by Charles “Ebbie” Alfree III, Director of Advancement

Planning a funeral is not what it used to be. Today, people have more options and are taking charge of their loved ones’ services.

According to The Funeral Source, prior to the mid 1800’s, when someone died most American families would depend on a group of women in their community to help prepare the deceased for an in-home visitation. The body would lay in the parlor of the home and family and friends would visit and pay their last respects. This practice started to change during the Civil War, since so many men were killed in different parts of the country, their bodies were embalmed to transport them home.

As we moved into the 20th century, parlor rooms became known as family rooms and visitations became memorial services, which moved from the family’s home to a funeral home. Undertakers or morticians, now known as funeral directors, would take care of the body and the proceedings.

Now that we are in early part of the 21st century, funerals are changing once again. With the Internet and social media, especially Pinterest, people are now seeing and learning about new and different ways to conduct the whole or aspects of a funeral.

“In recent years we have found that people are moving away from the traditional funeral,” said Christopher Feryo, Funeral Director of Founds Funeral Home. “People have become more creative and making services more personal.”

Instead of people depending on the funeral director to plan the proceedings, the loved ones of the deceased are going to the director with their plans and wants, which can be less expensive than a traditional funeral.

According to recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association, a traditional funeral can range from $10,000 to $15,000. More people are now looking into other options, such as cremation. A practice that has become more acceptable in recent years by most religions. Depending on whether a family decides to have a service or not, cremation can be a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral. More and more people are choosing to save money by not hosting the traditional service or memorial.

Instead of hosting memorials, which are usually held at a church or funeral home and followed by a reception at someone’s home or restaurant, people are now hosting celebrations of life. It’s an all in one approach, both the memorial and reception are combined and held at someone’s home, on the beach, or anywhere.

However, not all people want to act as the funeral director for loved ones’ celebrations or memorials, but they do want to have creative control of the services.

“Customizing funerals is becoming the new trend. People are coming to us with innovative ideas all the time,” commented Feryo. “They are helping to design their own flower arrangements, replacing prayer cards with recipe cards, and having people write their names on rocks that sit in a decorative bowl.”

While most people are taking the alternative route to help save money when holding a funeral, others are planning alternative funerals that are considerably more expensive.

“Green burials have become popular for people who want to be environmentally friendly,” said Feryo. There are certain requirements a burial must meet to be considered green, such as the casket must be made from bamboo or another type of natural wood, the headstone must be made from a tree or a stone that is natural to the cemetery. These and other distinct requirements can easily cause the cost of green burials to exceed the cost of traditional funerals.”

Although Feryo does his best to accommodate his clients, he does recommend that if someone wants to have an alternative funeral, they should plan it. “It’s not always easy to quickly put together a non-traditional funeral. It can take time to make, prepare, and acquire the items for this type of service. It is good to know what a person wants or to have an idea of what you would like to have in place to honor a loved one. To ensure all desires are met, it’s best to have this planned out in advance.”

Promoting Senior Wellness is provided by The Hickman, a Quaker-affiliated licensed personal care home in West Chester. This column was written by Charles “Ebbie” Alfree III, Director of Advancement.

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