Funeral Planning Trends in 2024

As we progress through 2024, the funeral planning industry continues to evolve and innovate. More than ever, people are seeking out personalized, meaningful ways to honor and celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Here are seven key trends shaping the future of funeral planning and memorialization in 2024:

1. Customized & Themed Services

Cookie-cutter funerals are out. Today’s families want funeral services that deeply reflect the unique personality, interests, and legacy of the deceased individual. From motorcycle enthusiast funerals featuring the departed’s beloved Harley to celebration of life parties with the person’s favorite music, food, and d├ęcor, themed events are becoming the norm rather than the exception. 

Families are working closely with funeral directors to design highly customized ceremonies, visitations, and receptions. Slideshows, memory tables, personal playlists, and life story readings are just some of the many personalized elements being incorporated. The key is zeroing in on the most meaningful aspects of the person’s life and finding creative ways to spotlight them.

2. Green Funerals & Natural Burial

Environmentally-conscious consumers are increasingly opting for “green funerals” and natural burial. The goal is to reduce the funeral’s ecological footprint as much as possible. This means:

– Skipping embalming and chemicals 

– Choosing biodegradable caskets, shrouds or urns

– Forgoing concrete burial vaults

– Using sustainable, locally-sourced materials

– Avoiding waste and non-eco-friendly elements

Natural burial grounds are designed to be as unintrusive to the landscape as possible. Graves are dug by hand and marked with flat indigenous stones or planted with native trees or flowers. The setting is protected and preserved in its natural state as a “forever wild” sanctuary.

More traditional cemeteries are also designating natural burial sections to meet the growing demand. For the eco-minded, green funerals and burial provide a meaningful way to return to the earth and leave a positive legacy for the planet.

3. Cremation & Creative Memorialization

Cremation has steadily risen in popularity to become the preferred disposition method for over half of Americans. The cremation rate is projected to reach nearly 58% by 2025. People appreciate the simplicity, affordability, flexibility and reduced environmental impact offered by cremation.

In tandem with this shift has come an explosion of creative options for cremated remains. While many still opt for traditional urns, others are finding unique ways to memorialize such as:

– Solidifying ashes into sculptures, diamonds or other jewelry  

– Placing remains in biodegradable urns that grow into trees

– Incorporating ashes into art pieces or tattoo ink

– Sending remains into space or turning them into fireworks

– Creating keepsakes like glass sculptures or vinyl records mixed with ashes

The possibilities are nearly endless. Families can choose memorial items that symbolize their loved one’s passions and personalities. With cremation, final memorialization can take almost any form imaginable.

4. Outdoor & Non-Traditional Venues

Many modern families find traditional funeral homes too formal, gloomy, or impersonal for their taste. Instead, they are branching out and holding funeral events in non-traditional venues that held meaning for their loved one like:

– Parks, beaches & natural settings

– Community centers & event spaces  

– Private homes & backyards

– Farms, vineyards & golf courses

– Zoos, museums & theaters

– Restaurants, pubs & coffee shops

The location sets the tone for the ceremony and celebration. An avid gardener can be remembered in a botanical garden. A legendary home cook can be honored with a memorial feast featuring their signature dishes. The funeral venue itself becomes part of the personalization.

Outdoor funerals in particular have spiked in popularity. People find peace, comfort and connection being surrounded by nature. The open air also allows for easier social distancing which has become a necessity during the pandemic.

5. Virtual Funerals & Live Streaming

Travel limitations and social distancing requirements during COVID spurred a huge increase in virtual funeral attendance. Via video platforms like Zoom, EventLive, and FaceTime, guests could safely “be there” and participate from afar.   

While in-person services have largely resumed, the convenience of virtual attendance for far-flung guests remains appealing. Live streaming the funeral for those who can’t attend has become a common add-on option offered by most funeral homes.  

High-quality cameras, microphones and streaming equipment are used to capture the event. Remote attendees can typically sign an online guestbook, view the ceremony, and share chat messages and condolences in real-time.

Some families are opting for entirely virtual funerals. With an engaged remote audience, they can still create an impactful communal moment. Embedding video tributes, photos, and music into the live stream helps make it an immersive shared experience.

6. Advance Funeral Planning

Only 21% of over-65 consumers prearranged their funerals in 2020. But with the pandemic bringing mortality to the forefront, more people are taking control of their final wishes. Advance funeral planning is getting more commonplace, especially among younger generations.

The benefits are clear. Advance planning allows you to:

– Make your exact wishes known 

– Personalize your memorial while you can contribute  

– Reduce stress and conflict for your family

– Lock in today’s prices to save money long-term

– Provide reassurance to your loved ones

You can work with a funeral home or use online planning tools to specify your preferences and make financial arrangements. Key decisions include disposition method, ceremony venue and elements, final memorialization, and payment. 

Consumers have the choice of guaranteed or non-guaranteed plans. Guaranteed plans lock in the selected services at the current prices. The funeral home guarantees to deliver your exact chosen services whenever needed, regardless of future price increases. With non-guaranteed plans, the funeral home applies the current funds to the future bill but the family may owe more if prices rise.

Whichever route you go, communicating your plan to your family is critical. An advanced plan is only helpful if they know about it and can access the relevant documents and information when needed.

7. Online Tools & Funeral Programs

As digital natives comprise more of the funeral planning market, providers are meeting them where they are – online. Funeral homes’ websites now offer digital planning tools, online merchandising, and virtual showrooms. You can explore your options and craft your wishes from the comfort of home.

Creating the funeral program is getting a digital upgrade too. The funeral program (also called an order of service) is the printed handout given to guests. It typically includes key logistics, an outline of the service, the deceased’s life milestones, and their photo.

With the shift to virtual services, online funeral programs have surged. Using online templates and design tools like FuneralFolio, families can quickly craft a custom program and share it digitally with both in-person and remote attendees. 

FuneralFolio provides an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to build your program. Choose a theme, add event details, and customize each section as desired. Upload your loved one’s photos, videos, and their life story. The easy editing and instant previews let you see exactly how it will look to guests.

The finished funeral programs can be:

– Shared online via a private URL

– Sent to an email list or phone numbers  

– Embedded on a memorial website

– Printed at home or via the platform

Giving guests a visually engaging, information-rich digital program elevates their experience. It becomes an enduring keepsake they can access and share anytime. Online obituaries, tribute walls, and memorial websites are also gaining prominence as meaningful digital destinations to celebrate a life.

Key Takeaways

– Personalization is paramount, with themed services tailored to the individual 

– Green funerals and cremation continue gaining popularity 

– Families want non-traditional venues that reflect their loved one

– Virtual attendance and live streaming are here to stay

– More people are making their funeral wishes known in advance

– Digital tools like online funeral programs are modernizing memorialization

As these trends show, funerals are becoming more of a personal expression than a formal tradition. Families have more options than ever to create a meaningful tribute as unique as the individual being honored. 

No matter your final wishes, planning ahead is a profound gift to your loved ones. When the time comes, having a clear plan in place will allow them to focus on celebrating and grieving, not stressing and guessing. 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to start the conversation with your family about your funeral preferences and put your wishes in writing. Consult with your local funeral director or explore online planning resources to take the first steps. Don’t leave one of the most impactful decisions of your legacy to chance.