“Don’t make a fuss when I’m gone.”

Have you already heard this  from a parent or life partner? They say it because they don’t want you to spend a lot of money on a funeral or memorial service when they die. But there is more to it than money. What about the religious, cultural and practical aspects?

Do your family funeral traditions require an elaborate church service?
Is there always a viewing followed by a graveside service? Are survivors expected to provide a substantial meal for mourners afterwards?

Are there friends and family scattered all over the country – or all over the world? It will take time to make arrangements and travel plans to gather everyone in one place. Someone needs to tend to details like choosing music and passages to be read, and inviting people to speak. Funeral directors and clergy/celebrants can help with the planning, but family members still need to make most of the decisions. They need to know a person’s wishes in order to get it right.

Funeral industry expert, FUNERAL ONE, conducted a survey to discover how people felt about attending funerals. In their blog, Rochelle Rietow wrote about the surprising results: “People want a fresh, celebratory take on the dark and dreary funeral.” The survey asked about the last funeral they attended, “…18.4% of respondents said that it was a “typical funeral…sad, boring, creepy.”

Adding special elements to a traditional funeral can personalize it and make it less boring. Does Mom like certain hymns? Did your father volunteer as an athletic coach or Rotary member? Adding photos, program highlights, and unique music make a funeral memorable and not just something to sit through.

Money may not be the real the issue. A friend who prefers burgers instead of steak told her sons, “…just get together with some salami, cheese, and a good bottle of wine.” An overly fancy send-off would be out of character for this modest woman. Another family is holding a barbecue picnic, inviting friends to play guitar and sing. Their mother was cremated months ago, but the casual outdoor memorial service is what she wanted: a less somber, more joyful way to remember her life.

Do we know what our loved ones want? They might have memories of funerals that made them uncomfortable, or left a family in debt because of overspending ‘for appearance sake.’ (Sadly, it happens.) They may recall a wonderful service they attended and want to include the same features and details. Planning should take into consideration their personality, lifestyle, and financial means.

Families are increasingly asking for more party-like celebrations, with balloon or butterfly releases, yacht cruises, hikes, or tree-planting events. Have you discussed these ideas with your family? Once we talk openly about what we consider a good funeral, there is no guesswork when the time comes. Planning ahead eliminates family squabbles and saves time. It allows survivors to focus on their grief and not on event planning and managing expenses.

Share how YOU want to say goodbye at the end of your life.
Talk about your plans!