Alternative funeral ideas

Unique ways to celebrate your loved one.

Over 50s Life Insurance
  • Eco-funerals
  • Turning ashes into memories
  • Alternative places to scatter ashes
  • More extraordinary ideas
  • Budgeting for alternative funerals

Ideas for alternative funerals and memorials

You might have a number of reasons for wanting the funeral of someone you love to be a little out of the ordinary.

Perhaps they were a colourful character and you want to celebrate their life with the vibrancy they lived it. But you might also be concerned by the Escalating costs of a traditional funeral. If you are planning for your own funeral and have a Life Insurance policy in place, you might want to make sure a payout can cover your costs and doesn’t leave your loved ones out of pocket.

You might simply not be thrilled by the more traditional services on offer.

People’s attitudes towards funerals are shifting in the UK, as is highlighted by Royal London’s Funeral Cost Index Report 2018. We’ve seen a rise in the cost of burial and cremation but a drop in the rise of funeral director fees.*

We’ve also seen less-common funerals, such as direct cremation, gain popularity due to their cost efficiency and their freedom to allow families to celebrate their loved ones however they choose. Read our guide to find out more about direct cremation funerals.


With consciousness about climate change increasing, people are making more effort to ensure that their actions have as little impact on the environment as possible.

There are some standard ways of reducing the impact that a funeral has on the environment. The first and most obvious is to avoid cremation, which both uses a lot of fuel and releases toxins into the air.

But burials also pose some environmental problems. Some of the chemicals used in embalming can eventually leak into watercourses during decomposition, as do resins used in the bonding of wood for coffins.

Alternative options include burial in environmentally-friendly materials such as bamboo or cardboard. Most funeral directors offer a range of materials that can be used for coffins – and some unique designs, too, including illustrations that can tell a story about the life of the deceased.

If you’re thinking about a fully-biodegradable coffin, then you might consider going the whole hog and opting for a burial somewhere out of the ordinary. Natural burial grounds are sites you can choose away from cemeteries and are often in woodland. Instead of a headstone, the grave might be marked by the planting of a tree, or not marked at all.

There’s a list of natural burial grounds provided by the Natural Death Centre Charity, who help maintain high industry standards for those wanting a natural funeral.

Ashes to…diamonds?

After a cremation, what a person does with the ashes of their loved one is up to them. They might choose to scatter the ashes at a meaningful location or keep them at home.

But there are a few innovative options that are truly unusual. Some companies can use the carbon in ashes and turn them into a diamond which can, in turn, be mounted on a ring. They say that diamonds are forever, and so are the memories of our dearly-departed. Heart in Diamond can produce diamonds ranging from £515 to more than £12,000, so there’s a price range to suit most customers. And the option to wear your loved one on a ring might be your idea of the perfect way to remember them.

And to go out with a bang (excuse the pun), you can use your loved one’s ashes in a firework. In this novel take on scattering ashes, your loved one’s final journey can be a beautiful display of incredible colour – and something that marks an event like nothing else.

Familiar final resting places

Throughout our lives, we can create very strong ties to an area – whether this is a house with special meaning, a town we grew up in or an area of natural beauty.

To keep a loved one’s ashes at home, they don’t have to occupy space on a mantelpiece. What’s important to consider when scattering ashes is whether you need to obtain the landowner’s permission to do so – which you would have to do in any situation where the land is not your own.

But if your garden belongs to you and you want to mark your loved one in a special way, you might think about creating a memorial to help remember them. Some companies can create oil candles that contain some of your loved one’s ashes in the glass structure, which can be placed at a memorial site where the remaining ashes are scattered.

But there’s also a huge range of designs for memorial objects that you could use in your garden to remind you of that special person. These could be obviously memorials, like traditional sculptures or modern designs, or things that have a second purpose, such as birdbaths or sundials.

They might involve a water feature, or they might contain beds for growing plants, giving new life to the final resting place of your loved one.

New journeys

For low-cost but beautiful ways of scattering ashes, some people opt to scatter at sea or on rivers. Needless to say, it’s important to check with your local environment agency to ensure there aren’t any restrictions on doing so where you plan on scattering, but it’s often considered safe.

Sending your loved one in a package out to the sea is a beautiful way of sending them off on a new adventure. Or, if you want them to be borne away on water yet remain close at hand, you can have ashes turned into a reef for fishtanks or ponds.

And for the ambitious explorer, a US company even offer the chance to launch ashes into deep space. Their services include sending ashes into earth’s orbit (where they’ll eventually return to earth and disintegrate in the atmosphere), sending them into lunar orbit where they can even come to rest on the surface of the moon for the rest of time, or sending them beyond into deep space.

While such a service is obviously pricey, it is also a profound way of remembering the exciting journey that person brought to your life.

A life told in song

Your loved one may have led a life deeply connected to music. If so, there’s perhaps no better-fitting memorial than having their ashes pressed into a vinyl record.

You can choose the music that the record plays so that they are immortalised forever in song.

Going back in time

There are a number of columbaria in the UK where you can leave the ashes of your loved one. These are essentially burial plots for cremated remains, however some are extremely ancient. It is an unusual but traditional way of giving your loved one a place of rest, and most are looked after with dedicated care.

Budgeting for an alternative funeral

From the range of options above, you might be inspired to do something a little less traditional after your loved one has gone – or if you are placing instruction for your own memorial.

Researching the options can give you a very clear idea of budget, and if you can combine one of the more cost-effective options above with direct cremation, for example, you may even make a saving when compared to a traditional funeral.

A great way to plan for the costs of a funeral is to take out an Over 50s Life Insurance policy. If the premiums are kept up and the policy is valid, then the payout can contribute towards costs when you die, lessening or completely avoiding the need for your loved ones to reach into their own pockets.

*Source: Royal London Funeral Cost Index Report 2018

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