Creating a personalised funeral ceremony

What would you like at your funeral?  

Photo of coffin with a selection of personal tokens placed on top with kind permission from the GFG

Are you the 'I don't really care - I won't be there' type,  or more of a 'I hadn't really thought about it but now that you mention it...' sort of person?  If you are of the latter mindset, do you know what your options are?  Subject to religious and cultural considerations, you may have more choices than you originally thought, both in terms of location, and with regard to selection of rituals, readings and music. Your personality, beliefs and values can be woven through each element of your funeral service - like a tapestry. 


There is something reassuring about rituals: they give a basic structure or 'backbone' to a ceremony, and help to create the sense that things are being done 'properly' and respectfully.  Religions have their own funeral rituals, and committed followers of religion are likely to draw comfort from observing the rituals associated with their faith.  However, if you are not affiliated to a particular religion, you can put your own twist on traditional rituals, so that those you select reflect you and the life you led: if it is a more apt for your body to arrive in a motorbike sidecar or VW campervan than a hearse then consider it.  If you don't like the idea of everyone being dressed in black, request that all attendees wear a token splash of your favourite colour. If you want to include a participative act, but don't feel comfortable with the idea of everyone collectively singing a hymn or reciting a prayer, your guests can be invited to place flowers, tokens or messages on the coffin as an alternative way of enabling them to symbolically send their love and good will with you.


Readings can serve a range of purposes within the service: they can offer an insight into your views about death, they can reflect your interests and personality, and they can offer comfort to those left behind. Religious funeral services have traditionally incorporated readings from sacred texts, but secular writings from philosophers and playwrights and poetry can equally be woven into a funeral ceremony.  If your family wishes to be involved in the delivery of your service, sharing out the readings is a way of involving more people. 


Some people assume that in terms of music choices, a person-centred funeral entails shoe-horning all your favourite songs into the service. However, if you believe that the funeral should serve the living as well as the dead, the entry music in particular could be selected to offer comfort and support to those in attendance: if they enter to a piece that makes them feel calm and ‘held’, they will be better equipped to face the service, particularly if they are to be involved in the delivery. The music accompanying the committal is often (but not always) a gentler choice, enabling the attendees to have a moment for their own private reflection without the music being intrusive, but the exit music can be your ‘swan song’ and as upbeat and cheery as you like!  The incorporation of an opportunity for communal singing is a bit like marmite - you either love the idea or hate it - but again there is no right or wrong - at the end of the day it is your ceremony and the decision should be based on whatever you feel will work for your loved ones.

So, returning to our title - what would you like your funeral to be like? If you are one of the ‘now that you mention it...’ types, I hope this has given you some food for thought and the inspiration to plan a funeral or memorial service that truly reflects your life.