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Putting the 'fun' in funeral: Local celebration of life planners see uptick in business

Last Updated May 21, 2019 at 7:14 am PDT

(Courtesy Bright Ideas Events)

Flashy, end-of-life gatherings are becoming more popular than traditional funerals, local business owner says

'People are bringing more aspects of the individual physically into the event,' celebration of life planner explains

People are getting more creative with how they deal with the remains of loved ones

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s your final party, so why not make it a memorable one?

Following celebrity trends toward large, flashy end-of-life gatherings instead of more traditional funerals, some local celebration of life planners say they have never been busier.

“They are tremendously popular. I’ve been doing more celebrations of life now than ever before in my 32 years in business,” says Sharon Bonner with Bright Ideas Events in Vancouver.

“I’m also finding that people are becoming more involved in their own celebration of life before, uh … before the event happens, I guess you could say,” she says with a chuckle.

Bonner has had a hand in planning some interesting gatherings to celebrate loved ones, recently.

“One that sticks out in my mind is a gentleman who was passing on and really wanted to celebrate his love for Harley Davidsons. So what we did was we brought in his Harley right into the middle of the celebration of life. We drove it in and it was loud.”

The motorcycle roared in past a display of dozens of his Harley Davidson T-shirts that people could also get up close to, adding another tactile way to remember the man.

“And I actually insist on everyone leaving a celebration of life with a little piece of the person,” Bonner adds. Not literally, of course, but a memento.

“With the Harley Davidson gentleman? He loved baking cookies — loved it — so we gave people three of his favourite cookie recipes rolled up in a scroll as they departed the celebration of life.”

Bonner also recently planned a celebration of a life for an avid golfer, complete with live, table-top grass and tees to hold the appetizers.

“People are bringing more aspects of the individual physically into the event and creating a theme and decor around the person, more so than just using typical linens, tables and flowers that we saw in the past, along with the video of the person,” she explains. “That’s gone now. You’re actually seeing things like this man’s golf sweaters hung up with his other stuff and people could touch it. It’s just more interactive than the old audio-visuals.”

People are also getting more creative with how they deal with the remains of their loved ones.

“There have been some strange ones where people are bringing in the ashes in various vessels, shapes and containers. They’re also releasing them in odd places. I find it very odd,” she says.

“I remember being at an event and saying ‘Oh, what a beautiful fish sculpture. When did we get that?’ The ashes were in the fish. It caught me off guard because it just looked like a piece of decor.”

Bonner says no matter what, the celebrations are about giving people one more chance to connect with a loved one.

“People want to pay their respects in a celebratory way but I think they want to have a personal relationship with the experience. They want to leave thinking about the golfer and all the great times they’ve had with him — the trips and the beers. So bring that experience to the event. Let your guests take away a memory of how great their relationship was with that departed one.”

Bonner says it may seem strange, but she believes it is a good idea to discuss a celebration of life ahead of time and plan well for that final bow.

“Then we just put it away and we use it in the future if necessary. Well … when necessary I guess,” she laughs. “I know it sounds odd but it’s not. I make it fun.”

She really does try to put the fun in funeral.