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Black is out; beer and ciggies are in for modern funerals

16 October 2015


Popular choice: David Tennant receives a Special Recognition Award during the 2015 National Television Awards at the 02 Arena, in London, in January

Popular choice: David Tennant receives a Special Recognition Award during the 2015 National Television Awards at the 02 Arena, in London, in Jan...

BEREAVED families are now less likely to want a traditional funeral service, a new report suggests.

The report Cost of Dying, an annual survey into the expense of funerals and end-of-life-planning, shows that there has been an increase in demand for woodland burials and eco coffins; and also in unusual requests, including one for a body to be buried alongside a cardboard cut-out of an actor.

The report, produced by the insurance company SunLife, says that the basic cost of a funeral has risen annually; so also has the amount that people are spending on “a good send-off”, including the flowers, wake, and memorial.

At the same time, however, the survey found that 99 per cent of bereaved families did not know what their loved one had wanted. More than half did not know whether the deceased had wanted a religious or non-religious service, or what music and readings he or she would have chosen.

Funeral directors reported a clear shift away from traditional funerals. Religious services, hearses, and wearing black were all declining in popularity, in favour of more individual and quirkier funerals. They reported an increase in requests for the deceased to be buried with something special, ranging from a pet’s ashes, beer, and cigarettes, to football scarves and a cardboard cut-out of the actor David Tennant.

The report also showed that the rising cost of funerals has pushed the average funeral shortfall (the difference between the average cost of a funeral and the financial provision made for this by the deceased) up 3.3 per cent to £2449.

Nearly 20 per cent of families said that finding the money to pay for the funeral caused “notable financial concerns”. The funeral poverty figure is now £237 million — an annual increase of £45 million.

Of those who struggled to cover the costs, half had to borrow money, from friends or relatives, the bank, or a loan provider, or had to use a credit card; and one in seven had to sell belongings.

The managing director of SunLife, Dean Lamble, said: “It is clear from our report that many of us are still very uncomfortable talking about death.”

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