Funeral Planning Trends that May Surprise You

Six trends are redefining funeral services

Planning a funeral isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. People want to mark the event with a personal touch, which has opened up more options than ever. In fact, here are six funeral planning trends breathing new life into age-old practices. Some are even changing funeral services as we know them — forever.

1. Cremation is on the rise

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reports over half of Americans chose cremation over burial in 2016, and it expects more people to do so in the future. In fact, NFDA expects cremation trends will become the rule by 2035, when they predict almost 80% of funerals will center around cremation.

Cremation methods

The increase in cremation is affecting cremation trends themselves. One is direct cremation. Usually, cremation happens after the deceased is placed in a casket for viewing and the funeral service. Direct cremation bypasses these traditional processes and extra costs. Instead, the body is cremated immediately following death, and the remains are placed in an urn or container to be displayed at a memorial service, if one is held at all.

Another alternative is water cremation, which uses a liquid solution to decompose the body, instead of flames. The option is eco-friendlier because it reduces carbon dioxide released into the air by traditional cremation. Plus, the bereaved still receive the remains to do with as they wish.

Creative cremains

Cremation trends not only apply to new methods, but also to how the bereaved honor loved ones through their cremains. Creative ideas let them showcase the deceased’s passions or allow them to send their ashes off in unusual ways. Some include:

  • Memorial reefs: Cremains are affixed to or mixed into a man-made reef at the bottom of the ocean to become a natural habitat for marine life.

  • Ashes in the atmosphere: The company Mesoloft, uses a balloon to launch cremains to the edge of space, where they’re released into the atmosphere.

  • Pressing remains into a vinyl record: The recording supports 12 minutes of customizable audio per side.

  • Gun ammunition: The ashes are mixed in gun powder and placed inside bullets. Usually, the bullets are then shot in a final salute.

2. Going green

Green funeral services may be a new movement now, but like cremation trends, they’ll become commonplace as more people seek ways to lessen their ecological footprint. That's why more funeral homes are providing green services. They are following such practices as formaldehyde-free embalming and using recycled products. The number of businesses offering green burial services is also increasing.
A green burial, or natural burial, is one in which the body is embalmed with non-toxic products or not embalmed at all. It is then wrapped in a shroud, if desired, which is a cloth made of natural material, like cotton, linen, or bamboo. In a shroud, the body is placed right into the ground or inside an eco-friendly casket without a vault. These biodegradable caskets are built of wicker, bamboo, cardboard, or other sustainable materials, and without glue. Thus, they decompose more easily in the soil, which lets the green burial site return to its natural state and lessens the impact to the Earth.

3. At-home funerals and participatory funerals

At-home funerals and participatory funerals allow families to be more involved with the care of their loved ones after their deaths. Instead of taking the body to a funeral home, caregivers who choose an at-home funeral take on some of the responsibilities of a funeral director, such as changing the deceased’s clothes. Family and friends then come to pay their respects — for a few hours or days. The trend allows people to gather in an intimate setting to say goodbye.
Participatory funerals encourage the same care by loved ones, except they do so in a funeral home. This method lets them contribute at a level they feel comfortable and under the guidance of professionals.
It’s legal in every U.S. state to have at-home funerals, and most states don’t require a licensed funeral director to be involved. However, some states require a funeral director to help with key steps, such as signing the death certificate and overseeing burial or cremation.

4. Funeral party

Wanting to bypass somber events, more people are making preneed plans for a funeral party in lieu of traditional services. Also known as a celebration of life, a funeral party may feature upbeat music, funny stories, and sometimes open bars. They are held in various settings, ranging from a home to a park to the deceased’s favorite restaurant — anywhere that speaks to the person’s life. In short, a funeral party lets loved ones take part in an uplifting life tribute instead of a sorrowful event.

5. Theme funerals

A theme funeral takes the funeral party one step further by focusing on one thing that was important to the deceased to create a truly personalized funeral. For example, unique theme funerals have included Star Wars services, featuring pallbearers dressed as movie characters, and a bowling funeral, during which participants rolled the casket into pins at the deceased’s favorite bowling alley. Such funeral personalization lets the departed go out in their own style.

6. Technology in funeral services

With technology dominating so much of everyday life, it should come as no surprise to learn it’s becoming a staple with death, too. Funeral homes announce arrangements on their websites and offer to create memorial videos that show highlights of the deceased’s life. Online broadcasts allow loved ones who are far away to virtually attend funeral services. Digital sympathy support, such as e-cards, allow people to show compassion to the bereaved easier than before. Social memorial websites, such as and, honor the dead with commemorative webpages, and crowdfunding lets friends contribute to the funeral expenses.
But perhaps the most innovative way to pay tribute to the deceased is with an interactive headstone. Some supply a link to a social memorial website by scanning a code with a smartphone. Others feature text, video, and audio right on the slab via an interactive display that detects human presence.
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Photo credit: iStock

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