Skip to content
Funeral Alternatives

What if I Don’t Want to Hold a Funeral? A Guide to Funeral Alternatives

If you’re deciding how to honor and memorialize the loss of a loved one, there are options other than a traditional funeral service and burial. Many people choose alternative funerals to mark the loss of their loved ones, so you are in good company if you’d like to choose something different. Funeral alternatives can be as traditional as a scattering ceremony or as modern as planting a tree with cremation ashes. This article will look at funeral alternatives to celebrate your departed loved one.

Scattering Ceremony

scattering ceremony

If your departed loved one was cremated, then a scattering ceremony is a meaningful way to honor their memory and lay them to rest. A scattering ceremony is when you spread cremation ash on the ground or on the water. If this takes place on the water, this is called a water burial. Many people wish to have their remains scattered and returned to nature and the cycle of life. This ceremony is quite profound for those participating in the physical act of returning a body to the earth.

Scattering ceremonies occur at a location of the deceased’s choosing or can be anywhere meaningful to them or you. If that place is on private property, make sure you have permission first. You could be the only person at the scattering ceremony, or you can invite other mourners. This type of ceremony is entirely customizable to suit your needs. Ensure you have a secure urn for transporting cremation ash to the scattering site.

If you’re choosing a water burial on the ocean, be aware that the EPA requires that everything put in the sea is biodegradable and that you notify them within 30 days of your scattering.

Tree Planting Ceremony

tree planting ceremony

Planting a tree with cremation ash turns your deceased beloved into a tree. You and everyone else left behind can watch the one who’s passed be reborn as a tree (or plant) of your choosing. These living urns stand as memorials to the deceased, and they offer both comfort and solace to those who are mourning. Your living memorial will be alive for generations depending on the tree you choose.

You could hold a tree-planting ceremony as a funeral alternative and invite friends and loved ones to witness the planting. A ceremony like a tree planting can be as formal or informal as you like. You could take advantage of your guests’ presence and invite them to help dig the hole in a casual group setting or host a more formal affair. Whatever you decide, planting a Living Urn is a beautiful way to memorialize your departed loved one.

Throw a Party

party to honor a lost loved one

You can bypass any form of burial and go straight to a party. Parties are celebrations, and the person who passed deserves to be celebrated for their life, even while you mourn their death. Break out their favorite foods, drinks, music, movies, and people and spend time remembering and rejoicing in their life. You could include some ritual or ceremony or bypass that aspect altogether. One idea is to place pictures of the deceased around the party space, including loose photographs for guests to leaf through. Or, invite guests to write down memories of the beloved deceased to be gathered and read at the party or a future date. There could be a space at the gathering for quiet contemplation or feeling sad, perhaps with candles to light in memory of the deceased. However you decide to structure your funeral alternative party will be a good choice.

Tips for Planning Your Alternative Funeral

Do What You Want

Do what you want for the alternative funeral you’re planning within the realms of courtesy and kindness. Consider the deceased’s wishes, but please feel empowered to make the decisions you think are the best way to honor them (and your grief journey).

Hire a Celebrant

A celebrant performs and officiates ceremonies like weddings, baby namings, funerals, and memorials. They are non-denominational, so they can make your service as religious (or not) as you prefer. Celebrants often have years of experience with situations like yours, so they will bring a level of expertise and ease to the ceremony process. Having someone there to guide the ceremony will make the day more meaningful.

Make it a Pot-Luck

Push the easy button and ask people to help with the alternative funeral, like bringing food and drinks to any post-ceremony gathering. If there is support available to you, take full advantage of it and delegate as many tasks, such as the guestlist, hiring the celebrant, purchasing the urn, etc., as you can. There are physical symptoms of grief that can make planning an event challenging, so try to make things as easy as possible.

Previous article Modern vs. Traditional Urns and Keepsakes