5 Ways Funeral Service Is Still Behind The Times

Even though we connect digitally in ways our predecessors couldn’t even have imagined, many of our funeral customs still date back centuries. Many of the traditional funeral approaches remain comforting today, yet others are more habit than help and can take away from our truly embracing the funeral ritual as an opportunity to celebrate a life well lived.

While traditions, such as viewings or eulogies, will always have value for family and friends celebrating the life of a loved one, this doesn’t mean every aspect of the funeral service should remain the same for eons. In working with families, consider these five ways funeral service is still behind the times. Making new traditions can be a wonderful way to help families move forward and give their loved one the life tribute he or she truly deserves.


Tradition #1: Wearing Black

Why is it that the loss of a loved one demands that men pull out their best black suits (no matter how uncomfortable) and women don black dresses? Yes, we’ve moved past the days when those in mourning were expected to wear all black for months after the burial. But it’s also time to reconsider the go-to color choice for a funeral.

Encourage an uplifting life tribute by suggesting people wear bright, uplifting colors. As part of the funeral personalization, the family might even suggest a color scheme. Did Aunt Nancy love purple all of her life? A more fitting way to remember her would be to have family and friends gathered to celebrate her all wearing purple or at least adding a purple accessory to their outfits.

Pullout: DYK? Wearing black funeral attire dates back to the Roman Empire when people would wear dark togas in mourning. Today, many non-Western cultures prefer other colors at funerals. For example, yellow is the color of mourning in Egypt whereas in Korea they would select blue.


Tradition #2: Staying in the Funeral Home

Yes, it may be a bit more challenging for you to arrange, but inviting the family to host a funeral service somewhere beyond the doors of the funeral home can help personalize their experience.

If their son loved to hike, they might hold the service in a forested park. Someone who loved to tend flowers might be better remembered in a public park or botanical garden, even the lawn of the funeral home. A grandparent who swam several laps a day most of his life could be better remembered with an ash scattering ceremony at a pond or by the ocean. Or the mother who retired to a lakefront home might want her ceremony to be held by the water with the possibility of a blue heron flying over at just the perfect moment.


Tradition #3: Only Holding Services for Traditional Burial

Cremation is a popular end-of-life option, but that doesn’t mean the family needs to forego the viewing or service. By hosting services for a cremated loved one, friends and family still get to experience the coming together and outpouring of love they might otherwise miss.

Bringing people together to share memories and tell stories is an important part of the grieving process, and it’s part of our job to be sure the families we’re working with have that opportunity to celebrate their loved one fully. Social memorial websites can also make it simple and convenient for people to share their love and support immediately, from wherever they are in the world.


Tradition #4: Having a Life Celebration Immediately After a Death

Holding a service shortly after the death is a tradition dating back to the days when immediate burial was a necessity. Of course, holding the funeral immediately after the death today often gives the family much-needed support. But, planning the life tribute for a time when people will truly be able to be present and enjoy the memories shared, laughter, and love can be a welcome change. Also, this approach gives the family time to actually prepare and personalize the event so that it’s a truly fitting, personalized commemoration.

With the popularity of cremation, it’s possible to host a life celebration service a month, a year, or even a decade after someone’s passing. Or, families can continue to share the love and remember the life lived, with an annual celebration.


Tradition #5: Hanging Pictures on a Poster Board

How many people today even have hard copies of their pictures these days? Our photographs and videos are digital, stored on our computers or backed up on social media or in the cloud. Help families evolve away from the tribute that looks like a school project on poster board by offering access to personalized videos, websites, and printed materials.

Invite family and friends to share their digital memories and with funeralOne’s Life Tributes software you can easily produce world-class memorials. The software lets you easily create Hollywood-style DVD Tribute videos for the service. Plus, you can move past the simple black and white photocopied program with personalized printing to create high quality memorial cards or bookmarks that can serve also as a keepsake.

By guiding families to find ways to personalize funerals, you give people another way to show and share their love and make the funeral service a true celebration.


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  1. Joseph Earthman

    Great article, Rochelle! Keep them coming. A common theme that I see in your list and other funeral industry publications is a push to “celebrate” your way around the natural sadness that comes with losing someone. Wearing all black for a year may be a bit overboard today but bright colored clothing isn’t the answer either.

    I agree, staying in the funeral home isn’t required in all situations anymore but other than at a church or a private residence, good luck getting a third party venue to host a funeral.

    Point #3 is getting close but that’s still just a memorial service, not a funeral, and the differences are obvious and profound.

    Also, there is still a very good reason to hold the funeral within a week or so after the death. Reacting to death is instinctive for the immediate family and extended family and friends. If you put it off too long, the service loses its impact.

    Lastly, I agree with you about ditching the poster board. Families LOVE the digital slideshows.

    Always remember, funerals (with a casket – open or closed) allow for people to get together to share memories but a funeral allows you to say good-bye to someone, because they are there with you, literally. It may seem corny but it’s true. Cremating first then holding a memorial service takes this away. Next time you’re at a memorial service and there is an urn, see how many people touch the urn. Few to no one will be my guess. On the other hand, see how many people touch a casket, open or closed. Just about everyone does. It’s as instinctive as shaking hands or giving someone, an old friend, a hug.

    Check out my blog at http://www.josephjearthman.com. You might enjoy it.

    Keep up the good work, Rochelle!

  2. Brad Stanton

    Just signed up for this newsletter (Blog) and enjoyed what you had to write about.

    I am working with a cemetery who hs a website that eventually will be a source for future genealogists.

    Having said that, what concerns me is the lack of the concern the families have to record ‘memories’, notable accomplishments one has had during their lifetime.

    Perhaps you would be willing to write a few words encouraging people to take a serious interest in this matter and the reason why they should.

  3. funeralOne

    Hi Brad! We’re so glad to hear that you’re enjoying the blog. The plan for your cemetery website sounds very interesting! And agreed, it is concerning that families aren’t recording memories and accomplishments, and definitely something that’s regrettable later on down the line…It’s always so interesting to learn about the lives of past generations. I’ll put that topic in our idea bank for a future blog post! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  4. funeralOne

    Hi Joseph 🙂 Thanks so much for your thoughts & insights…we will definitely check out your blog!

  5. Marion Delmaire

    It is true, keeping these traditions and rituals gives us confort in those hard times!
    I thought that i don’t want any of it when somebody very close to me died but then i actually realised that i need these rituals to say a proper goodbye!

  6. Megane Amiel

    Thank you for this article! it is a good reminder that we all need this rituals to survive that awful period of our lives!