How personal can you make a funeral?

Traditionally, funerals have always been sombre affairs. A church service, everyone dressed in black…maybe a wake afterwards.

Nowadays, you can tailor your funeral just as you would your wedding, a party, or any other special occasion.

Religion, whilst important to many people, isn’t as widely practised as it once was. If someone non-religious dies, they may want to completely do away with a church service or formal ritual of any kind. They may see their burial or cremation as a simple practicality and insist that no one is in attendance when it takes place. They may urge their loved ones to throw a huge celebratory party to mark their passing instead.

Humanist and alternative funerals are gaining in popularity. They’re not new concepts though—in history, the deceased were often sent down the river in boats, burned on open pyres, or entombed in hollowed-out tree trunks. Different cultures have their own ways of sending loved ones onto the next plane.

Traditional funerals can be perceived as being quite stiff and melancholy in nature. Alternative funerals, in comparison, often involve guests wearing bright colours, and upbeat/pop music played in lieu of hymns.

There are plenty of event organisers who will happily help you create an alternative send-off. The cost of such is hard to determine, however, as literally any wish could be fulfilled if the budget was there to meet it.

In term of budget, there may be some ‘traditional’ fees you may not be able to escape—such as the cost of storing of your body until the point where it’s cremated or buried. Funeral directors typically take care of this, but if you do not wish to involve them in your plans, you may be able to arrange for the nearest council morgue to hold your body until your commemoration event, for example.

If you die in a hospital, your body will be kept in its morgue until it’s collected; however, they will only store it for a certain amount of time. You may be able to negotiate with a local funeral director to simply provide a mortuary service and body collection/delivery—however, there’s no law to say you couldn’t be taken from one storage place to another (even your own home) in the family Transit van, if this was your wish (there are restrictions if your body was to cross the Scottish border in this manner, though).

You could even bury a loved one in your/their garden—Kirstie Allsopp’s mother is buried in her garden. It would be wise, however, to acquire approval from your local council if this is your wish. You or the deceased’s beneficiary must own the land upon which the body will be buried, and the plot must be far enough away from water sources to ensure no contamination, etc.

Whether arranging a traditional or alternative funeral, and however you wish to remember/mark the life of a loved one, you will undoubtedly incur some costs. Maybe you’d like everyone close to you to enjoy an extravagant party when you pass, with plenty of food and alcohol, in a lavish venue, like the memorial of Michael Jackson. According to State National, ‘The public memorial service for pop king Michael Jackson was basically demanded by his droves of fans. Jackson’s body was enthroned in a solid bronze and gold-inlaid casket lined with blue velvet, and the stage where it rested for the service was surrounded by floral arrangements.’ The whole event reportedly cost $1 million.

Now, few of us are pop stars with an abundance of money in the bank to throw the party of a lifetime when we pass. That said, though extravagant may not be the word to describe your send-off, few people would want their loved ones to go hungry or to come together in a dingy room/venue somewhere to celebrate/commemorate their life. If you’re going to go out with a bang, gather the dynamite now, in the form of a funeral plan.

If your impression of a funeral plan sounds too traditional, know that engaging one doesn’t have any bearing on the type of funeral you can have—it’s simply a savings pot, a financial cushion, that ensures you have the send-off you envisage, and so that your loved ones don’t have the burden of scrabbling about for money in the days after your death to meet your exacting wishes.

No one but you should decide how your funeral will look and how that day will unfold. And if the cost of your celebration is sorted, you can rest, in peace, knowing that you will rest in peace in the precise way you envisage.

For more information on funeral plans, call Ruth Wilson on 01226 107111 or email