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9 non‑religious funerals and farewells

Unusual send offs — alternative and non‑religious funerals

We’re lucky enough to live in an age where almost anything goes and the logical next step in our new found freedom is how we’re choosing to leave this world. These days traditional and religious funerals are still popular, but alternative and non–religious funerals are being chosen more frequently.

You can now have a send off inspired by anything from science fiction (or is it fact?), and technology to history and the natural world without a chapel, a crematorium or even a coffin.

If you’re thinking about planning your funeral and are looking for something a little bit out of the ordinary, here are just a few of the non‑religious funerals and very different goodbyes currently on offer.

Viking funeral

The Hollywood image of a beautifully carved Viking longboat set alight by a fireball arrow, floating out to sea, was reserved for high ranking Vikings. Boats were too valuable for every Tom, Dick and Erik.

These days, sending a burning boat out into the shipping lane isn’t the done thing but that didn’t stop one devoted widower fulfilling his wife’s last wish to pay homage to her Scandinavian roots. He built a replica 3‑foot vessel to carry her ashes, set it on fire and watched it float off into the sunset. Quite a romantic way to go!

viking long boat on fire floating out to sea

Source: goodfuneralguide.co.uk

Pagan funeral

A Pagan funeral can be a bit of mystery, mainly because the beliefs can differ greatly from one Pagan to another and there is no set structure. However generally they are quite a beautiful and mystical ceremony with reincarnation a key focus.

Often conducted outdoors, the elements of air, earth, fire and water are brought into the ceremony.

mourners at pagan funeral comforting each other

Source: gothic.life

Atheist funeral

Strong religious belief is declining and in recent years alternative, non–religious funerals have become more popular, particularly Humanist funerals presided over by a celebrant, rather than a minister.

Humanist funerals don’t look to the afterlife, instead they focus on the person’s life, what they brought to this world and the impact they had on those around them. It’s also an opportunity to pay tribute to the people who played an important part in the deceased’s life.

humanist funeral outdoors releasing balloons

Source: humanistlife.org.uk

Woodland funerals

Since arriving on our shores in the early 1990s, woodland burials have really taken off as an ecological choice for a non‑religious funeral. Not only are they kind to the environment, they can also be cheaper than a more conventional funeral, as the body is laid to rest pretty much in its natural state to avoid polluting the woodland with embalming chemicals.

woodland burial ground planted trees of remembrance

Source: novaterium.com

Burial at sea

Contrary to popular belief, a burial at sea is not only for former sailors or naval personnel. Anyone can opt for a watery end, but you can’t conduct a sea funeral wherever takes your fancy. There are only 2 designated locations in the UK and for very good reason. While the chances are low, the sites have been carefully chosen to avoid any risk of the body returning to shore or being caught up in nets.

While sea burials are considered quite a green way to go, only a few dozen take to the high seas each year.

scattered flowers for a burial at sea

Source: sailingsandiegobay.com

Burial at home

If you think a burial in the garden is only for the aristocracy who can afford an elaborate crypt in their sprawling grounds, you’d be wrong.

So long as Government guidelines are followed, you can be buried in your own back garden along with the family pet. However, you might want to think about how long the home will stay in the family as you need to register it on the deeds and it could put off alot of potential buyers.

burial plot in a garden marked by a cross

Source: Funeral inspirations.co.uk

Body donation

Donating your body helps medical students learn life saving techniques and gives medical science more opportunity to explore cures — both priceless gifts to future generations.

It’s growing in popularity, in part because it’s the cheapest option. Once the body has provided all the learning it can, a simple funeral is arranged and paid for by the medical school. Be warned though, medical schools only need a limited number of specimens and are under no obligation to accept a body that has been donated.

close up of medical student wearing stethoscope holding folder

Cryonic preservation

For a mere £90,000 you can sidestep a funeral all together and have your body cryonically preserved, in the hope medical science finds a way to bring you back to life at some point in the future.

Only 150 people have ever gone through the process. Maybe it’s the price or the thought of waking up in a completely different century that’s putting people off.

cryonic preservation tanks

Source: i.kinja-img.com

Plastination

Plastination replaces body fluids with a curable liquid polymer that preserves the body. This has mad scientist written all over it (have you seen Gunther von Hagens?), but it’s drawn a lot of interest around the world.

Thousands of people who long to be immortalised have registered to donate their bodies for plastination, but getting to the front of the queue is a long shot. Just one body takes up to 1,500 man hours to complete!

gunther von hagens with plastinated figure

Source: plastinarium.de

Find out more about the SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan

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Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). 

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

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My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

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SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

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