image of a funeral

Fundamental shift in future of funerals says report

A landmark study has revealed the reasons behind recent “seismic changes” in the UK’s attitude towards funerals, explaining why people are abandoning traditional ceremonies and undertakers.

The Big Future of Funerals Survey was undertaken by Pure Cremation, the provider of direct cremation, and was compiled from answers provided by 17,135 of its pre-paid plan customers. The company says the report offers “unrivalled insight into how consumer attitudes have changed and how UK funerals will evolve.”

In a direct cremation the deceased is taken to the crematorium or cemetery without a funeral ceremony. According to the report, in the last 4 years the demand for direct cremation has more than quadrupled and is expected to match that for burials within the next 2 years. It suggests that the demand was in part driven by the pandemic, and in part by changing social attitudes which has seen funeral change from “occasions for mourning that are held in specialist venues and overseen by dedicated professionals to celebratory, family-run events in familiar and more relaxed surroundings”

Pure Cremation says its business has seen “a dramatic and rapid increase in the number of direct cremation plan holders, with sales of this style of plan growing faster than any other” since 2019. The survey shines a light on how Britons will say goodbye to someone special in the years to come.

Key findings:

  • 54% want less stress for the family and friends they leave behind when arranging their send-off
  • 52% want to express their life through the ashes’ final resting place – a fundamental shift in focus and location when saying goodbye
  • 77% said they didn’t need any professional help to arrange the farewell event – indicating a reduced role for funeral professionals

Pure Cremation’s co-founder Catherine Powell, said:

“The existing trend towards celebrating the life rather than mourning the death is gathering pace because it’s much easier to make a funeral more personal when you ‘uncouple’ the cremation from the ceremonial elements.

We’ve become used to bespoke weddings, and we’re seeing a similar evolution in funerals with families now able to choose the perfect location, style and timing for their farewell.”

Future Funeral Predictions

  • Farewells will become “invitation” events held separately from the cremation and we will see a longer interval between the death and goodbye to allow enough time to plan the event.
  • Fewer ceremonies will be held at “death venues” like crematoria, but hospitality and heritage venues could begin to offer farewell packages.
  • Ashes, not coffins, will become more of a focus for mourners. For many years the number of families choosing formal disposition of the ashes in a cemetery has declined. It feels natural to “upgrade” the laying to rest of the ashes to be the main farewell event.
  • There will be fewer funeral directors and celebrants in the future, and traditional funeral services could become more expensive – further increasing the appeal of direct cremation.

The full report can be found here:

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