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Celebrate A Life Well Lived: 10 Memorable Personalized Funeral Ideas

In previous blog posts on this site, we have often marveled at the many different roles that funeral professionals must step into and the various competencies that are required to be successful in a mortuary setting. One skill that funeral directors are not given nearly enough credit for is their ability to help families brainstorm ways they can honor their loved one’s memory in a meaningful and memorable way. Funeral planning, often likened to wedding planning, stands out in that it demands a shortened timeframe, with funeral professionals tasked with meticulously addressing crucial details in a matter of days.

After the loss of a loved one, it’s common for relatives to grapple with a kind of grief-induced fog that makes it challenging to focus on the myriad details involved in planning a funeral. This is where the expertise and creativity of a funeral professional can truly shine. By identifying the specific passions and unique traits of the departed, they can offer suggestions that facilitate a proper and heartfelt memorialization.

In this blog post, we take a look at personalized funeral services, highlighting ten unique farewells that were customized to reflect the individuals being celebrated. We understand the essence of a meaningful funeral ceremony goes beyond conforming to a specific type—whether it’s a traditional ceremony steeped in religious rituals or a grand celebration echoing a life well-lived, what truly matters is the healing and comfort it brings to those left behind. Our aim is to highlight some interesting examples of occasions when a funeral home helped a family to honor their loved one in a truly inspired way. Join us as we share stories of ten remarkable send-offs that beautifully capture the essence of a personalized funeral.


1. Christian’s Campfire Celebration of Life Service

In 2020, the Robbins Family turned to the Einan’s at Sunset Gardens Funeral Home in Richmond, WA after the devastating loss of their 16-year-old son Christian Robbins. Funeral directors, Holley Sowards  and  Ron Swanson worked closely with his family to transform their funeral home to create a campground-themed service in Christian’s memory. In a candid interview, Christian’s Father, Ted Robbins, described how his family’s collaboration with the funeral home team helped them achieve such a meaningful service for Christian amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and time constraints. From building a real campfire in the funeral home, to encouraging visitors to leave their handprint on Christian’s casket to allowing kids to make s’mores, Christian’s funeral was one of the most inspiring examples we have seen of funeral personalization. Watch the video below to hear Ted explain how the funeral home staff was instrumental in helping him and his family heal after such a difficult and traumatic loss.


“We’re not a firm that is’ going to say no. Every life has a story and to respect that life at the most critical time, for the family to be able to start healing through honoring his wishes, that was our first priority here,” explains Funeral Director, Ron Swanson. “It was really an experience for all of us that will be talked about forever. Christian even though he’s gone has made an impact on everybody here and is still making an impact, so we were honored to be a part of that.”


2. Jenga Blocks Signed in Memory

Ever since we first saw this photo posted online by Connor & Koch Life Celebration Home way back in 2015, it has remained in our mind as one of the first things we think of when the term “personalized funerals” comes to mind. It’s such a simple, yet imaginative way to pay tribute to someone who had a playful personality and loved playing games. We can just imagine how much that family must cherish those signed Jenga blocks and how grateful they must have been to the funeral home for suggesting such a wonderful idea.


3. I Say I Say Is That A Cartoon Playing by the Casket?  

While we don’t know what funeral home this photo was captured at, the story goes that a wife asked the funeral directors if they could play her husband’s favorite Foghorn Leghorn Loony Tunes cartoon during his funeral visitation. So, instead of a traditional slideshow, mourners were able to remember the gentleman by watching the shows that made him laugh. What a sweet way to capture someone’s spirit and celebrate their life, as well as bring mourners together during the service.


4. A Pet-friendly Funeral for a Beloved Dog Trainer

When entrusted with the arrangements for a cherished canine trainer within the community, the compassionate team at Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services went above and beyond. They extended a heartfelt invitation to well-behaved pets to join in paying their respects during the commemorative services. This exceptional inclusion of beloved animal companions truly exemplifies the essence of what a funeral service represents – not only a chance to bid a fond farewell but also an opportunity to celebrate a life lived to the fullest. The act of welcoming pets to the service added a layer of warmth and connection that resonated with everyone in attendance. It not only paid homage to the canine trainer’s special bond with animals but also brought solace and unity to those who had come to remember and honor her.


5. Honoring an Avid Reader

For a person who was an enthusiastic collector, there is something very stirring about making their cherished collection a part of a funeral ceremony. Over the years, we have seen some amazing examples of this including this one from our friends at Francis P. Devine Funeral Home. The funeral home was handling a service for a passionate book lover who had amassed a treasured collection of books. During the funeral, loved ones were invited to take one with them, emphasizing how books can hold a special place in one’s heart, representing a person’s life and interests. This personalized approach to commemorating a bibliophile’s life is a touching reminder of the way books can hold an irreplaceable place in one’s heart, and how they can serve as a meaningful representation of a person’s life and interests.


6. An Epic Final Ride

From flatbed trucks to horse drawn carriages, there are some incredible examples of caskets being transported with a unique “final ride.” Funeral homes that provide this service go out of their way to create a truly memorable and meaningful experience for loved ones. Here is one example we love shared with us by Eric M.D. Bell Funeral Home and Cremation Services. When the funeral home handled a service for a gentleman who was a fan of Oliver Tractor, the director suggested that his casket be placed on a wagon and pulled by his beloved tractor to the cemetery. This thoughtful suggestion resulted in a moving experience for the family and a fitting tribute for the gentleman who passed.

“We work hard to ensure every life is celebrated in a unique and special way,” Mr. Bell shared.

Here is another great example from the same funeral home: “Last month, we served a family of a dump truck driver. They were thrilled when we suggested we use his truck as his hearse. The family truly found it healing,” Eric shared.


7. A Paddle Out Ceremony for a Surfer

Originating in Hawaii, one of the most striking examples we have seen of funeral personalization has existed within the surfing community since the early 20th century. Friends and loved ones will paddle out to a calm stretch of ocean, creating a circle with their boards. There, they will join hands, share memories or perhaps scatter the person’s cremated remains into the surf. The floating memorial service is visually captivating, forming a vibrant mosaic in the ocean that is frequently photographed from afar, as it often has a profound impact on others. Even if you have never surfed a day in your life, it is impossible not to be moved by such an emotionally stirring image. The paddle out ceremony is also emotionally cathartic for the bereaved because it helps them to feel more supported while paying tribute to the departed in the place that he or she loved most of all.


8. A Car Collector’s Final Sendoff

To help a widow pay tribute to her antique car-loving husband, the directors at  Mueller Memorial parked his beloved 1923 restored T-Bucket in the funeral chapel and filled it with mementos and photos from his life. The Minnesota Street Rod Association also parked 58 antique vehicles outside of the funeral home building during the service to commemorate the life of their longtime member. The gesture served as a poignant tribute to her late husband’s passion for antique cars, ensuring a meaningful farewell.


9.  Quilting Legacy Honored at Funeral Service

Photo courtesy of Christina Tollman

In 2017, beloved grandmother,  Margaret Hubl  passed away and her family wanted to pay tribute to her memory in a touching way. Margaret, an avid quilter, had spent years creating beautiful handmade quilts. In a heartfelt gesture to honor her memory, her family decided to display her quilts at her funeral service. As guests entered the venue, they were greeted by a stunning array of Margaret’s quilts adorning the space. The vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and meticulous stitching showcased Margaret’s love and talent for quilting. The display served not only as a visual celebration of Margaret’s life but also as a way for family and friends to connect with her through her artistry.


10. A Sweet Farewell

One funeral personalization trend that truly resonates with us combines the deeply personal with our shared love for food. The idea is to honor a departed loved one by creating a delectable treat for all attendees using one of their favorite recipes, preserving their memory through taste. Additionally, families often include recipe cards, allowing others to recreate the dish in their own kitchens. Here is one touching example comes from our friends at Hansen-Spear Funeral Home, where they celebrated a woman’s cherished cookie recipe.

Which personalized funeral example on our list inspired you the most? What are some the unique and interesting ways your funeral home has helped families to personalize services? Please share with us in the comments below.


Related Reading

7 Stories of Individuals Who Preplanned Their Goodbyes in Unexpected Ways
12 Extraordinary Tributes to Cherished Loved Ones
16 Photos that Exemplify the Best of Funeral Service




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