By Manny Badyal, Funeral Director

I’ve worked for Funeralcare since 2015. It’s been such a fascinating journey so far. Since I’ve been in the business, I’ve noticed our clients’ mindsets have definitely changed when it comes to saying goodbye. Funerals don’t necessarily have to be traditional or very sombre affairs and we’re definitely seeing families wanting to celebrate the life of their loved one.

They’re frequently a more colourful and brighter experience where family and friends reminisce from one special memory to another in a very visual way. It’s often about trying to lift spirits on an otherwise sad day by remembering some of the amazing things they’ve achieved in their life.

Every funeral is creative and unique in its own way. I always work with the family to create a bespoke and special send off, adding elements to reflect the personality and character of those they love so dearly. 

The use of technology is also growing in popularity. Webcasting has allowed a lot more people to be involved in services and this is something that i’m speaking to families about during the planning stages. It really helps people feel part of their loved one’s funeral if they can’t physically be there.

Listening intently

From an initial chat with a client who’s loved one recently passed away, I’m soon clear if they’d like a more traditional funeral, something more contemporary, or perhaps something in the middle of these options – which is often the case. It’s about asking the right questions, listening intently and then providing some ideas on how together we can make it a reality.

Funerals can be whatever you want them to be. For me the first step is to get a clear and rounded picture in my mind of their loved one. I like to understand who they were. What did they stand for? How have they made a difference? What do their friends and family say about them? It’s so important to have this chat as early as I can so I can make the personalisation of the funeral as relevant and unique as possible.

A spark of inspiration

It’s a theme or a favourite passion of their loved one which often presents itself early in the discussion and gives me and the client a spark of inspiration and avenues of creativity to explore. It can be anything from having a colour theme across the proceedings, or applying a design to their coffin or funeral cortege – such as motorbikes, sports cars or a Marvel universe theme. It could even be something really simple like having the coffin as a chalkboard so family and friends can scribe their messages.

Some clients’ wishes are easier to fulfil than others and I often need to source some specific items – but that doesn’t always mean spending money. What’s important is that every funeral I conduct is special for its own reasons.

I recently arranged a funeral for a client’s loved one (actually my friend’s father), who’d belonged to a shooting club, so we created a green military look using old combat uniforms for the cortege. I joined in with the theme and wore my full green Panjabi outfit and turban. I know this personalisation meant so much to the family.

There’s no limit to how creative we can be. However, time before the service needs to be on our side, and as long as it’s all conducted within reason and in good faith you could go to the ends of the earth to create something which is totally unique and memorable.

Let somebody know your wishes

I know preparing for when your time comes is a subject we don’t like to talk about, but the more we do, the less taboo it’ll become. Many of us will be passionate about how we’d like our own funeral to be. I’ve heard some really creative ideas. The key thing is to let someone know your wishes – write it down, tell your family and friends, just in case you go before your time.

I’m a WWF fan and my favourite character is The Undertaker, so his theme will be my entrance music at my funeral. My service won’t be too complicated, I just want everyone to be themselves, be it wearing something formal or wearing shorts and a vest. And of course, my passing will be toasted with a few brandies!

For more information about personalising funerals, read our recent Colleague Story and our latest report, My Wishes, My Way, which captures the seismic shift in attitudes, explaining how people now feel more open than ever to talk about their funeral wishes.