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Ideas for personalization when planning a funeral

If the idea of a casket, flowers and weeping mourners is not anything near your wish for an end-of-life send off, you’re not alone. Personalization is very important when planning a funeral – yours or a loved one’s.

Sharing your ideas for the music, speakers, photos, videos, attire and more will help the celebration of your life become that cherished, final memory for your friends and family. There are many things you can do when it comes to personalizing the service, but it’s important to share your wishes either with family or with the funeral home arranger who is assisting your end-of-life planning.

We’ve seen some really amazing send-offs over the years, and we’re sharing a few of the highlights to help you brainstorm what you’d like or what a loved one may prefer.

A final Christmas gift

We recently had a family who lost their matriarch. She was a big collector of antique glass Christmas ornaments, and the family had inherited hundreds of them. Each member of the family went through and selected the ornaments they wanted to keep. Then, they assembled two artificial trees and covered them in additional ornaments. Those trees were displayed  for the visitation, along with small boxes. Everyone who came to the visitation and services could select an ornament to take home as a keepsake.

Coffee to go

We had a woman who vacationed on Old Orchard Beach every year, and her first stop was always to the same coffee shop for a cup of her favorite java to bring to the beach for a walk. We had the coffee shipped in and brewed it during the visitation so all the guests could enjoy a final cup with her.

Singing praises

A woman whose son sang with his local gay men’s choir came with the entire choir, and they performed all the music for the service in the funeral home. Since his mom loved watching them perform, it was very fitting.

A unique casket

We’ve had several families build their own casket as opposed to purchasing one. They do need to be mindful of specifications and measurements, though, to ensure the casket they build fits the body as well as the vault for burial. (You can ask questions of one of our arrangers if you’re considering this idea.)

Honoring the service

We were told about a visitation for a retired Naval officer. Instead of laying the gentleman out in a casket, they laid him out in a dinghy. He was cremated afterward, so it wasn’t an issue that it wasn’t the same size as a casket.

Home funerals are coming back

Hundreds of years ago,  the visitation and service, with a casket, often occurred at home or on family property instead of at a funeral home.  That tradition is beginning to grow in popularity. A funeral home’s arranger helps families with the logistics including transport to a cemetery.

Here are some other ideas for personalizing a funeral:

  • Having Sharpies at the visitation so guests can write messages of love all over the exterior of the casket.
  • Showing home movies instead of a traditional photo slideshow.
  • Putting out a dish of the deceased’s favorite candy.
  • Providing your own vessel for cremated remains is very popular, such as coffee cans, liquor bottles, ammunition boxes, tackle boxes, pottery, baskets and more.
  • Transport the casket to the church and/or cemetery in your own vehicle, such as the bed of an antique pickup truck or towed on a trailer behind a Harley-Davidson. (We had a family who owned a farm transport their casket on a hay trailer pulled by the deceased’s own draft horses.)
  • We also offer a fully customizable memorial record package that some families really embrace.

Another option to consider is having at least a portion of the service or gathering outside of the funeral home walls. That may be a little more difficult logistically, but having all or a portion of the services in a location that was special to the deceased and their family often has a very positive impact.

Planning a funeral doesn’t have to be a depressing venture, considering you have many options to do it your way. 

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