There are whispers that the traditional religious funeral is dying a death in the UK due to the rise in popularity of modern funerals, individualised personal funerals, and the no-frills approach to funerals, including direct cremations. But is that the entire picture? And if so, when will it likely be that funerary arrangements traditions disappear entirely? The answer, we suspect, is much more nuanced.
The concept that the traditional funeral was on the way out was raised in 2019 by the UK’s largest funeral direction company, Co-op Funeral care. The study interviewed more than 30,000 British adults and had funeral directors provide feedback and thoughts from conducting more than 500,000 ceremonies. All the data was collated in a bid to understand trends related to death. They noted the following statistics:
- Only 1 in 10 people wanted a traditional farewell, while the rest preferred a personalised, simple, or bespoke ceremony without the formalities.
- One in 25 funerals were direct cremations, with whispers this was inspired by the humble send-off of the late David Bowie, who opted for this instead of a funeral service.
- The use of formal pallbearers had declined over the last five years.
- Ceremonies were being held everywhere, from a church, the zoo, a drag strip, on a bus and golf course, and even a teepee.
- Many mourners wore bright clothing or jeans instead of traditional black formal wear.
- Pets attending funerals was a popular request.
- Floral tributes were creative and different or excluded totally.
- Rainbow patterns, football team colours and quirky prints replaced traditional coffins.
While waiting for the emergence of another report, it’s safe to say that these trends have become even more pronounced over the last few years, with Direct, Simple, and Modern Funerals at an all-time high. But does that mean we are really saying goodbye to Traditional Funerals? Could it be that traditions can still endure with modernity?
The Flip Side
While there has been a push away from traditions and formality, many customs are still alive and thriving. Many people still feel that the codes of conduct in death and mourning still have value and merit, even in modern times with all the contemporary funeral types on offer. This means traditional elements and values in the funerary process are still valued and will hold on at least a bit longer.
And even in circumstances where not all traditions are considered necessary, some still endure. These include the customary funeral announcement, wearing formal black clothing, a funeral procession, funerary floral arrangements, certain burial and cremation traditions, and a commemorative wake.
So despite funerals and the funerary process changing, and with an altered focus on a person’s life instead of their death, many British traditions are still alive and well, meaning they are unlikely to disappear soon. Furthermore, it is very possible for a funeral to combine customary funeral and bespoke elements to create a personalised service to suit the individual, even if some tradition is involved.