If you want to plan a funeral or celebration of life, but better or different from the usual kind of traditional funeral, you are not alone. If you’re looking for different ways to celebrate a loved one’s life, or if you want to make a unique kind of plan to celebrate your own life when you’re gone, consider these ideas. Let’s look at funeral options for non-traditional individuals.

Black Tie Celebration of Life

Instead of a traditional funeral, let your funeral home take care of the deceased, including the burial at a local cemetery. You can celebrate the life of the one who has died. Whether it is your own celebration you are planning for or a loved one, you can celebrate by renting out evening hours at a local museum or community center. Invite guests to honor your loved one with a formal dinner. 

Celebrate the Style

Celebrate life with an open mic time to share stories about the deceased. Play the deceased’s favorite music and theme the decorations in their style. Serve their favorite foods and plan like you would a wedding with attention to minor details. 

Encourage Memories

Provide cards and encourage guests to write a memory or pastime they enjoyed with the deceased. During the open mic time, encourage guests to come up and read their cards. When finished, ask them to place written cards with a pin onto a “Memory Board” where other guests can read the cards. Encourage guests to spend time reading each other’s cards. Looking at the memories of others can help you all remember well as you celebrate this life that has passed. Take pictures of the posted cards and make a social post with the written memories. 

Create New Memories

You could also hire a digital arts media company to film testimonials from the guests and make a small documentary about the life you celebrate. You could give the company mementos and other information over the next 6 months until they finish the film. Post online for all to continue remembering your loved one.

Encourage all to enjoy themselves at your black-tie event as they remember the life of the deceased. Offer a way to give to a favorite charity while there. You could even host a charity kind of gala.

There is no need to focus on death, only on their life and what they meant to each guest. Life is a gift worth celebrating well. Celebrating a well-lived life with plenty of family and friends gives everyone a chance to remember good times together and have hope for the future.

Environmentally Conscious

Perhaps the deceased felt strongly about keeping the environment clean for future generations. In this case, plan a green celebration. Work with a funeral home that allows for no embalming at all. Ask them which cemeteries allow for green burial. Perhaps hire a coach with horses to pull a wooden casket through cemetery grounds as you process to the burial site.

Plan your ceremony after the burial at an outdoor event area such as a park or someone’s backyard. Consider serving organic food and using recyclables for decorations, plates, and utensils. Ask guests to donate to their favorite environmental charity. 

Have an open mic time to remember the deceased’s life or hire a speaker to talk about a themed idea such as “How to Garden Organically” in honor of the deceased.  If you want to plan who will speak of their memories, you can ask them in advance or leave it open mic for anyone to tell their stories as desired. 

At Home DIY

If you are a do-it-yourself type who would rather handle the details of a loved one’s death on your own, it is not illegal to do so. There are no laws in NC that say a body must be embalmed or buried at a cemetery. According to Nolo, “No laws in North Carolina prohibit home burial, but you should check local zoning rules before conducting a home burial or establishing a family cemetery. You can most likely hold a home burial if you live in a rural area.”

If loved ones own property out in the country, this arrangement might work for you. Consider asking a relative who lives in a rural area if you live in a city. It is possible to host a wake at home, make your own cardboard or wooden casket, and dig a grave on your own piece of property.

1940’s Style

Before funeral homes, wakes were typically held in the home. The Funeral Home would prepare the deceased for the visitation, bring the casket, flowers, and extra seating to the home. The home visitation often became a multi-day party with the family hosting. Since the 1950s, most people have been using a Funeral Home as their place of visitation. If you want to keep the funeral downhome and inexpensive, plan an open door for relatives to come and spend meaningful time at your home or the home of the deceased. Serve food throughout the day or plan to serve at a specific time while allowing guests to come and go within a time window. 

This kind of funeral celebration may work best in a farm or mountain community but not go over as well in a city atmosphere. Remember that a local funeral home can assist you with any details you are not comfortable with on your own. Most funeral homes will do as little or as much as you need.

Incorporate Ancient Traditions of your Ancestors

No matter where your ancestors hail from, your cultural traditions may have interesting facets that got left behind over time. Or perhaps the old ways were put aside when your ancient ancestors moved to a new country. Consider one of these traditions in a celebration of life:

  • Tea Ceremony: “Many cultures consider a tea ceremony one of the best ways to honor someone. Tea ceremonies are usually performed for births, weddings, and other special occasions. But more people are beginning to perform them in lieu of a funeral. Rent a local tea room or community center and have a tea service catered. Ask close family and friends to bring something that symbolizes your loved one. You can create a memorial table (an altar) for the items. Offer prayers and blessings over the altar.” (1)
  • Bead Display in your home with S. Korean food and customs:  “Due to a law in South Korea dictating that buried bodies must be removed after 60 years, cremation is much more common. But as an alternative to scattering or using urns, an increasingly popular trend takes ashes and turns them into shiny blue-green, pink or black beads to be displayed in the home.” (2)
  • Celebrate New Orleans Style: Have a jazz band lead a parade of funeral-goers from the cemetery’s front gate to the burial site. The band may play old hymns or spirituals as everyone walks to the burial area. After the burial, meet up at another location to celebrate life with the jazz band leading with old-style jazz tunes. 

Creating New Traditions

If you want to celebrate in a non-traditional style, consider starting your own traditions. Every tradition started originally from someone’s good idea that others decided to continue. Anything that helps your family come together and remember their loved one well could be a new tradition. 

Any kind of celebration of life or funeral exists to honor and remember the life of the deceased. Whatever you plan, leave time for meaningful interactions between guests. Food, toasts to life, eulogies, ceremonies, and other traditional ways of doing things came from a desire to gather with loved ones and celebrate the life that passed and the legacy left. Use your imagination and your heart to design a gathering suitable for your loved one’s life. Remember their life and honor their memory as it lives on in each guest.

We Can Help

If you need help planning a non-traditional type of celebration for a loved one, or you want to pre-plan your own event, contact us at Renaissance Funeral Home. We understand that you want to honor your loved one with a unique celebration of their life. Each individual deserves loving remembrance in a way that encourages their family and friends to grieve and remember their life well. We create events that allow you to celebrate life while taking care of the details that may be difficult to face. Contact us today and see how we can help you remember your loved one well. 


  1. https://www.joincake.com/blog/funeral-alternatives/
  2. https://www.legalandgeneral.com/life-cover/over-50s/news-and-articles/funerals-cremations-and-burials/funeral-traditions-from-around-the-world/