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Alternatives to Funerals

A man who sells cemetery plots once advised a prospective client that it's never to early in life to pre-arrange (and pre-pay) for all his burial and funeral needs. “In all my years in this business, it's clear that prices nearly double about every 10 years. So the best thing to do is lock in your prices at today's rate by paying for everything now. It's actually a great investment, when you come to think of it.” While that is so, it is also worthwhile to consider that pre-planing one's funeral and burial arrangements is a great gift to their surviving loved ones, who are often not prepared for the vast number of preparations they are tasked with admist the grief of losing a loved one.

Many are not aware that there is a large variety of options for memorial servicesThe client decided on an even better investment. He took the time to plan his own memorial service very carefully, so his family could avoid stepping foot in a funeral home entirely upon his death.

“The funeral industry is going to make sure that, no matter how frugal a family is, every customer who walks in the door is going to end up spending at least what the, mostly arbitrary, “national average” says people spend on funerals,” the man later said on his personal blog. “There is no break from exorbitant expense of $10,000 or more (at the current price) if you intend to employ a funeral home's services.”

Here is a guide to many ideas for avoiding huge expenses by planning very inexpensive alternatives to a traditional funeral (as defined by funeral home practices).

Buddha's Idea

Legend has it that Buddha was approached by a man who was distraught over the death of a dear friend. Not knowing what to do to shake the blues, the man begged Buddha for a suggestion. “Throw a party” was the reply.

Parties are a great alternative to a funeral. And a party implies no special expense. Or, as one snide commentator put it, “I can throw a heck of a party for the same $12,000 that a funeral home would charge me to put on a regular funeral.”

This idea of Buddha's may have been a novel one for his time (actually, Buddha is well known for innocently challenging the traditional ideas of his time), but in modern days it is a popular thought that is achieving more and more popularity each year. In fact, a notable trend in funerals in recent years is to avoid that word all together – even during ceremonies that follow a traditional funeral format. Instead, many families choose to refer to their services in honor of their deceased loved one as simply a “celebration of life.” And for a growing number of families each year, “celebration of life,” translates directly into “party.”

Many find that honoring an individuals love for nature makes for the best memorial serviceThe logistics of throwing a “party” instead of a “funeral” leave plenty of room for creativity. When planning this sort of alternative to a funeral it is best to consider that this celebration may not be a “party,” in its strictest sense. The serving of alcohol, for example, may or may not be appropriate. As is the introduction of live music and even dancing. These, and many other, matters of logistics must be strongly taken into account if this is the choice that you and your loved ones choose as an alternative to a funeral. It is strongly advised that, if a deceased person has not left specific instructions that a party be held in place of a traditional funeral, that this option not be employed as the sole celebration in honor of his or her memory.

Environmentally Sensitive Idea

As of this writing, most funeral homes cannot be counted upon to offer their customers a wide array of products that, while less expensive than traditional funeral ware such as metal caskets and large, granite headstones, are environmentally sensitive. Nevertheless, plenty of earth-friendly products are available widely from retailers that are not licensed funeral homes. Those looking for alternatives to traditional funeral can have surprising easy access these days to such products as simple, biodegradable caskets; biodegradable cremation urns that degrade easily, blending into the elements; and even headstones that can be assured to fade safely away after their earthly purpose (as a record of a person's life) is no longer needed. Again, it is important for anyone planning a memorial service to realize that it's highly possible that these types of products will not likely be mentioned by a typical funeral director in his or her dealings with a family. Though, to be fair, most funeral directors are able to make such products available upon request, but consumers should understand that the products will usually be available for less money from other sources.

Twists on a “Traditional” Funeral

The perfect memorial service can help families take the right step towards healingFamilies and individuals interested in conducting a traditional funeral but without paying full price may consider a few economical twists on the traditions of a traditional funeral. First among these is the traditional funeral procession, in which a long line of cars filled with family and friends of the deceased follow one another from the funeral ceremony location to the grave site. These processions are usually escorted by police officers on motorcycles and paying those officers can be a significant expense. (Also, some locales require an additional “parade license” be purchased by the organizers of the funeral.) To spare this expense, many experts in funeral planning recommend that a family simply invite attendees to a nearby reception after a funeral (in, say, the fellowship hall of a church). After an hour or so of fellowship, an organizer can simply announce that all who are interested in attending a graveside service are invited to make their way to the cemetery in their private cars – without the need for a police escort of a procession. This simple twist can save hundreds of dollars off the cost of a funeral, and many drivers who have no involvement in the funeral will be silently appreciative.

Another twist on a traditional funeral is the elimination of embalming. In most cases, a body can be well preserved for viewing if a funeral is conducted within about 48 hours of a death. Scheduling a traditional funeral quickly, therefore, can help eliminate the need for costly embalming, which can cost up to $1,500. It is important to remember, also, that embalming is legally required only in vary rare instances. For the most part, embalming is done in order to make the body look as presentable as possible for those who might view it before or during a ceremony. A wonderful, meaningful, and spirit-filled ceremony is certainly possible – and quite common – without the use of an embalmer's services.

These are just some of the means by which families can save themselves some of the emotional stress and financial strain that can go along with a traditional funeral as typically administered by a funeral home. For more information on these and other ideas, many resources can be found with a simple search engine inquiry for “Discount Funerals.”

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