Many of us have a picture in our minds of what a funeral should look like. We usually picture large, gleaming caskets and people dressed in black from head to toe. This mental picture is largely rooted in truth, as these are the traditional funerals that many of us grew up attending. They have also been reinforced by pop culture. Countless TV shows and movies have depicted funerals in a similar manner.
But funerals should be about honoring the life of the deceased. They are not a one-size-fits-all kind of event. Lately, more and more people are exploring funeral alternatives.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Sports and Outdoor Funeral Theme Ideas
- Music, Arts & Literature Funeral Themes
- Other Fun Funeral Theme Ideas
This can include things like a celebration of life service or an eco-friendly burial. Many people are also planning a funeral with a theme. Here, we’ll explore some themed funeral ideas to honor your loved one in a special and unique way.
Sports and Outdoor Funeral Theme Ideas
Many people form deep attachments to sports teams. They may have an affinity for the sports teams at their alma mater. Or they may be fond of a hometown team that their family follows.
People also connect with more individualized forms of outdoor recreation, like hunting or skiing. These themed funeral ideas are ideal for people who love sports or the outdoors.
1. Tailgate service
For many sports fans, a big part of the thrill is getting to spend time with other fans. Many fans will arrive at a sports venue before a scheduled game to have a tailgate party.
They’ll set up tables with snacks and drinks, and will sometimes set up grills to cook food. They often dress up in jerseys or t-shirts that honor their favorite team. They’ll meet up with friends, or mingle with other fans set up near them.
If your loved one showed up every weekend to tailgate, a tailgate service can be a great send-off for them. Set up in their usual spot and invite their fellow friends and fans. This is more of a celebration of life party than a traditional funeral and can be a great personalized tribute.
2. Say it with flowers
An easy way to pay tribute to a favorite sports team is to order floral arrangements in a team’s colors. For example, if the deceased was a fan of Michigan State University’s basketball team, you could select white flowers with lots of greenery.
This is a tribute to their school colors of green and white. If the deceased was an avid Minnesota Vikings fan, you could incorporate flowers in their team colors of purple and gold. Coordinating funeral flowers to the colors of a beloved sports team is a subtle way to honor their interests.
3. Saddle casket spray
If your loved one was more into outdoor recreation than team sports, you can still honor their interests through flowers. If the deceased was a horse-riding enthusiast, for example, you could incorporate a saddle casket spray into the funeral decor.
In this DIY casket spray, you would drape a saddle over the top of the casket. If the deceased had a favorite saddle, you could use it. Then, once it’s laid out, you can arrange flowers and greenery on top of the saddle, as well as arrange some to peek out of the saddlebags. It’s a sweet and original way to incorporate the deceased’s hobby into their funeral.
Music, Arts & Literature Funeral Themes
Lots of people find solace in the arts. Perhaps they like to listen to music or even make it. Maybe they dabble in painting or love visiting museums. Maybe they write as a hobby, or just like to curl up with a good book. Whatever their medium or milieu, you can pay homage to it with a themed funeral.
4. Say it with song
Music is already a big part of most funerals. Church funerals often contain hymns. More secular services will feature less religious funeral songs. But you can take it even farther by hosting a musical service.
If the deceased enjoyed participating in musical theater, you could ask some of their costars to sing their favorite show tunes. If they liked participating in regular music jam sessions, convene one in their honor. Find a way to incorporate the healing power of music in a way that’s in line with the deceased’s interests.
5. Arty party
An increasing number of businesses are popping up that create a space for people to create art. You can paint pottery, or get a lesson in painting on canvas. Many of these businesses also allow you to bring your own beer or wine so you can sip while you create.
If the deceased enjoyed creating art, you can set up an interactive memorial service at a place like this. If the deceased had a favorite flower or animal, you could ask that the lesson involve painting one of those. Then mourners will get to take home a tangible reminder of the deceased.
6. Writing group
Some people love to spin a yarn. If your deceased loved one loved telling a good story, you can collect stories about them in their honor. Invite friends and family members over for a celebration of life service and ask them to bring a story about the deceased.
They can type it out and bring it with them to share aloud. Ask them to leave a copy with you, and then bind all the stories together. You can also include stories from people that were unable to attend in person.
Once you’ve bound the stories in a book, you can share it with the deceased’s family. You can also give a copy of the book to everyone who contributed a story. It’s a great way to discover new things about a lost loved one.
Other Fun Funeral Theme Ideas
There are many ways to organize a themed funeral that might not rely on the deceased’s hobbies. You can also draw on their culture or their careers. If they died of an illness, you can even turn their memorial service into a way to raise money or interest. Here are some other ways to have a themed funeral:
7. Fundraiser service
Sometimes people battle illness for a long time before passing away. But just because they died, it doesn’t mean they can’t still be a warrior against the disease. When we can put a face to a disease, it can make the fight against it more personal. You can try to find the silver lining in a loved one’s death by raising awareness or funds to fight against it.
For example, if a loved one died of breast cancer, you could organize a memorial 5K to be run or walked in their honor. Get local businesses to sponsor t-shirts that you can give to participants. Have walkers or runners pay an entry fee, with the understanding that all funds raised will go to a particular organization.
If your loved one hated getting sweaty but loved dressing up, you can go another way. Put together a memorial benefit gala. Friends, family, and the general public can dress to the nines and come celebrate your loved one’s life. You can put together a silent auction with donated items, with the proceeds going to the appropriate research foundation. Set up a guest book for people to give their condolences, and have a speaker eulogize the deceased.
8. Garden party
Flowers are often a focal point at a funeral or memorial service. Instead of spending a fortune on bringing flowers in, you can bring people to the flowers. Organize a memorial service at a local public park or botanical garden.
Guests can dress in floral-themed finery and enjoy a beautiful day surrounded by blossoms. You can even hand out memorial seed packets in your loved ones’ honor. That way people can plant flowers on their own and remember the deceased.
9. Motion picture memorial
If your loved one was an aspiring filmmaker, a movie-themed funeral is a lovely tribute. You can often rent out an independent local theater to host a private party. Invite friends, family, and even classmates.
You can put together a memorial slideshow to show before the movie. Then, if the deceased ever made a short film, you can screen it for the audience. You could also just choose to show a movie that the deceased found enjoyable or inspirational.
Honor Your Loved One With a Themed Funeral or Memorial Service
When a loved one dies, it may be challenging to plan their funeral. Sometimes it’s easier to go with a traditional service so you don’t have to expend emotional energy coming up with something unique. You can get around this by talking about funeral wishes with your loved ones while they’re still alive.
Let your friends and family members know that they can customize their funeral arrangements and do something outside of the box. Planning ahead can demystify the processes around end-of-life services. They can also help you get started on planning a funeral that’s truly special and one-of-a-kind.
If you're looking for more funeral planning ideas, read our guides on types of caskets and how to choose an urn for ashes.