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"Traditional" is What Your Family Wants

Funerals are as varied as the people they honor. That is the long and short of it. That is also what sometimes drives consumer advocates to fits of anger when they hear people talking about “traditional funerals” or see life insurance advertisements grimly announcing the cost of “today’s average funeral.”

A funeral should be personalized to the person it is honoringThe truth is that the adjectives “traditional” and “average” simply do not apply to funerals today – except when used by charlatans in the funeral trade who are out to convince you to part with more money than you need or want to spend.

Funerals today do not have to follow the three part formula (high cost visitation period followed by an elaborate chapel service and yet another ceremony at the cemetery) that funeral directors seem to assume that every family relishes. In fact, when one considers the simple funerals of days gone by (quiet ceremonies near grave sites in the country just before a body is buried in a plain wood coffin), it’s apparent that the “traditional” and “average” funerals of today have evolved largely because of the funeral industry’s drive for excessive profits. As funeral directors emerged as a profession in America, they saw that, by convincing families to host their formerly grave-side ceremonies indoors, they could charge large fees for the rental of their chapels. That, of course, would lead to additional revenue opportunities: the hearse and limousines for transportation to the grave site, the arranging of the flowers, an elaborate casket to match the pristine chapel décor, and the list goes on. And, then, funeral directors found, the visitation leads to even more income: rental of the room, charges for uses of restroom and lounge facilities, and, in some cases, even parking lot use fees. All of this and, cemetery owners were relieved to find, families did not neglect the traditional grave-side service – in fact, they were willing to pay more than ever for it. Profit motives are, indeed, at the heart of what “traditional” and “average” has come to mean in funerals today.

There is no law - or even real “tradition” - that requires families to partake in all of the services that a funeral home wishes to sell. In fact, today it’s common for a free spirited person to request that his Arranging a memorial service taylored to a loved one can bring peace in grievingbody be disposed of quickly and unceremoniously followed by a fun-filled celebration of his life (often complete with alcohol, food and music) at a private residence with friends and family. Funeral directors find this type of funeral least profitable, of course, so it is not yet “traditional” in their vocabulary. Nevertheless, these funerals are common – and often very uplifting.

Still others are less adventurous and desire a respectful and dignified funeral in a religious setting – but they simply do not have the money to pay for an “average” funeral. These people often leave a funeral director’s office feeling intimidated and ashamed to have asked for the “bare minimum” funeral. But, the fact is, even people who can afford more often ask for the “bare minimum,” too.

An old saying applies to funerals as much as it does to any other area of life: Poor people are poor because they act like rich people, and rich people are rich because they act like poor people.

Never feel pressured into paying for a funeral service that you simply do not want or need.

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