Rainbow roses

"My wishes, my way" - How the rise of funeral personalisation is helping to celebrate the lives we live

Co-op Funeralcare Media Report July 2021


Sam Tyrer

Managing Director, Co-op Funeralcare

"The scars left by the tragic events of the past eighteen months and the unimaginable loss of life we have experienced, will be felt for many years to come.

If there are any positives to be taken from this catastrophic period, it is that we are beginning to see something of a seismic shift in the nation’s attitudes towards death, with more of us willing to open up to our loved ones about how we’d like our own farewell to be carried out.

Our latest research shows that over a third of British adults feel funerals are too sombre and should be more uplifting and an estimated 35 million say they want their own farewell to be a celebration of the life they have lived. This figure has risen from an estimated 20 million people who expressed the same in 2019.

As we become more comfortable discussing topics around mortality and funerals, it’s also becoming increasingly clear that the traditional funeral does not appeal to the majority of us, with religious ceremonies and black clothing becoming less popular.

Coupled with a rise in demand for more uplifting celebrations, we’re also seeing greater personalisation of funerals than ever before, perhaps prompted by the beautifully personal funeral of The Duke of Edinburgh whose Land Rover hearse resonated with so many.

From bespoke hearses to glitter coffins and themed dress codes, the possibilities really are endless when it comes to tailoring a final farewell.

As we start to get more comfortable with the idea of our own mortality, we’re encouraging people everywhere to start the conversation with family or friends.

Of course, losing someone we love is devastating, but a great deal of comfort can be taken from knowing that their funeral is being carried out in the way they would have wanted."

The power of personalisation

In 2019, an estimated 20 million Brits wanted their funeral to be a celebration of life. However, our latest research reveals that this figure has increased by approximately 77%, with an estimated 35 million now sharing this wish.

Three-quarters (75%) of the nation who would like to have a funeral now feel comfortable talking about their wishes, while one quarter (25%) of all British adults knew they could have a funeral plan but weren’t aware that it could be personalised.

Personalisation also appears to be an important factor when planning a funeral as 44% said personalising a funeral reminds the guests attending of the personality of their loved one, whilst 37% said it can help lift the mood for the guests attending.

The solemnity of religious settings are falling out of favour with British adults, as almost seven in ten of those who wish to have a funeral (69%) say that it’s not important that their funeral should take place in one.

And Brits appear to be turning their back on black funeral attire, with over a fifth of those polled (22%) stating they’d like mourners to dress in bright colours, compared to only 13% who specified they’d prefer a dark dress code.

"If I could REALLY personalise my funeral, I’d have a Ring Cycle"

"Fifteen hours of opera too much?

In that case I would like a traditional CofE funeral, but with extra music from musician friends, and readings from actor friends. And a wake catered by chef friends.

And a very quiet burial next to my late partner David in the spot reserved for me in the prettiest churchyard in Northamptonshire.

And then a massive eighties night at the Cricket Club."

Reverend Richard Coles

Reverend Richard Coles

Coffins that reflect a life lived

From glitter to photography, there are so many options available when it comes to personalising a coffin, something that is becoming more popular as one-fifth of Brits (20%) who intend to have a funeral would like their coffin personalised.

Man carrying a coffin with snow leopard print on

10 unique coffins from the past 12 months

  1. Leopard print
  2. Swarovski Crystal covered
  3. Doctor Who
  4. Galaxy chocolate bar
  5. Disney princesses
  6. Pink glitter
  7. Snow leopard
  8. Cardboard coffin for loved ones to draw on
  9. Mini Cooper
  10. A barge

Green coffin being carried on a funeral

Coffins that raise awareness of important issues

17-year-old Jamie took his own life earlier this year, devastating not only for his family but the entire community. Jamie's family bravely chose a unique green coffin for the young teenager to rest in, to symbolise the importance of mental health awareness.

Generational shift

Perhaps surprisingly, a huge 40% of Generation ‘Z’ers (18-24 year olds) have already spent time thinking about their own funeral, and have even thought about who and what they would like to be part of their final send-off.

Hearses: personalisation of your final journey

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and his wish for a modified Land Rover hearse has encouraged 2.6 million Brits to think about their own final journey.

Motorcycle hearse next to a canal

10 unique hearses from the past 12 months

  1. Double decker bus
  2. Volkswagen
  3. Subaru rally car
  4. A boat for a burial at sea
  5. Lorry
  6. Tractor
  7. Milk float
  8. Motorbike hearse
  9. Rolls-Royce
  10. Land Rover

Manny Badyal, Funeral Director at Co-op Funeralcare, said:

"We are seeing a trend in personalisation of funerals which really help to create a unique celebration of someone’s life. Loved ones are moving away from traditional black hearses and black attire.

We now see more colourful and celebratory services, ones which help families remember their loved one’s passions and achievements whilst saying their final farewell.

It’s important people understand that they can capture all of their wishes in a personalised funeral plan which can offer families great comfort when the time comes."

Manny Badyal, Funeral Director at Co-op Funeralcare

Julie Swales, daughter of Zac Swales, 85, from Skelton-in-Cleveland who died in June, said:

"My father, Zac, had his own van as he used to help out my brother who owns a block paving company. Dad always used to say that he didn’t want a lot of fuss making over his funeral.

"After his passing we were discussing hearses and we jokingly said to the funeral team ‘Why don’t we put him on the back of his van?’ we got a bit of a shock when Gavin, our funeral arranger, said ‘Well, why don’t you?’ Gavin and his team worked hard to make it happen and my brother arranged for a painted wooden sign which said “There goes Zac” to adorn the back of the van. Seeing my father embarking on his final journey, on the back of his beloved van, was the ultimate tribute to the man he was.

"He was very down-to-earth and didn’t want a lot of fanfare. It embodied his spirit in the best possible way and we couldn’t have wished for a more fitting send off. We are so proud that we were able to carry out his final wishes in this way."

Media contacts:

Aimi McNeill - PR Manager aimi.mcneill@coop.co.uk 07739 657 585

Sarah Jane Thoms - Press Officer sarahjane.thoms@coop.co.uk 07890 384 552

Vikki McCrindle - Press Officer vikki.mccrindle@coop.co.uk 07773 096 848

Follow us at @CoopUKpress on Twitter and Instagram

Notes to Editors: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2003 adults. Field work was undertaken between 29th - 30th June 2021.

The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Co-op worked with YouGov in July 2019 to conduct research among 4,186 British adults between 9th and 11th July 2019. The survey was carried out online. These figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 18+

“Over 35 million” calculation made by the Co-op based on 86% of overall adults aged 18+ in the GB saying they would intend to have a funeral. 86% of the adult population in GB is 43,809,008. Of these, 81% said they would like this to be a celebration of life resulting in an estimated 35,485,297 adults.

86% of the adult population in GB is 43,809,008 (those that intend to have a funeral). Of these, 6% said they would like to personalise the hearse. This is 2.6 million.

Co-operative Group Limited

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