mourning has been the first step into a more death-accepting culture. I think people want to remember the good times and feel more positive about all of life’s events. There’s a whole movement around self-empowerment in life, and death has not been excluded. People have experienced that celebrating someone’s life can be much more rewarding than focusing on the loss.

“We’re looking at non-traditional funerals because we want the life and personality of the person in the ritual. It’s more poignant and healing for us when we feel like the goodbye celebration was something the deceased themselves would have approved of or even enjoyed. No one wants their loved one to be forgotten, so keeping their spirit alive in as many ways as possible, including the funeral itself, is a way to do that.”

Individual Funerals

Flowers on grave


Many people feel funerals lack the personality of the deceased, and though we can choose every element or other aspects of our lives, from the names we call ourselves to the colour of our hair, after death, relatives are often overwhelmed by caskets and memorial headstones.  Louise at ‘Poetic Endings’ considers personality and preference at her bespoke service in London. Louise spoke about moving beyond the materialistic element of many funerals:

“Funerals are in danger of becoming formalities, with little relevance to the lives that we live today.  There's no point going to a lot of effort and expense for a funeral which feels like it's just ticking a box or something we 'should' do.  More people than ever before are beginning to understand that funerals are about so much more than three pieces of music, shiny cars and top hats.  Every moment of the funeral matters - from the first call you make to the way the person's body is cared for and the ceremony itself.  

“Funerals can be profound and transformational in helping people to accept and acknowledge that someone has died, if bereaved people take time to get in touch with what it is they really need from a funeral.  And then ask for it.

“There are wonderful funeral professionals out there who will facilitate the funeral that you want and need - whether that's something more formal and traditional or highly personalised with the family involved every step of the way.

“What's important is that the funeral serves its purpose - to say goodbye to someone who has died, whatever that looks like.”

Natural Funerals

Wild flower meadow


Lots of people are now tailoring their lifestyle to reflect their ecological conscience, from recycling religiously to veganism, many people are looking add reducing their carbon foot print. Why should this not be mirrored in our final resting place? People are looking at lots of different ways to fulfil final requests in a way that is less impactful on the environment. Some cemeteries are completely green and have policies to match, while others may opt for more natural materials for memorial headstones. Bob Jenkins is part of the husband and wife duo ‘Let your Love Grow’:

“I started my journey in developing Let Your Love Grow with my wife, Annette Jenkins, as a result of losing a beloved dachshund.  We wanted to memorialize her in a way different than having an urn on the mantle or buried in the back yard.  We started researching what cremated remains were comprised of and through our journey built a team of experts to assist us in understanding the impact cremated remains have on the environment.  We are also studying the impact of natural burial on the environment. We want to understand what happens not only the cremated remains and or the body but the surrounding soil, as well as the entomology and flora surrounding the burial space or scattering place.  What are the long term effects and how can that be managed organically?

“It is my belief that consumers, in the U.S., are starting to realize that even though we have vast amounts of land, we need to reduce the polluting of the earth with concrete, steel and bronze. We have become a transient society and a cemetery may not be our first choice for a place to memorialize but rather a beautiful garden, park or favourite vacation spot. I also believe other parts of the world are in need of an organic solution for burial and cremation.  As long as there is life, there will death.  Our goal is create harmony with Mother Nature while returning to earth what was lent to us for a short time.  We want to continue the cycle of life while completing the circle of love. An opportunity to celebrate a life.”

Promessa is a company looking at environmentally friendly alternatives to cremation and the Swedish company has gained plenty of interest since the idea was first conceived. Looking back to traditional burial techniques that predate modern traditions, Susanne Wiigh-Masak is having a very positive response to the company since it went viral in 2001:

“There are 93 countries all showing interest in this new technique, all with different religions and cultural attitudes to death. I think Promessa gives people hope, as it is far more natural and continues the circle of life and continues close to the age old pagan tradition, so in some ways we are more traditional than modern methods. The reason the process is so important is something called biomimicry, Promessa mirrors the natural decomposition of a body, but soil cannot break don an entire body, and so that is where we come in.

“The main thing we focus on as a company, is education, we began educating a crematorium about the process, how to handle the deceased and everything involved. There is such a taboo surrounding death, so I have been increasing awareness and opening discussions about all different traditions. In some ways my talks are entertaining, it is such a hard topic to talk about that we often end in laughter, and we need to release the anxiety surrounding death.”

Green Funerals

Green cemetery


Some people prefer to retain certain elements of traditional funerals whilst also putting their own stamp on them. Natural Legacy have returned to their roots, a 1668 Woollen Act decreed all Britons should be buried in a woollen shroud. Building on that there is a growing trend for woollen coffins among the environmentally minded. Liam Conlin at Natural Legacy spoke to us about the increasing popularity:

“People today do not feel the need to have funerals that were the same decades ago, they want to have an event that is a genuine reflection of the deceased, in terms of their personality, beliefs, principles or sense of fun.

“The Natural Legacy range of Woollen Coffins and Ash Caskets is committed to ensuring that families have a choice when arranging their loved ones funerals. Our aim is to ensure that there is an option available that allows a softer goodbye without the cold trappings of a traditional ‘gothic’ coffin that can be overwhelming at a time of great distress.

“Natural Legacy is a dedicated arm of a family run business that has operated in Pudsey, Yorkshire for over 230 years in the textile Industry. Natural Legacy weave the woollen outer, and hand make our coffins onsite ensuring that the products that we supply are only ever the very highest quality.”

Image Credit: Tiji VercaemerPublic Domain PicturesErbs55Angela Streluk