Should we be planning our funerals like we plan weddings?
I recently found myself, after much channel hopping, watching a TV show called ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’. For those of you who haven’t seen it the basic idea is the groom is given a budget and full control of organising the whole event. He chooses the dress, venue, flowers etc and it’s all revealed to the bride, who has had no involvement, on the wedding day. In this particular episode the bride, unsurprisingly, was really disappointed that the groom had chosen everything according to his tastes and not considered hers at all. It got me thinking that that’s actually what happens quite a lot at funerals. A spouse or family member, under difficult circumstances, is left to second guess what we might want and the event can end up not reflecting the personality of the deceased at all.
There are, of course, obvious differences between a wedding and a funeral – it’s almost impossible to set a date for the latter! But there are, when you think about it, lots of similarities. Not least that the reasons for planning either event do share a common objective – to get the day you want. An event to reflect you, your life and the things you love.
“A wedding is the celebration of a union – a funeral is a celebration of a life.” I don’t want to encourage the funeral equivalent of a Bridezilla – the Funeral-zilla* but perhaps we should be more detailed in our approach to funeral planning.
But is it helpful to our nearest and dearest to have a comprehensive list of all our funeral requirements or could that add to the pressure of organising the event in a relatively short space of time? It’s rarely the case that one person plans an entire wedding without ideas and input from those around them – the same can be applied to funerals. Surprising your loved ones with an elaborate wish list after your death is definitely not the best approach. Sit down and discuss what you’d like with them, if we can communicate our wishes openly it makes the whole process easier. If your family are supportive and willing to carry out your wishes to the smallest detail then why not arrange a bespoke event or celebration?
As with weddings there are factors that affect the funeral we want. For some the ideal is the big stately home wedding with 500 guests, elaborate food and a 3 day party, for others a quick trip to the Registry Office and a knees-up in the pub is perfect! Our personality, tastes (and income), will also determine our choices when organising a great send-off. When we plan our wedding some of us are traditionalists and others are more adventurous. The same is true of funeral planning. A wedding is a landmark event in our lives and we are increasingly seeing funerals in the same way. Both involve a (rare) gathering of all our friends and family, a ceremony, refreshments and, increasingly, entertainment.
fmThere are lots of other ideas we can be borrow from wedding planning.
It makes sense then, that we should take ownership of our funeral arrangements and put our own personal stamp on the event. Often weddings have a theme so why shouldn’t a funeral? So, how do you start extreme funeral planning? You could begin with a guest list for the people you’d really like to attend, (it’s difficult for others to second guess who has been important in your life), choose a venue, songs, poems and then add any other elements you want. Would you like your guests to follow a dress code, these days it’s common to see requests that mourners don’t wear black? Perhaps you’d create a menu for your guests – if you’re a lifelong lover of curry then let them eat Vindaloo. There are so many other options such as choosing the kind of flowers you would like, stationery, charity donations, a photographer, memorial keepsakes and entertainment for your guests. There are lots of other ideas we can be borrow from wedding planning. Why not create a mood board – a visual guide to what you want? An image makes it easier to convey what you want rather than trying to explain it. Joan Rivers funeral had obviously been planned, meticulously, with her family. She had, for many years before her death, talked openly about her elaborate funeral wishes and she got exactly what she wanted!
At funeral magazine we always encourage our readers to talk openly about death and funerals. It is practical too, a comprehensive plan of your funeral wishes will give a real idea of the cost and you may discover that you need to make extra provision or adjust your wish list.
The thing with a funeral is that we are all having one, it’s up to us to make it the event we really want.
Let us know what you think.
*Definition: Funeral-zilla is a person whose behaviour, in respect to planning their funeral is overly meticulous, obsessive and unbearable to others.