What is a living funeral?

group of people at a living funeral dressed in suits and evening wear sitting at a table and raising glasses of champagne

Living funerals are becoming more popular as a way to celebrate someone’s life while they’re still alive. Although they’re often held for people who are terminally ill, anyone can choose to have a living funeral ceremony.

How does a living funeral work?

A living funeral is much like any other kind of funeral service. The main difference is that the person who is being remembered is still alive. It’s quite common for them to attend their own living funeral too.

There are no set rules about living funerals – they can follow any structure and include anything the person wants. Sometimes they’re serious occasions where people wear dark clothes and share memories of the person as if they had already died. Other times, they’re like a big party, where friends and family gather to celebrate the person’s life.

Living funerals are sometimes called ‘pre-funerals’.

Why do people choose living funerals?

Often, people choose to have a living funeral because they know they’re going to die soon. They may have been diagnosed with a terminal illness – or they might simply have a feel that they don’t have long left.

For these people, a living funeral is a chance for one last celebration with friends and family. They can listen to their favourite songs, share treasured memories and reflect on the life they’ve lived. This can provide a valuable sense of closure, both for the person who is dying and the other people at the funeral.

You don’t have to be old or unwell to have a living funeral, though. Maybe you feel it’s more meaningful to celebrate your life while you’re still alive – no matter your age or health status. Or perhaps you’d like to pay for your own funeral service so your family don’t have to worry about it later. When you do eventually die, you could save money by choosing an unattended funeral rather than holding another big ceremony.

When did living funerals become popular?

The idea of having a funeral while alive isn’t new. Lots of old films and novels include scenes where characters go to their own funerals. For example, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the title character sneaks into his funeral service as a prank after being declared dead by mistake.

Many of these stories used living funerals as a plot twist or joke – they weren’t taken seriously. That all changed in 1997 with the publication of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. One of the characters in the book holds a living funeral ceremony while dying from an incurable illness. Tuesdays with Morrie became a bestseller and popularised the idea of living funerals in the United States.

They’re not just popular in America, though. More and more people in the UK are choosing living funerals as a way to save money or enjoy their own send-off.

How to organise a living funeral

If you feel like a living funeral is the right choice for you, here at the steps you can take to plan it.

Decide whether to use a funeral director

Are you interested in arranging a living funeral? You may want to ask a funeral director for help. There are funeral directors in the UK who specialise in organising funerals for people who are still alive.

It all depends on what you want to include in the service. Do you want it to feel like a traditional funeral with a celebrant, flowers and a procession? Funeral directors have lots of experience with these kinds of ceremonies, so they could provide valuable assistance. Or would you prefer a simpler service with a party atmosphere? You may be able to save money by arranging it yourself.

Choose a venue

Living funerals can take place in almost any kind of venue.

Some people choose a quiet, relaxed space like their own home or garden. This is good for people who are ill because it gives them a chance to rest if they need to.

Others choose venues such as pubs, hotel function rooms and crematorium chapels. You could even splash out and take a few friends on holiday or enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience like a hot air balloon ride.

Would you like to use a religious venue like a church or gurdwara? Keep in mind that this might not be possible. Some faith leaders are uncomfortable with living funerals, so they might refuse to lead the ceremony or let you use the venue. It all depends on the person and their beliefs.

Start planning the pre-funeral service

Now it’s time to choose a date and decide on the details. If you’re ill, you’ll probably want to choose a date in the near future. This way, you can be sure you’ll be well enough to attend.

What should you include in the service? That’s completely up to you. Here are some living funeral ideas to get you started:

Send out invitations

The last step is to let people know about the funeral.

If you want the occasion to feel laid-back and informal, you could send your living funeral invitation by email or even create a social media event. If you’d prefer a traditional feel, you could have your invitations professionally printed and send them by post.

What should you write on the invites? That depends on the kind of event you’re planning too.

For an informal get-together, you could start by writing something like, ‘join us as we celebrate the life of [person]’. If it’s a more formal funeral, you could use wording like ‘you’re cordially invited to honour the life of [person] at a living funeral ceremony’.

Remember to explain what a living funeral is because many people will be unfamiliar with the idea. Be sure to include the location, date and a request to RSVP too.

 

Funeral Choice helps people find local funeral directors and compare prices. For funeral planning help and ideas, visit our funeral planning advice hub.

 

Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

×

Request Advice

Call a member of the Funeral Choice advice team on 01983 754387

or complete our enquiry form.

×

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
Close
×

What is a Direct Cremation?

A Direct Cremation is an alternative to the traditional funeral. This involves the cremation of the deceased without a funeral service. A Direct Cremation is generally the most economic option because costs of the coffin, preparation of the body, funeral service and expensive transportation are not included. However, many people choose Direct Cremations for reasons other than expense, for example:

  • - Wanting to have a memorial at a different time to the cremation
  • - Expressed desire from the deceased to not have a ceremony
  • - Individuals with relatives who face big physical or geographical challenges in coming together for a ceremony

The prices quoted for Direct Cremations include:

  • All charges, meetings and paperwork for the cremation
  • Collection of deceased and care prior to cremation
  • A simple coffin and urn for the ashes
  • Cremation fees and delivery of ashes to the family
Close
×

Attended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees for an Attended Funeral, which is where family and friends have a ceremony or service for the deceased person at the same time as they attend their burial or cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Taking care of all necessary legal and administrative arrangements
  • Collecting and transporting the deceased person from the place of death (normally within 15 miles of the funeral director’s premises) into the funeral director’s care
  • Care of the deceased person before the funeral in appropriate facilities.
  • Providing a suitable coffin
  • Optional viewing of the deceased person for family and friends, by appointment with the funeral director
  • At a date and time you agree with the funeral director, taking the deceased person direct to the agreed cemetery or crematorium (normally within 20 miles of the funeral director’s premises) in a hearse or other appropriate vehicle

In addition to the Funeral Director’s fee, there will be third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements) to cover the other aspects of a funeral (such as the crematorium or burial fees). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to provide these for you.

Close
×

Unattended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees and the crematorium fee for an Unattended Funeral, which is where family and friends may choose to have a ceremony, event or service for the deceased person, but they do not attend the burial or cremation itself. This is also known as a Direct Cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Funeral Director's fees
  • Crematorium fee (for an unattended funeral) as selected by the Funeral Director

In addition to this fee, there might be additional third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to explain these for you.

If you wish to attend the funeral, you should view the “Attended Funeral” price instead.

Close
×

Why is this price Estimated?

We work hard to ensure the Funeral Director Fees we display are accurate and up to date. However, unlike with our partners, we cannot guarantee this price is correct today.

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
Close
×

Funeral Choice charity donation

To redeem the £20 charity donation all you have to do is select the charity from the dropdown list in the Make Contact form. Once you have confirmed arrangements with that funeral director send us an email to info@yourfuneralchoice.com confirming the service has been arranged. After we receive this email we will make the donation to the chosen charity and confirm back to you.

Close