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The rise of alternative funerals

Alternative funerals are becoming increasingly popular

When it comes to alternative funerals the baby boomers have done it again. The generation known for its defiance and unconventional fashion statements are saying goodbye to traditional funeral arrangements and opting for more imaginative alternatives or humanist or non-religious funerals instead.

Alternative funerals often celebrate life

Where once funeral guests were only found wearing black and looking sombre, these days they may well be wearing colour, releasing balloons, toe-tapping to a live band or marveling at a fabulous firework display in celebration of a life well lived.

Add funeral notices being tweeted, online memorials and live funeral broadcasts and you can safely say that funeral arrangements have changed.

Celebrity farewells have led the way in creating headline-hitting alternative funerals reflecting the characters they were. Malcolm Mclaren, Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers have all proved to be as big personalities in death as they were in life.

I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive

Knowing the person’s funeral wishes is key to making fitting funeral arrangements. Joan Rivers talked about dying and what she wanted while very much alive. And what was her last request? “…a big showbiz affair with lights, camera, action”.

True to her flamboyant personality her funeral had to be: “Hollywood all the way” and as alternative funerals go Joan’s funeral was a corker. A full-blown A-list affair with the paps’ bulbs popping, readings by famous pals and Hugh Jackman belting out one of her favourite songs.

Too fast to live, too young to die

For the artist, designer and manager of the Sex Pistols’ Malcolm McLaren’s funeral arrangements they used the same shock tactics he’d deployed in his hey day, flying the flag for radically different alternative funerals everywhere.

He was carried in a black coffin spray painted with the slogan “Too fast to live, too young to die” and a 1968 bus emblazoned with slogans followed the funeral procession blaring out punk anthems so loudly the windows of the neighbouring cars shook to the beat.

The pictures of McLaren’s funeral are a reminder that today’s coffins come in all colours and styles.

An eco funeral for an eco warrior

Anita Roddick, founder of the BodyShop and dubbed the 'Queen of Green', remained true to her environmental beliefs until the end. Her coffin was made from biodegradable shrubs and carried to her green funeral in a vintage VW camper van. Eco funerals have been growing in popularity ever since.

Transport to make a statement

It’s becoming more common for people to want to make a statement at their funeral with the transport they’re carried in.

In 2011, haulage supremo Eddie Stobart’s funeral had a convoy of trucks following the funeral procession. Now we see alternative funerals with builders being carried on trucks, farmers on tractors and even the odd milk float doing its final round.

Say goodbye with social media

Today, technology is also forging new trends in funeral arrangements. Trends the youth of the 1960s couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Funeral notices are tweeted, some funeral directors offer memorial videos, can host live broadcasts for relatives overseas and create DVDs for the family to take away and keep.

Changing trends. Changing prices

But just as funeral arrangements have changed so has the cost of a funeral. Our latest Cost of Dying report shows the average cost of a funeral has increased for the 15th year in a row, with the average funeral now costing £4,271.

Be prepared — plan ahead

If you want a funeral with a paparazzi‑worthy party or firework finale, it can pay to plan ahead and document your funeral wishes. After all, without discussing our funeral arrangements and considering the cost of it all, who knows what send off we might get.

All figures — SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2018.

Find out more about the SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan

You can get a quote or give us a call on 0800 904 7649 to talk about your plan today. You can also request a call back.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

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). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

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 the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. 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.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

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.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

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.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car 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.