How the funeral industry is evolving

What image does the word ‘funeral’ conjure up in your mind? For many people in Britain, this word has Victorian connotations. A typical scene would involve a crowd of solemn looking people, dressed in smart black clothes and gathered in a church with a priest or minister delivering a passage from the bible. For a long time this is how most would imagine a standard British funeral to be. However, the truth is that nowadays there are a variety of options that people choose when it comes to funerals and this is in part due to the fact that the social convention surrounding funerals has become a great deal more relaxed in recent years.

What should I wear to a funeral?

This is a question that is frequently asked and tradition has dictated that it is common to wear black to a funeral. Men would wear a black suit with a black tie and women would wear a black dress. However, an increasing number of families are asking funeral attendees to wear bright colours, or even fancy dress in some cases in an attempt to make funerals more of a celebration of the life of the deceased. Clothing is being chosen as a way to do this and wearing football shirts of the favourite team of the deceased has also been a popular option for families. In general, there has been a growing number of funerals that look to highlight the passions of the deceased and alternative clothing choices to traditional black formalwear reflect this trend.

The funeral service

In days gone by, the general tone of funerals was religious and included readings of passages from the bible and the singing of hymns. However, the modern funeral in many cases has been much more of a celebration of life. Speaking earlier this year, chief executive of the NAFD Mike Owen described how “People are increasingly wanting different formats when it comes to funerals, they want it to be tailored and have a less religious feel. There's more of a focus on celebrating rather than just having a traditional sorrowful service." With this in mind, it can be a good idea to focus on happy memories of the deceased if speaking at the service.  

Alternative venues

The Office for National Statistics reported that in 2001, 15% of people in England and Wales considered themselves to be ‘non religious’ and by 2011, this percentage grew to 25%. This change has been reflected in people’s choice of location for their funeral as many now opt for alternative burial sites. Woodland burials are becoming a trend, with a tree being planted on top of the grave to act as a makeshift gravestone and there are around 270 woodland burial sites across the UK. In fact, a number of undertakers are happy to hold the funeral wherever you like – there have even been reports of funerals going ahead in the home of the deceased and in their favourite pub. These choices reflect an increasing personalisation across the funeral industry.

Alternatives to the traditional hearse

This area has seen a real explosion with a variety of creative alternatives to the traditional hearse. Funeral directors have been reporting demands for a huge spectrum of transportation. For example, many tradesmen have expressed the desire to take their final journey in their white van whilst others have requested tandem bicycles, pink Cadillacs, double decker buses, diggers and camper vans instead of the traditional black hearse.

Funeral directors themselves have responded to this trend and most are happy to source these alternative modes of transport.

What about the coffin?

Traditionally, a heavy wooden coffin with brass handles has always been used, whether in a burial or cremation. The modern trend however is seeing more creative designs for example painted decorations for coffins that reflect the personality of the deceased and in many humanist ceremonies, wicker coffins are increasingly being used.

Traditional burial and cremation require a huge amount of resources and in light of these facts, some families are now consciously opting for green coffins that reduce the impact that burial or cremation has on the environment. For example, many funeral directors now offer burial shroud or coffins made from natural biodegradable materials such as willow leaves or bamboo.

In Britain an increasing number of families are fostering creativity when it comes to arranging funerals. Historically, funerals have been perceived as very sombre and formal affairs when in actual fact, funerals are becoming more of a celebration of life and a way to provide genuine comfort and healing to grieving families. In light of this fact, funeral directors are responding to increasingly personalised demands when it comes to organising funerals – tailoring their services to ensure that families are able to give their loved ones a memorable send off.  

At Golden Charter, we provide pre-paid funeral plans on behalf of a network of over 3,300 independent funeral directors that are happy to accommodate your requests whatever they may be.