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Creating a Meaningful Funeral for Modern Times

Your funeral director can help you find new and meaningful ways to honor your loved ones.

Jessica A. Koth

Director of Public Relations, National Funeral Directors Association

If you have attended a funeral recently, it probably wasn’t anything like services you have attended in the past. There may have been a collage of photographs, a memorial video tribute, special mementos on display, storytelling from close friends or family, special life tribute ceremonies, balloon releases, or any other number of unique tributes.

A funeral director’s priority is helping families commemorate the life of their loved one in the most meaningful way possible — including by using new trends, technologies, and innovations in memorialization.

Unique locations

When choosing a venue for your loved one’s service, you don’t have to hold it at a place of worship or the funeral home. You can select a location that reflects their spiritual beliefs, favorite hobbies, or interests. According to the National Funeral Directors Association’s 2021 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Report, 51.5 percent of respondents have attended a service at a non-traditional location.

Reflect on where your loved one enjoyed spending time and consider having the service at a favorite restaurant, botanical garden, park, or art gallery. Ultimately, it is important to choose a site that you feel will offer a comfortable setting to welcome guests and help everyone begin the grieving process.

Your funeral director may have relationships with local venues and can help arrange all the details, enabling you to focus on your healing journey.

Going green

As Americans become increasingly dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint, people are exploring the ways they can be green in life and in death. According to NFDA, approximately 56 percent of Americans are interested in exploring green funeral options.

When it comes to taking green to the grave, you can explore options such as sustainably crafted caskets and urns; burial in a green cemetery; and using locally sourced, organically grown flowers. Funeral directors are the experts who can help families explore a wide range of natural funeral and burial options.

Virtual funerals

While most people find attending a funeral in-person to be the most comforting, many funeral homes offer webcasting or livestreaming options. Webcasting a funeral gives family members who are unable to attend in-person the opportunity to participate in the service, whether they live in another state or even another country.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of funeral homes offering livestreaming options skyrocketed due to limitations on public gatherings. According to an NFDA survey, prior to the onset of the pandemic only about 15 percent of funeral homes offered webcasting options; during the pandemic, about 70 percent said they either started offering webcasting services or plan to do so in the near future.

Cremation options

According to NFDA, 57.7 percent of Americans chose to be cremated in 2021, up from 40.4 percent in 2010. Given this growth, there has been a plethora of innovation in memorialization options for families that prefer cremation.

There have been two significant alternatives to traditional flame-based cremation to emerge in recent years. Alkaline hydrolysis uses water, heat, pressure, and alkaline chemicals to reduce the body to bone. Natural organic reduction uses plant material and microbes to transform the body into soil that can be used to create a memorial garden. Because these are new options, your funeral director can advise you on what is legal in your state.

Cremated remains can be used to create memorial jewelry one can wear as a tribute, incorporated into an artificial reef in the ocean, or scattered in the water via an urn made of salt or papier-mâché. There are many memorialization options available to families that choose cremation; a trusted funeral director can help families explore what is right for them.

A memorable life tribute event should be as unique as the life your loved one lived. Consider meeting with a licensed funeral director to learn about the new options that might be available to your family.

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