The most prevalent trend in modern funeral services is that they are highly personalized. Some people love this movement because it gives them a chance to celebrate an individual’s life instead of having a cookie-cutter service that looks like everyone else’s.
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If you or your loved one enjoys a motorcycle lifestyle, this can certainly be reflected in a funeral service. You can plan a traditional funeral with a few motorcycle flourishes or a unique celebration of life that looks more like a rally than an end-of-life affair.
Here are some motorcycle-themed service and funeral reception ideas to consider.
Ideas for a Motorcycle-Themed Service
Your best resource for finding ideas for a motorcycle-themed service is to talk with lifelong bikers. Since funeral traditions are often personalized to a specific location, you may be interested in finding out how local bikers have previously celebrated their fallen comrades.
A study called “Hog Heaven: Funeral and Mourning Rituals of an Independent Motorcycle Club” found that of the avid motorcyclists who were a part of the survey, 98 percent wanted some biking elements present at their funerals. The study said that brotherhood and camaraderie are an integral part of this subgroup, and that’s why so many participate in their fellow-riders’ funerals.
Here are some of the motorcycle funeral traditions that we uncovered.
1. Motorcycle parade or salute
The most common motorcycle funeral ritual by far is to have attendees show up en mass on their bikes. This can be completed in a variety of ways. It can be a part of the funeral or organized to be held before or after the formal event. This means that the ride can be to the funeral, burial, or scattering location or unrelated to the actual services.
Sometimes participants don’t know the deceased, but they ride to show support to a fallen member of the biking community. It is also common for biking clubs to support each other’s families when a member dies.
2. Drive-by salute or escort
There’s little difference between a drive-by salute or escort and a parade. A salute or escort implies that the body or remains will be near where the motorcyclists ride, but this is not always true.
Sometimes the escort accompanies the body between the funeral location and the cemetery or place where the ashes will be scattered.
3. Wearing or display of motorcycle club colors
If the deceased was a member of a formal motorcycle organization, it is common for the club colors to be displayed at a funeral. Sometimes a black band is worn across the club colors to indicate that a member has died.
4. Missing man formation
It’s not clear where the missing man formation at motorcycle funerals originated. Still, it is similar to the air maneuver done to show tribute to a military service member.
In the missing man formation, space is allotted at the front of the procession following the funeral car. This space represents where the deceased would have been riding.
5. Memorial patches
Some club members may wear memory patches on their jackets to commemorate a deceased biker. The patch may have the name and nickname of the individual, the birth and death dates, and a motorcycle-themed saying.
6. Riding without helmets
It is a sign of respect to take off a helmet when riding to a funeral or cemetery in some areas. The practice is similar to removing a hat as a sign of respect. This rite is complicated in areas where helmets are mandatory.
7. Giving bandanas to family members and close friends
Some motorcycle communities give bandanas to family members of the deceased. This gesture shows respect for the family. It also tells the family members that they are not alone in their grief.
8. The last rev
The bikers who are in attendance may rev the engines on their bikes at a specific time during the ceremony. This may be done in unison or individually. It may be an official part of a ceremony or it may be done as a salute when bikers later gather to remember the deceased.
9. Last ride
Even though you may be able to find a motorcycle hearse to carry the body of your loved one to the cemetery, most “last rides” refer to transporting cremated remains to their final resting place. You can purchase cremation urns labeled “Last Ride” from online stores.
10. Black clothing
Black clothes have been part of traditional funeral attire for centuries. It is also a prevalent color in the biking community. Unless the deceased was a member of a motorcycle club with specific club colors, you will traditionally see black worn to a motorcycle funeral.
11. Filling the grave by hand
Although this tradition is not unique to the motorcycle community, you may see friends grab shovels to fill in their loved one’s grave by hand. This is a sign of respect to the deceased.
12. One spur
Some riders wear one spur to another biker’s funeral. This tradition may not be common, and its origins are unclear.
13. Motorcycle funeral poems
Of course, you can do things at the funeral ceremony to indicate the deceased’s love of motorcycles. Consider having a motorcycle-themed funeral poem read or printed on the program. There are many available online, such as the poem, “The Last Ride.”
14. Motorcyclist serving as pallbearers
Even if the deceased chose to be cremated, you might select rider friends as honorary pallbearers.
If the bikers are a part of the ceremony, you may want to coordinate their dress to either reflect their motorcycle lifestyle or show more formal attire.
15. Motorcycle-themed urn or casket
The funeral industry has become highly personalized. You can purchase many different styles of motorcycle-themed urns or caskets.
If you want to use them as a part of the service, you may need to order them soon after the death. Many times, these items are personalized and may take time to be shipped to your location.
16. Bury the deceased in motorcycle gear
Some families choose to bury their loved ones in beloved articles of clothing. Others pass such important pieces on to friends and family members as a memento of that person’s life.
Ideas for a Motorcycle-Themed Procession or Reception
According to the study cited earlier, parties and celebrations are a vital part of a motorcycle funeral. Here are some ideas on how to send your loved one off with a bang.
Your loved one’s funeral reception can take any tone you want. While some are only comfortable with somber, subdued events, others may want to have a huge celebration to honor their loved ones. Think about what your loved one would have wanted as you plan the event.
Music is an essential part of any type of gathering. Choose the music carefully when you celebrate your deceased friend or family member.
Although most funeral music is somber in tone, the songs you choose for the party may reflect the tastes of the person who died.
Virtual funeral tip: If you're hosting a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still play music for your online guests. Coordinate with your event planner and ensure you have the right digital file types, microphones, and speakers for a smooth experience.
18. Motorcycle on display
You may want to display the deceased’s motorcycle at the event honoring his or her life. Have someone detail the bike and drape the leather jacket across the handlebars or seat.
19. Tributes and speeches
Give a chance for those in attendance to share memories of the deceased. This can be done as a part of the formal funeral or done at the after-party.
20. Share photographs
Ask friends and family to share photos of the deceased and create a slideshow of images that people can enjoy at the event.
You may choose to enlarge a picture of your loved one on his or her bike as a centerpiece.
21. Favorite foods
If you are celebrating your loved one’s life, it makes sense to choose his or her favorite foods to serve at the event. Host the gathering at a favorite restaurant or bar.
Other Ways to Say Goodbye
Some bikers use their hobby to make money for favorite charities. If this would have appealed to your loved one, consider organizing a charity ride. You can also ask that donations to a charity be made in lieu of flowers or other gifts.
If tattoos are your style, you may also consider getting a memorial tattoo for your favorite biker. Some choose to mix a bit of cremation ash in with the ink before having the design completed.
Finally, if you shared a passion for biking with your deceased loved one, don’t feel bad about returning to the open road. Most grief experts say that it’s important to hold off on making any significant decisions immediately following a loved one’s death. This means you should hold off on selling the motorcycles. It may take time before you are comfortable going for a ride, but you may eventually find that going on rides brings you comfort.
If you're looking for more funeral planning ideas, read our guides on themed funerals and funeral venue ideas.
- Shabanowitz, Robert B. “Hog Heaven: Funeral and Mourning Rituals of an Independent Motorcycle Club.” 2013. www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Shabanowitz/publication/236012632_Hog_Heaven_Funeral_and_Mourning_Rituals_of_an_Independent_Motorcycle_Club/links/0c960516574f391dcc000000/Hog-Heaven-Funeral-and-Mourning-Rituals-of-an-Independent-Motorcycle-Club.pdf