When we think of funerals, we all have a pretty clear mental picture of what they look like. There are usually a lot of people wearing black, gathering at a church, or at the waiting room in a funeral home. Whatever space you end up in, you may be surrounded by large and detailed flower arrangements.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Funeral Venue Ideas for a Non-Traditional Service or Celebration of Life
- Alternative Funeral Venue Ideas for a Traditional Service
But the funeral industry has changed over the years. People are starting to add their own spin on what an end-of-life celebration can look like. One of the ways they do this is by selecting an unconventional funeral venue. Here we explore some unexpected places where you might host a funeral.
Virtual funeral tip: If you're planning a virtual funeral, a service like GatheringUs can help you host the event from a unique venue. You may just want a background other than your home or office, or you might want to invite a few local friends and family to attend in person.
Funeral Venue Ideas for a Non-Traditional Service or Celebration of Life
Over the past few decades, people have been working hard to demystify the concept of death. As a culture, people are getting better at seeing that death is a part of the life cycle worth honoring.
And while it’s okay to be sad, it’s also okay to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away. As a result, more people are choosing to have a lighthearted and uplifting celebration of life parties. These venues would perfectly suit those or other less-traditional funeral services.
1. Movie theater
At traditional funeral services, people get up and give speeches about the life of their loved ones that have passed away. Imagine if instead of that, you could come to a movie theater and watch images from your loved one’s life on the big screen. Many movie theaters will allow individual cinema rooms to be rented out to organizations and private groups. You can even hold a memorial service in one.
Hire a videographer to set a montage of photos to music that can be projected onto the screen. If you’re extra ambitious, you can even interview loved ones for memories about the deceased. Record the interviews, edit them together, and show a short documentary. This would be a lovely tribute for a film aficionado, or just for someone who loved to go out and socialize.
2. State park
State parks are known for their great and natural beauty. They can also be fun places for friends and family members to gather together, and can even serve as an unconventional funeral venue. If your late loved one loved hiking a certain area, organize a hike in their memory. You can go see their favorite places together and reminisce about times you all shared with the deceased.
Bring coolers with snacks and drinks and keep them in your car, so that after the hike people can have a little gathering if they choose. Something like this could even turn into a weekend-long memorial camping trip. Doing things our loved ones enjoyed after they’re gone helps keep them alive in our hearts. Going to a place they treasured will help us feel close to them as we memorialize them.
3. Winery or brewery
It’s not uncommon for people to get together and have a drink in memory of a loved one. Irish wakes, in particular, are what people tend to think of when they imagine an end-of-life service ceremony that includes libations. A winery or a brewery would also be a great place to raise a glass to a departed friend.
If your friend or family member had a winery or brewery that they were especially fond of, you can see if they have a tasting room you can reserve. You can get together with other loved ones and crack a bottle of their preferred vintage or favorite brew. Ask a few people to come prepared with toasts if you want a more ceremonial aspect to the event.
4. Botanical garden
When people die, it’s often a tradition for mourners to bring flowers. But it may be a little sad to see flowers that have been cut for funeral arrangements. Instead, consider inviting people to celebrate the deceased in a place that’s veritably teeming with life: a botanical garden.
Botanical gardens often feature the best local flora, as well as some more exotic plants you might not see every day. They are often able to be rented out for private celebrations, too.
Invite friends and loved ones to come out, share memories of the deceased, and explore the grounds. The life blooming all around everyone can really lift people’s spirits during a difficult time.
There are some people that you really can’t envision being celebrated via funeral. There are some people who are unrelentingly the life of the party. They always want to have a good time. They may even hate the thought of people gathering in their honor and not having a blast.
For those people, a celebration-of-life service is a more fitting ceremony. You can still include some of the trappings of a funeral by designing things like celebration-of-life programs. But you can break away from the trappings and just plan a fun day. Throw a barbecue. Invite people to play baseball. Set up a bouncy castle. A park provides a clean slate to throw any kind of party you want, even one that puts the “fun” in “funeral.”
Alternative Funeral Venue Ideas for a Traditional Service
Even though some people are moving away from more traditional funeral services, other people still embrace the old rituals. It can be comforting to take part in age-old traditions as we honor our dead.
You can still embrace tried and true funeral practices, but move them to a different location. It’s a great way to put a personal spin on a funeral service while still upholding valued customs.
6. Green cemetery
As mentioned earlier, the death industry has changed in recent decades, and you can see this with the uptick of green cemeteries. Part of that is because our attitudes about sustainability are changing, too. Many people can’t justify having burials anymore, because traditional burials are seen as bad for the planet.
In many cases, bodies are preserved with harsh chemicals before being placed in coffins that won’t biodegrade. It makes a big impact. If your loved one cared about the planet, you can always consider having a natural burial in a green cemetery.
You can even have a traditional funeral service right on the grounds. It will feel different though, as many of the trappings you expect won’t be there. But you’ll still get all the comfort of the burial rituals without the ecological damage.
Another eco-friendly burial alternative that people are turning to is cremation. The body of the deceased is incinerated, leaving just ash behind. No coffin needs to be interred, because no body will be buried. Many people leave instructions for their loved ones to scatter their ashes. A lot of people like to have their ashes scattered at sea.
If they found the water to be a peaceful or special place in life, they might like the notion of communing with the sea after death. Many local boating companies offer specific funeral cruises with fairly traditional services included.
Beaches are another increasingly popular place for people to hold memorial services. While a body wouldn’t be present, you could still set up chairs and host a traditional service outdoors.
At the end of the service, you can have guests place flowers on the water to float out to sea. Even if it’s a symbolic gesture, it still has a sense of ceremony. You can read our guide on beach memorial service ideas for guidance.
9. University chapel
Many people stay devoted to their university even after they’ve graduated. They might donate money there or hold season tickets to one of the sports teams.
If the deceased still lived near their old alma mater, you may even be able to host a funeral service for them at the university chapel.
10. Local building
We all have places in our community that mean a lot to us for some reason. For some people, it might be the library.
For others, it might be a community center. Any local building with sentimental value could be a great place to hold a memorial service. Something with historical value or cool architectural details should be considered.
Come Together in Mourning in Unexpected Venues
For millennia, different cultures have evolved their own unique funeral practices. It’s not uncommon for people to mourn in multiple ways. For example, a small group might gather at a repast for a funeral to remember the deceased in a less formal way. Or people might break away from traditional funeral plans in order to honor a lost loved one in a more personal way.
Something as simple as an unconventional funeral venue can make a service feel a lot more personal and meaningful to loved ones left behind.
If you're looking for more funeral planning advice, read our guides on live-streaming a funeral and memorial donation ideas.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the funeral to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.