By Gemma Francis
One in seven are making special requests for their funeral such as a pink coffin, turning ashes into a firework – and the funeral procession doing the Conga, a study has found.
A poll of 1,524 people who have recently planned a funeral, as well as 100 funeral directors, found funerals are becoming less formal and more personal, with a third now opting for a ‘celebration of life’.
SunLife’s Cost of Dying report also revealed many are ditching the traditional black attire and religious hymns in favour of clothes, themes or songs which meant something to the deceased.
A Star Wars fan requested everyone wear costumes from the long-running franchise, with the funeral director even donning a Darth Vader costume.
The mode of transport is also changing with some opting for a steam engine, a motorbike and even a milk float in place of the more traditional hearse.
Dean Lamble, CEO at SunLife said: “Just as people are having weddings that are more personal and less traditional, we are seeing the same trend with funerals.
“People are less inclined to have a standard cremation or burial with a traditional religious service where everyone wears black, but instead, opt to celebrate the life of that person by asking people to wear the person’s favourite colour, or by playing a song from their favourite band, TV show or film.
“We’ve also seen people opting for different ways to be buried – woodland burials have risen by a quarter in the last year, for instance.
The research revealed one plane enthusiast requested that his coffin be in the shape of a jet, while another respondent said their loved one asked for theirs to be made of sheep wool.
Being buried with meaningful objects is also on the rise with one wanting coconuts to be put in their coffin while another wanted to have a whistle around their neck – in case they woke up.
Some of the more unusual funerals also saw drag queens dancing at the service, everyone being asked to sign the coffin in a marker pen and dancing around the crematorium to Led Zeppelin songs.
But the study found that despite the rise in special requests, more than one in five of those who have recently planned a funeral had absolutely no idea what type of funeral to organise for their loved one.
Just 55 per cent knew whether they would have wanted a burial or cremation with just a quarter aware of what to do with the deceased’s ashes.
Only one in seven knew which type of coffin to choose while almost two thirds did not know the deceased’s preferred cemetery or burial ground.
And when it came to the details of the service itself, around two thirds had no idea whether to opt for a religious or non-religious service, while almost eight in ten didn’t know what music or readings they should choose.
Just one per cent were fully aware of the deceased wishes when it came to their send-off.
Dean Lamble, from SunLife added: “Most of us know what we don’t want – perhaps we don’t want a religious funeral, we don’t want people to wear black, but often forget to say what we do want.
“By not talking about funeral wishes, our loved ones are left to make these decisions on their own, which can cause a great deal of emotional stress and even arguments among family members who disagree about what the person would have wanted.
“Our www.myperfectsendoff.co.uk tool is a great way to record your funeral wishes for free, so that your family know exactly what type of funeral you want, taking away the emotional burden from them, and ensuring that you have the type of send-off you would have wanted.”
THIRTY UNUSUAL FUNERALS:
Funeral procession did the conga out of the service
Steam engine to draw the coffin from the family home to the cemetery
Plane shaped coffin
Deceased’s motorbike instead of a hearse
Drag queens dancing at the service
Sheep’s wool coffin
Funeral service held on a boat
Funeral with Doctor Who music and a Tardis
Milk float instead of a hearse
Everyone to wear Star Wars outfits (including funeral director as Darth Vader)
Ex-race horses leading the hearse
Everyone dressed as cowboys and Indians
Dance couple performing a waltz after the cremation
Big rig lorry instead of a hearse
Ashes made into jewellery
Motorbike and side car to transport the coffin
Coconuts in the coffin
Everyone (including funeral directors) in football shirts
Gothic theme (deceased in goth clothes, black coffin with black interior)
Asking everyone to write a message and sign the coffin with a marker pen
Family photos printed all over the coffin
Deceased cremated with a whistle around their neck because he was worried he would wake up in the coffin
Turning the deceased’s ashes into a firework so they could ‘go out with a bang!’
Bright pink coffin
Everyone to wear wellies
Funeral party dancing around the crematorium to Led Zeppelin
Everyone to wear Hawaiian shirts
All the men to wear lime green ties
Coffin propped up in a jeep to transport to woodland burial
Banana skin coffin