As the National Museum of Funeral History shows us, funerals have evolved over time to reflect the current zeitgeist. Planning a funeral today involves a lot of the same customs that have been around since ancient times, but new trends and technology have made funeral planning much more sophisticated than ever before.
What characterizes our current period of funeral planning? Future visitors to the funeral museum will reflect on our generation’s proclivities for personalized, eco-friendly, tech savvy, and hyper-connected options. Here are ten new trends in funeral planning that are continuing to increase in popularity:
1. Preplanning funeral services. Baby Boomers are now reaching retirement age and planning for their retirement years and beyond. They are not only thinking about their finances, but also about their final wishes, end-of-life care, and legacy to future generations. Funeral preplanning has gained popularity because it gives individuals control over services and costs, as well as peace of mind that their final plans are set.
2. Rising number of cremations and scatterings. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) estimates that by 2025 the majority of people across North America will choose cremation over burial for end-of-life services. Cremation is gaining popularity for a number of reasons, including: low costs, limited space in cemeteries, greener alternatives to burial, and flexible options for final disposition.
3. “Life celebration” funerals and memorial services. Funerals used to be somber affairs, but nowadays they are teeming with life and positivity. Today’s funerals are highly personalized – with videos, memorabilia, special clothing and music, and quirky themes – to celebrate the uniqueness of an individual’s life. They now often include symbolic and memorable events for guests – dove releases, balloon releases, or a fireworks show.
4. Eco-friendly funeral options. As we have become more aware about our impact on the environment, more people now desire green alternatives and sustainable options to traditional products and services. In the funeral industry, this has translated to more cremations, as well as eco-friendly funeral options, including biodegradable caskets and space-saving burial techniques.
5. Online memorials and social media. The Internet and social media have made planning a funeral and remembering a lost loved one easier and more accessible. Obituaries and memorials are displayed online and shared through Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. Visitors to these memorials can leave remembrances, light candles, and donate to charity through these pages.
6. Livestreaming the funeral or memorial service. YouTube, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other video services have made it easier than ever to watch things in real time. More people are livestreaming not only weddings and births, but funerals as well. Often combined with online memorials, funeral livestreams make it possible for faraway friends and family members to participate in the celebrating their loved ones.
7. Crowdfunding and donations. While flowers and condolences have maintained their popularity, more families are requesting donations to charity, or help with paying for the funeral expenses, through crowdfunding websites and social media. Instead of funerals being a financial hardship on families, they have become opportunities for the community to rally and make a positive impact.
8. Community memorial gardens. The spooky cemeteries of yore have made way for modern memorial grounds that offer comfort, and in some cases luxury, to families. New memorial homes feature beautiful landscaping and community areas where families can pay their respects. Some even have a café or stunning views of the surrounding area.
9. Nontraditional final resting places. As burials are costly, and many funeral homes are running out of space, many people are now searching for new alternatives to in-ground burials. Funeral homes now offer community mausoleums and columbaria (structures that hold many cremation urns), scattering gardens for cremated ashes. Some funeral homes offer memorial plaques for families who have chosen to scatter ashes outside the memorial grounds.Some families opt for burials at sea or innovative urns – or even turning cremated ashes into diamonds.
10. Online grief support. Grief is an intense personal experience, but now a number of support channels are available to grieving families. Many funeral homes offer in-person grief counseling, and some now offer online support. Sympathy and grief support dinner clubs are now trending and offer people a new way to connect with others who are grieving.