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November 27, 2019 Beyond The Dash

Putting the 'Fun' in Funeral: Personalizing a Tribute With a Themed Funeral

Memorials that celebrate life, passion and community

Putting the 'Fun' in Funeral: Personalizing a Tribute With a Themed Funeral
Decorations, costumes, food, music and community can make a themed funeral the perfect tribute to one who has recently passed. (Getty Images)

Values around death, dying and memorialization can vary from family to family, and from person to person. While many believe that funerals should be a somber time of reflection and deep mourning, others believe that celebrating life is a more positive way of saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed.

In recent years, celebrations of life have become more popular. In fact, a 2019 survey of adults living in the USA - South showed celebration of life to be more popular than any other type of service, outranking funeral, memorial, open casket, and graveside services, with 26% of Southerners preferring a more upbeat service.

What is a themed funeral?

A themed funeral is similar to any theme party, except the occasion is to celebrate the life of a person who has recently passed away. The theme is selected by the family or friends hosting the event. The food, decorations, music, activities and mood will match the chosen theme, which usually reflects something the deceased person was passionate about. Guests are encouraged to participate by dressing up in clothing or costumes related to the theme. 

Notably, themed funerals generally follow the 'celebration of life' school of thought more so than more traditional forms of intense, inconsolable mourning. Most often a funeral theme relates to a hobby or interest of the deceased; the theme might also point to a sentiment, joke or value that relates to the death. 

Special food, beverages and decorations can help set the tone of a themed funeral. (Getty Images)

Who chooses a themed funeral?

Even though celebrations of life are becoming a preferred form of memorialization in the United States, themed funerals are still rare. Families from many backgrounds and varying religions have opted for a more 'fun' approach to the mourning process. 

Themed funerals happen when the person being honored had a fun-loving personality, and a family willing to put extra effort into the funeral service. Themed funerals may be easier to plan if the death followed a long illness, during which time the person had a chance to weigh in on their own arrangements with their family. Sometimes the death of a young person may inspire a themed funeral based on their interests or hobbies. 

What kinds of themed funerals have people held?

There is no limit to the themes a funeral could follow. Here is a list of some themes that families have held in honor of a loved one:

Disco, Medieval, breakfast and even Christmas funerals have all taken place in honor of one who has passed. (Getty Images)

Themed funerals have the potential to bring mourners closer together 

Depending on the motif, a themed funeral might be too strange and celebratory for some mourners’  personal mourning style. A family considering a themed funeral ought to consider the mourners when choosing the theme. The purpose should be to provide a space for guests to mourn communally with others who knew the deceased individual. A theme's purpose is to make the funeral more comfortable and meaningful for those mourning; it should not detract from the day, or create awkwardness for those in attendance. 

A well-chosen theme can contribute to a stronger sense of community. Mourners who participate in a theme are acting in solidarity with one another. Together, they make a statement about the experience, united by love for the person who has passed away. A carefully planned and executed themed funeral can bring everyone closer together at a time when they need support the most. 

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