Shift away from sombre send-offs as the destination funeral takes off

September 08, 2015

When it comes to final farewells, the UK is beginning to part with tradition according to a new report from the nation’s leading funeral director, The Co-operative Funeralcare.

As the first of a series of Funeral Trends reports, “The Ways We Say Goodbye,” reveals a celebratory trend towards colourful clothing, unique locations and non-typical transport at the nation’s funerals.

Based on the views of 2000 UK adults and The Co-operative Funeralcare’s experience* conducting over 90,000 services each year, the report highlights a shift towards funerals becoming celebratory rather than sombre. Two thirds (66 per cent) of adults say that funerals are becoming more of a celebration of life and almost half (47 per cent) of UK adults would like their own funeral to be conducted this way.

Most striking however, is the rise of the destination funeral, which is starting to take off at services across the UK. In the last twelve months alone, half (49 per cent) of funeral directors have arranged a funeral service outside of a traditional setting such as a church or crematorium, whilst two fifths (37 per cent) of consumers would consider an alternative location for their own farewell.

Alternative locations that UK adults would consider for their funeral include a lake or river (a quarter), the countryside (one in five), at home or in the garden (one in six), at a beach or out at sea (one in five). Funeral Directors are also seeing demand for alternative locations for services, with the most common requests over the last twelve months as follows:

  1. In the home or garden of the person who has passed away
  2. At a location overseas
  3. In a sports venue
  4. At a local beauty spot, park or tourist attraction
  5. At the place of work of the person who has passed away

The move towards a celebration is also evident within arrangements after the funeral service with a third (30 per cent) preferring a party instead of a wake and a tenth (7 per cent) wanting a disco to mark the occasion. In terms of the preferred location for a wake, the pub proved popular for a quarter (23 per cent), a fifth (20 per cent) liked the idea of a seaside setting or a boat, meanwhile a night club or bar have even been considered by 4 per cent of adults as possible venue.

It’s evident that personalised send-off’s and destination wakes aren’t just for the deceased, with half (49 per cent) of UK adults saying that these types of funerals are a nice way to say goodbye to a loved one and a third (30 per cent) saying they are a comfort to those left behind.

The shift away from sombre tributes is also being reflected in the clothes now worn at funerals. A quarter of respondents would like their funeral guests to wear colour as opposed to black, meanwhile three quarters (72 per cent) of The Co-operative’s funeral directors have arranged services in the last year where this was the case. In addition to this, nearly half (48 per cent) of funeral directors have arranged services in the last twelve months where the congregation wore clothing of significance to the deceased, with fancy dress and football shirts all cited as examples of this.

Speaking of the report findings, Sam Kershaw, Operations Director for The Co-operative Funeralcare said;

“What we’re seeing is a culture shift in the way that we deal with loss. It’s becoming ever more common to hear people refer to funerals as a celebration of life and that’s certainly a trend we are seeing even more frequently from the families that we support. As arranging a funeral is the last thing we’ll do for a person, it’s incredibly important to feel able to create truly unique and personal tribute to their life.”

Actor Richard Wilson, star of One Foot in the Grave and narrator of end of life documentary Two Feet in the Grave said;

“Death is the most certain thing in life but as a nation we struggle so terribly to talk about it and come to terms with our own and others mortality. Life is short and so I understand why people don’t want to dwell on the inevitable, but as the possibilities are endless, it makes sense to at least share some thoughts about what you may want. Whilst I haven’t planned my own funeral, I know that I would want people to have a good time, a party perhaps.”

Click here to download full report


For further information please contact:

Lauren Hoult, Press and Media Relations Manager
0161 767 4256
Emily Dalton, Press Officer
0161 767 4343 


About The Co-operative Funeralcare

The Co-operative Funeralcare is the UK’s number one funeral services provider and part of The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest co-operative business, whose purpose is “Championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities.”


About The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group, which is the UK’s largest co-operative business with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £11 billion.
*Based on consumer and industry data. Consumer research was conducted by ICM in July 2015 among over 2000 UK adults aged 18 and above, across all regions in the UK. Industry research conducted in July and August 2015 amongst 350 funeral directors and arrangers working for The Co-operative Funeralcare
**Based on the above industry data. Figures relate to requests made to Funeral Directors in the last 12 months