Get ahead of the crowd with Premium
Register Forgot password

Alternative Funerals

Tammy Hale 16th Dec 2011 No Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Alternative funerals are increasingly popular.  Funerals should be a celebration of life rather than just a lamentation of death.  So here are some really great alternative options when making funeral plans.

Green funerals

Nowadays, traditional burials or cremations aren’t the most environmentally or economically sound.  By 2013, the cost of cremation will rise by about £100 due to the new laws to install a filter to stop the toxic emissions polluting the atmosphere during cremation.  You could use a cheaper coffin such as a chipboard one, which doesn’t have the same waste of wood or energy as a heavy wooden coffin.  To carry on the green theme, you can get some very beautiful biodegradable urns for the ashes.

If you’re opting for a burial you can now get ‘eco-pods’ instead of coffins.  These can be made of compressed newspaper, recycled paper and wood pulp.  There are no non-biodegradable bolts or screws involved.  If a more elegant coffin appeals to you then you could get a coffin cover which is placed over an internal, biodegradable coffin.  The outer layer can be removed just before burial or cremation.  What’s more, because the outer coffin can be reused it is often free of charge.

Burial grounds

These days traditional burial grounds are often overcrowded and run down, especially inner city ones.  Local places are often completely full; forcing you to move further away, making it hard for friends and family to access.

  • Woodland burial: Many people are choosing to have a woodland burial.  These can be really beautiful final resting places, surrounded by open spaces, wild flowers and natural wildlife.  The place of burial can be marked with anything from a co-ordinate or a small engraved stone or wooden plaque.  There are over 220 sites around the UK.  Not only is this an environmentally friendly option, but it provides a beautiful and peaceful site for loved ones to enjoy without the morbidity of a graveyard.
  • Home burial: Many people think that this is illegal, but in fact it is perfectly possible to have a home burial if you wish.  Check out the list of technical requirements if you’re thinking about this option.
  • Sea burial: this is yet another option which is now open to everyone.  Again, there are few technical considerations.  For example, you will need a medical letter provided, proving the body to be free of infection.  You will also need to choose a boat that can accommodate anyone who wants to attend.   And remember that any stormy weather may result in having to call it off.

Novelty coffins

alternative funeralsThese are a great way of reflecting your personality at your funeral, encouraging your loved ones to reflect over your life.  There are already a huge range of designs out there, or if you’re feeling artistic then you can come up with your own. A morose, black, heavy coffin can dictate the mood of the day, whereas these creative coffins can be a real injection of fun.  Again, you can get these made of green materials that are suitable for cremation or burial.  You might be thinking “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those”.  But for anyone with a sense of humour these ones from Creative Coffins are worth checking out!

There are other ways to personalise a funeral.  Think about any music, songs or even a video montage that you could jazz up the ceremony with.  Reading poetry is a nice tradition, but if you have any favourites then why not make that known to your family or friends?

Alternative ways

If you don’t want to to end up six feet under then there are plenty of other options, ranging from the poetic to the downright eccentric.


Ever considered cryonic preservation?  This is when your body is frozen at the point of death in a liquid nitrogen tank at -196°C, with the hope of one day being resuscitated.  Only 150 have tried this process so far but there have a few advancements in technology, so who knows, maybe a ‘second life’ will be possible!  This process is expensive, but if you have faith in it then you may want to take the risk!


Going from future technology to ancient tradition, mummification is still an option these days.  The body will be shipped to the States where it will be chemically preserved for a few months, before it can be transported to your burial place of choice.  Again, this is an expensive option.  However, some pre-planning and insurance considerations could make this a possibility.

Sign Up – Newsletter


Fancy becoming a work of art when you die?  This is a process that was developed in the 70s where the corpse is preserved, often with some dissection, immortalising the body as an anatomical specimen.  However, this process takes a very long time to complete.

Donating your body to science

If you’re a lover of science then you could also consider becoming an organ donor – a very respectable and worthwhile thing to do.  Each year in the UK over 3,000 people’s lives are saved by organ donors.  Follow this link to register and find and more.

Inspiration from around the world

At the other end of the spectrum from a traditional burial, the Tibetan funeral involves cutting up the body into tiny pieces and feeding them to birds of prey.  This may seem gruesome, but in fact there is something poetic about being sent off into the sky.  It is also the most ecological solution.

In India, the most prized place to go to rest is being cremated on the banks of the Ganges in a public spot surrounded by other bodies.  They use special firewood so you can’t smell the burning.  This is said to be the holiest way to go.

Weird and wonderful

Explosion-loving cult writer Hunter S. Thompson requested that his ashes were fired from a cannon.

An Essex-based company, Heavens Above Fireworks, will make your ashes into a firework, if you feel like going out with a bang! Prices start from £1,000 for the Simple Farewell display and from £2,000 for the larger ones and lasts for about five minutes.  This same company will also rocket your ashes to orbit in space.  Perhaps your final chance to become an astronaut!

Ashes to diamonds

There are a number of companies who will take a lock of hair or the ashes from cremation and turn the carbon content into a very personalised diamond.  They will create a piece of jewellery that loved ones can wear as an original memorial keepsake.  However, this is an expensive process – you could be looking at anywhere between £500 – £8,000 for companies such as Heart Diamond and Memorial Diamonds.  There are some cheaper options where you can make gold and silver jewellery which contain a small amount of ashes.  Prices for these start at £149 from Memorial Keepsake Jewellery.

Thrifty funeral

  • It’s now possible to arrange and pay for your funeral long before you pop your clogs.  Funerals can be very expensive, costing an average of £7,000.  However, you can shop around for the best deals to reduce your funeral costs.  It is worth noting that funerals cost about £2,000 more in London, so it may be worth taking a trip out of the city.
  • A lot of companies offer funeral insurance, but this can be riskier as you’re insuring yourself for an unknown sum in the future. There’s no saying that funeral costs won’t soar in the years before your death, meaning even the priciest policy won’t pay out enough to cover the costs.  However, you can also get a package that ensures that the price won’t rise.
  • See our article on over 5os life-insurance for some advice.
  • Lots of the alternative funerals we’ve listen are much cheaper than the traditional option, such as green burials and organ donation.  You could organise a memorial service instead of a funeral, even having it in the comfort of someone’s home.
  • Check out if your family is entitled to state help.  The funeral payment covers a funeral plot and a burial or cremation fee.  You can find out more and get a claim form at Directgov.
  • DIY funerals: To save money, some things can be done without a funeral service, such as printing programmes and arranging funeral  flowers.  There is no legal requirement for funeral directors to be used at all. To do it yourself, contact the cemeteries and crematorium department of your local authority. The Natural Death Centre also advises: 0871 288 2098

Funerals needn’t be an occasion to dread, whether you a planning one or just attending.  Losing a loved one will always be sad.  But funerals are a way of getting friends and family together to celebrate a life.  So we hope this article will help you to face it all head on and create a funeral to die for.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

Send this to a friend