Funeral trends are changing, and while many still opt for a traditional service, others are getting more creative with their final wishes.
Trends change over time, and funerals are no exception. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, people are choosing to have unique, non-traditional funerals now more than ever. The Association has more than 130 years of experience tracking funeral trends and each year there is an uptick in the number of individuals who have or plan a funeral service that is not your typical end-of-life goodbye.
Why Are People Choosing Unique Funerals?
There are many reasons that the funeral industry is seeing this emerging trend. First, more people are participating in the pre-planning process. The pre-planning funeral process allows an individual to document their final wishes, including where and how they would like to be laid to rest.
People are choosing non-traditional options that reflect who they are as a person. Something to make their funeral personal, meaningful, and often, a way to leave a positive lasting memory with loved ones.
We see this trend in the rise of celebrations of life compared to traditional funerals, for example. Where people come together to memorialize a loved one in a way that is less somber and more uplifting than a traditional funeral.
How Funerals Have Changed over Time
Even funeral services that we consider traditional today are much different than funerals of centuries past. Over the years customs change, and in the 2020s they are evolving even further. Here’s what funerals looked like throughout the years.
The 17th Century
In the 1600s, towns and villages struck a bell when a community member passed. The sound let people know of a death. Family members draped their houses with “mourning cloths” until the funeral service, covering windows, mirrors, and reflective surfaces. Loved ones wore dark mourning clothes to disguise themselves and ward off evil spirits.
The 18th Century
Tombstones with more elaborate, decorative carvings became popular in the 18th century, when cemeteries in America were largely known as “burying yards.” It was common for graves to have both a headstone and a footstone. Funerals were minimalistic, and females usually watched from a distance as males carried out the duties.
The 19th Century
The practice of embalming in America began in the 19th century and the custom of making graveyards beautiful, serene places began to take hold. Funeral homes emerged as businesses, offering families and loved ones options for services and burials.
The 20th Century
In America, 20th century funerals evolved to resemble much of what we consider “traditional” today. They became more ritual-based, with religious services, burial viewings, and personalized services. In the 20th century the practice of cremation increased and became a more popular choice, compared to traditional burial. Today, nearly half of individuals who pass are cremated.
Non-Traditional Funerals of Today
Today, many individuals still choose to hold traditional funerals, whether religious in nature or otherwise. However, new and unique practices have started to gain traction as well.
Today, many individuals are choosing to have a green funeral. Also known as a natural burial, people opt for green burials that have as little impact on the environment as possible. The practice allows bodies to decompose naturally, with biodegradable caskets and a lack of embalming. This process protects the soil and waterways in the area and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Following the eco-friendly trend, some individuals are choosing burial pods that grow into trees. These trees benefit the planet and also serve as a memorial that loved ones can come back to for years to come, offering a tranquil, quiet place of reflection.
As cremation rates continue to rise, so does the creativity of individuals choosing the option. Today, people are choosing to have their ashes commemorated in creative, meaningful ways. They may have ashes pressed into jewelry, placed inside a teddy bear, or even made into a diamond. Other individuals choose to have an artist mix their ashes with paint to create a beautiful sentimental piece for loved ones to hold onto.
These actions provide ways for loved ones to keep those who have passed near and dear to their hearts physically, every day. It also provides individuals with the option to give multiple family members a portion of ashes to keep with them.
More people and families are choosing to hold celebrations of life instead of traditional funerals, and they are finding ways to make the events increasingly unique. It is possible to have a loved one’s ashes placed in a firework, ending the celebration of life with a show that lights up the sky in memory of the deceased.
Another unique choice, individuals can now have companies press the ashes of a loved one compressed into a vinyl record. You can choose a meaningful song. Or, if you are pre-planning your own arrangements you can choose to leave a recording of your voice, leaving loved ones with a message to listen to for years to come.
Deciding What Is Right for You
If you are pre-planning funeral arrangements, or deciding on a service for a loved one, there are many ways to personalize how you say goodbye. It is a deeply personal decision, and no two people or families are the same. Whether you opt for a traditional, or non-traditional funeral, you should feel comfortable and at peace with your decision.