Our attitudes to funerals are changing but is the funeral industry keeping pace with our needs?
The UK is a hugely diverse nation, which boasts many different faiths and cultural customs. It is also a very connected consumer-driven society which is cost and convenience conscious and prizes the choice and customisation that digital shopping has brought them.
Uber and Amazon are a prime examples of how disruprive technologies have brought greater consumer choice, freedom and value for money - anytime, any place controlled through a smart phone app or tablet. We are living through a period of immense consumer change and inevitably some industries are struggling to keep step with our expectation levels and desire for products that fit our individual tastes and needs.
Take the funeral industry for example, there are some big players in this space that have 'owned' death for decades. That isn't to say that they are selling a product that everybody craves, rather it illustrates our propensity not to discuss death and accept the ACME post-death options offerd by the likes of Coop, Golden Charter and Dignity.
However, things are changing as people accept that death does not have to be forboding, mysterious or expensive. The past 20 years have seen more people move away from traditional, formal religious ceremonies, to create events that more accurately reflect the life and loves of the deceased.
Catering to this change a new breed of entrepreneur has emerged to the challenge the norms and deliver more bespoke, creative and personal services.
Hybrid funeral ceremonies which mix religious and secular elements reflect the UK's diverse society and have effectively become the modern British funeral. The popularity of such events stems from the ability to accommodates greater personalisation. We are are no longer willing to be told what is, and what isn’t, appropriate when remembering a loved one. We can instead request an event that’s part grieving, part celebratory. If and when we plan our own funerals, we want to be remembered as the unique individuals we are, not dispatched by a 'cut and paste' anonymous, dreary ritual that all too often is the outcome of the traditional funeral.
Modern British funerals are characterised by:
- a mixture of secular and religious music and readings;
- greater participation of family and friends in reading tributes, specially written poems, contributing live or recorded music;
- informal dress code and colourful eco-friendly coffins and caskets;
- greater accessibility to mourners of other faiths and no faith.
Until fairly recently some ministers of religion would, with differing degrees of enthusiasm, deliver a 'religion-lite' funeral. Most will now willingly officiate at a service that is less formal but will understandably turn down what they consider unsuitable requests to be carried out within a place of worship.
Many families now decide that the funeral ceremony of a loved one should not be conducted by a minister of religion. They instead choose a civil funeral ceremony held at their local council buildings or other suitable location and delivered by a civil celebrant.
Funeral directors, happy to provide what their customers want, will now advise on and arrange a memorial/celebration. Modern British funerals often have elements of a green funeral, with the interment at a Woodland Burial site. Eco-friendly coffins are likely to be chosen.
To provide a unique, well organised and celebratory way of saying farewell, families need to be better informed about a part of life that until recently was a taboo subject.
The important thing about planning a funeral, whether for a loved one whose death is imminent, or for your own farewell, is to take the time now to focus it so that it reflects your lifestyle and the way you, or your loved one, want to be remembered. That way you can be sure that those who are bereaved are able to relate to and fully participate in the event.