Not Your Grandma’s Funeral: Personalized Funeral Ideas You Should Steal Today


What do you get when you put Baby Boomers and creative funeral directors together?

Not your grandma’s ultra-traditional funeral, that’s for sure.

Baby Boomers want their end-of-life celebration their way… and they won’t stop until they get it. As more and more Baby Boomers start thinking about their end-of-life wishes (and as more get older), we are starting to see funeral homes putting the fun back in funerals.

We don’t just want to celebrate this amazing movement happening in funeral service, we want to showcase it. We hope that these ten personalized funeral services will inspire you and open your eyes to all of the amazing possibilities you can create just by thinking outside-of-the-box at your funeral home! Without further ado, here are our favorite personalized services of all time:

1. A disco ball, a Busch and a glass of wine


The most recent example that has received a lot of attention in the news is about a New Orleans woman, known as “Mae Mae” by her friends. Mae Mae had quite the zest of life and her family wanted her send-off to reflect that. So, they sat her at a table in a living room-esque setting complete with a spinning disco ball, painted her fingernails gold and black (in honor of the New Orleans Saints), and put a Busch beer, menthol cigarette and a giant glass of wine next to her. According to WGNO, Mae Mae’s family thought Charbonnet Funeral Home created a truly fitting goodbye for her. Mae Mae’s daughter, Zymora Kimball, describes her mother by saying “She gets down… she is not a normal 53-year-old”.

2. A bowling league night celebration


This next story proves that even when you don’t have a lot of family around to celebrate your life, you can still have a dang good celebration. After a Houston man died suddenly at the age of 56, his bowling team came together to handle his funeral arrangements. They held the service on the night of their typical league bowling because they felt instead of making everyone leave work early and go to a memorial service, they might as well bring the service to them. The service featured all of his bowling trophies and a toast for every attendee to say their goodbyes in the most fitting way. “It’s like he was with them on bowling night,” a friend said of the service.

3. “Big Mama’s Kitchen”


When 59-year-old Vallonia Smith suddenly passed from heart disease, her family wanted to plan a funeral service that uniquely represented her love for cooking. That’s why they turned to Wade Funeral Home’s non-traditional approach and theater-like venue, dubbed “Big Mama’s Kitchen”. At Vallonia’s funeral, guests could play cards at the kitchen table (barely an arm’s length from her body), drink iced tea and Kool-Aid, and even snack on a platter of fried chicken (Vallonia’s favorite).

All of Vallonia’s loved ones and friends enjoyed the funeral service so much, everybody was saying “Oooooh, this reminds me of Val”. According to her daughter, Angela Harris, “No one said anything bad to me about it. Everyone said, ‘This is a nice idea, it’s different.’ It had fond memories, and there wasn’t a lot of crying.”

4. A Star Wars themed send-off


When Jack, a 4-year-old boy, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, his final request was to have a Star Wars-themed funeral. So when he passed away, his family made his final wishes come true with one of the most epic funeral services ever. Jack was carried by a horse drawn carriage surrounded by fully suited Stormtroopers, where his floral arrangement spelled out “JEDI”. The church service also kept the Star Wars theme going – a brass band played the Luke Skywalker theme song and the order of service read “Master Jack Robinson, joined the force 1st April 2014.”

5. Making the wildest Harley Davidson dreams come true


Before Billy Standley passed away, he and his family always joked about burying him with his Harley Davidson ‘Electra Glide’. And when Billy bought burial plots (plural) next to his wife, his family realized he was serious about his final wish. Billy had his sons help him build “casket” complete with a giant plexiglass cabinet capable of holding him and his bike. He also turned to Vernon Funeral Home to make sure his family and friends could see him on his pride and joy, “[He] kept throwing this idea out there, to be buried on his bike. We were glad to assist him.”

6. Putting the “part” in party


Ursula Stock knew back in the 1970’s that she didn’t want the average funeral, but a true celebration of life. That’s why she planned her own funeral well in advance, choosing everything from the music to the guest list and even an open bar. And it turns out, planning well leads to one unforgettable party. With nearly 150 guests packed into the banquet hall at the Three Flames Restaurant in San Jose, California, it’s safe to say Ursula got the celebration of life she always wanted. “She would love what’s going on,” said her husband of nearly 50 years, Michael Stock. One of our favorite requests for her final send-off? This sign (below) that reads “This is a NO TEAR-ZONE.”

7. Proactive planning


Joanna Grady-Savard is another example of why planning your own celebration of life is worth the hassle. Joanna has pre-planned her funeral and requests that it be anything but ordinary.  “We would have a tent. We could have a lobster bake or a clambake. No high heels, no black dresses; just an opportunity to sit on a bench and be in a beautiful environment… [and] after funeral services, they go to my favorite spot from my running route,” she writes. She also plans to get a memorial bench engraved at her favorite running spot that has a beautiful overlook on the Atlantic Ocean.

She even plans to create a book of her own life lessons that will be passed out at her service. Talk about taking matters into your own hands. “We spend so much time and effort and energy planning our children’s weddings and birthdays and anniversary parties,” Joanna said in an interview on her wishes, “that this is, in my opinion, one of the most critical pieces of our life. It’s something that you have control over; you manage the legacy.”

8. Art in Ashes


While this isn’t necessarily a funeral service option, we think latest creation, “Art in Ashes” is one of the most unique ways to remember a loved one. “Art in Ashes” takes your loved ones ashes and mixes them into an abstract oil painting. Families can have this done for as little as $600 or as much as $1,800 depending on the nature of the painting. In a world where cremated remains are being shot into space and turned into diamonds, we have to appreciate creative approach to sending a loved one off.

9. “Run in peace, Jim”


When Jim Kelley, an avid runner of nearly 30 years, had his life cut short when he was struck by a car while running, his family wanted to pay tribute to him in a way that truly represented his love for running. To do this, his family put together what they called “one last run” where his friends and family would run behind his hearse as it traveled to the cemetery. The best part? Instead of saying “Rest in peace”, his family and friends said “Run in peace, Jim.”

10. A drive-thru funeral experience


On the way to his final resting place, David S. Kime Jr.’s friends and family drove through his favorite restaurant of all time… the Burger King drive-thru. “He always lived by his own rules,” said Linda Phiel, one of Kime’s three daughters in an interview with the York Daily Records “His version of eating healthy was the lettuce on the WHOPPER JR.” David’s loved ones munched on his favorite sandwich one last time to pay tribute to him. We’re not sure why a trend is rising with drive-thrus and funerals, but we think as long as it fits the life lived, it’s a darn good idea!

Final thoughts

When it comes to celebrating life, we’ve learned the hard way that the families of today want anything but an ordinary funeral. In a recent blog post, we heard Baby Boomer’s true thoughts on funeral service where one Boomer described his thoughts on traditional services:

Traditional funerals are mindless. You just go through the motions. I think, ‘Is that all this person was worth? Didn’t anybody think any more of that person to want to really show what that person’s life was about or why they loved that person or what they liked about that person?’ It’s kind of sad to think they didn’t put any energy into their supposed ‘celebration’ of life… we just have to bury the old broad and let’s get on with our lives.”

And as Baby Boomers continue to make their way into our client family base, we can only expect more and more of them to feel this way about their final sendoff. We hope these unique personalized funerals  sparked some ideas for you, and even if they didn’t, we hope they at least opened your ideas to what Baby Boomers truly want. And here’s a hint… it’s not your average doom and gloom traditional service.

Do you want to offer truly personalized services?

If you’re looking for ways to offer your families a one-of-a-kind service for their loved one, give us a call at 800-798-2575, ext. 5.or click here to schedule a consultation with one of our personalization specialists. 

What do you think? Are these personalized services the way of the future? Tell us in the comments below!





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  1. Larry Mandel

    One issue, who handles the cost of many of the “personalization expenses” We flew balsa wood airplanes on the chapel at the end of a service, as the deceased supplied balsa wood to the model glider industry. In this case the family supplied the planes.I regularly bring candy kisses to the graveside for enjoyment or to leave as a memorial on the grave.

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  3. Seth Brett

    All the stories are too good. It is true when we lost our loved ones, it is really more sorrowful. We are trying to give a best tribute at the funeral service of our loved ones. is definitely is well known for funeral service. I am very glad to through this blog. Thanks for making this kind of nice blog…….

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  6. Adrians Funeral Flowers

    Although kinda creepy, love the take on the first one, with the lady and the glass of wine and from what i have seen from the past this is not a new custom. many people back in the day would dress up their deceased in a normal fashion to have one last look at them in life.

  7. Webdesign

    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  8. joann

    Some times you want a personal touch to your tribute. We can do that!

  9. Annie An Boada

    One of our client referred us to check this we just saw a lot of helpful information on site. Great info.

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  10. j

    That was an awesome idea!!! I also do a lot of custom work to keep every one happy!!!!