Five alternative funeral ideas

- 26/10/21

When it comes to dying, we tend to think that funerals have to go a certain way. They have to have a fancy procession – a fancy hearse delivering a heavy coffin covered in flowers, followed by a train of mourners in even fancier limousines. They have to have a black dress code and there needs to be a large send-off attended by dozens of mourners singing songs, saying prayers and weeping for the deceased.

Sure, a death inevitably leaves loved ones behind to grieve and remember the deceased. But what if all the pomp and ceremony just isn’t you? There’s no law saying that you have to have a traditional funeral – far from it in fact! When it comes to what you can and can’t do at your own funeral, there are few limitations. Especially when the funeral service has been preceded by a direct cremation.

1. Burial at sea

Burial at sea is an unconventional funeral not just for pirates and seafarers but anyone with a passion for the open sea. There are a few things you’ll need to do ahead of arranging a burial at sea, like finding an approved provider who can help you to ensure everything is done correctly and legally.

Burials at sea can be especially poignant for those with smaller families and friendship circles as the number of attendees is typically restricted due to the size of sea vessel you’ll be using.

Or, you can skip the need for legal checks entirely by having the body of the deceased cremated prior to the funeral and having their ashes scattered on open water instead. You can still have a deeply rewarding send-off at sea, just without the burial.

2. Family-led funerals

Funeral prices have continued to grow year-on-year for the last decade[1]. And as people become more conscious about the costs that a funeral will bring for them, one of the first things they look at are costs associated with the service. With celebrant’s fees on top of other professional fees, family-led funerals have started to see an increase in popularity. A family-led service is exactly what it sounds like – instead of an unrelated officiant leading the deceased’s send-off, the family of the deceased lead the services.

Family-led funerals are easy to organise and allow for a truly personal touch to be added to a funeral, with the nearest and dearest of the deceased sharing their stories and guiding the services in their memory. At Distinct Cremations, we offer family-led services as standard with all cremations, so that families can say their goodbyes personally and intimately.

3. Woodland burials

Similar to a burial at sea, a woodland burial is an alternative funeral for those who were environmentally conscious and felt a deep connection to nature during their lives and would like to be buried right in the heart of nature itself after death. Woodland burials work just the same as a traditional burial, only they’re typically done in a much more relaxed way and with a more eco-conscious feel. For woodland burials, the entire service will usually be done outdoors at the graveside with minimal ceremony and simple markers to identify the grave sites.

If the deceased is to be cremated but still wanted to incorporate elements of a woodland burial into their funeral, the interment of ashes is more than welcomed. The same process applies to ash burials, where the deceased’s ashes are buried in a spot of woodland and marked simply, either with a small memorial or with a plant planted in their honour alongside their remains.

4. Humanist funerals

As the public continues to become less and less religious, the demand for funerals that focus on spirituality is declining. Today, many funerals take place under the direction of a non-religious celebrant rather than a spiritual leader. For those who decide against a religious funeral, humanist funerals focus on celebrating the life of the deceased without any elements of religion present.

Humanist funerals play out much the same as a traditional funeral, with the exception of any religious overtones. A humanist celebrant will lead the congregation of mourners through readings, songs and eulogies without mentioning religion or spirituality. Humanist funerals are popular not just amongst those with no religion, but also those who will have mixed-faith congregations.

5. Themed funerals

Maybe the deceased was religious, and maybe they did want some of the more traditional elements of their funeral. But what if they were also the life and soul of the party, and didn’t want their funeral to be a sad affair? Themed funerals are an alternative funeral and can be a final parting gift from the deceased, injecting elements of frivolity to an otherwise sad occasion.

More and more often we’re seeing requests for mourners to not wear black or to dress around a certain theme to elevate the atmosphere of the funeral. There was even the instance of a young man wearing a dress to the funeral of his best friend, fulfilling an agreement they’d made that whoever died first, the friend left behind had to wear a dress to their funeral to lighten the mood.

While it’s never pleasant to have to attend a funeral, there are little things we can do to make the experience more pleasant, like honouring the deceased with an alternative funeral or celebration of life that truly suited their personality. For those who we know wouldn’t have wanted a traditional funeral, an unconventional funeral can be the perfect way to honour their memory and send them off in style.


  1. SunLife (2021)

Distinct Cremations is a trading name of Distinct Cremations Limited I Registered in England, No. 13366310 and Distinct Funeral Plans Limited (Prepaid Funeral plan provider) I Registered in England, No. 13366327 | Registered Office Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP | Part of the Westerleigh Group |