It used to be the case that if you wanted to get married, you’d go to a church or a registry office and those were your only choices. Nowadays, that seems very old-fashioned. There is a lot of choice for wedding venues (and you can get married absolutely anywhere if you use a celebrant of course.) And yet, when it comes to funeral services, most people haven’t made the same mental leap. They still automatically think of the church or the local crematorium as the only possibilities for their loved one’s ceremony.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with those places, but there are so many more choices available when thinking about where to hold a funeral.
In Worthing, where I live, we are lucky enough to have two independent funeral directors (HD Tribe and Ian Hart) who have their own chapels. Ceremonies that take place in the chapels don’t have the strict time slots that they have to impose at the crematorium, so having extra tributes, readings, songs or even a full-blown party is fine and families don’t feel so rushed.
The coffin stays in place throughout the service and then is taken for a direct cremation soon afterwards. This can often save you money too, as the peak timeslots at the crem are normally more expensive, whilst doing things this way means that the cremation can happen in the early morning.
Another benefit of a purpose-built chapel is that they often have catering facilities there, so you can have your post-funeral drinks and refreshments only footsteps, rather than a car journey, away (much better for everyone, especially elderly guests or those who have travelled a long way already).
I conducted a funeral recently at Ian Hart’s Gordon Chapel for a lovely lady who had been renowned for her love of a good buffet spread – especially if there was cake! The family held a wake in the rooms above the chapel afterwards. Here’s what her son emailed me afterwards:
“Everyone was complimentary on the ceremony AND the buffet table and mum would have approved! She even had one of her favourite cakes taken down to her and left with the roses for her. It was an emotional day but full of happy memories as the family caught up and shared them. Using the Gordon Chapel was a blessing also, as we could all take a break and have a private moment with mum as and when we wanted to.”
In years gone by (before the Victorians gave us their very squeamish attitudes towards death), it was usual to have time chatting around and to the person who had passed away, and I think that this experience is a healthy one.
Having time to take things at your own pace, without mechanical curtains or the next family waiting for their ‘slot’ dictating your timing, is surely a much more gentle parting too.
So funeral directors’ chapels are a great and convenient choice for an unhurried goodbye, but there are many other choices open to you as well. Lots of venues, from woodland beauty spots to barns to hotels, are now open to holding funeral services. Again, you or your funeral director can arrange for the coffin to be transported to the venue and taken on afterwards for a direct cremation.
Or there’s nothing to stop you from doing it the other way round, à la David Bowie’s family, and having a direct cremation followed by a celebration of life in a place that you love, perhaps with a scattering of ashes or similar.
When you’ve recently been bereaved, there’s so much to think about and it’s easy to see why so many people go down the crem route that they’re used to. But do consider seeking an alternative that will give you the option to take your time and say your farewells in an unrushed way.
Why not discuss these ideas with your loved ones so that you all know each other’s feelings and opinions on the subject? I can help to facilitate this conversation with a funeral planning meeting if you’d like.
Watch my ‘Thursday Thought’ from the HD Tribe chapel in Broadwater, Worthing here.