Up until the last few years, it has been traditional to hold a funeral or memorial service in a crematorium chapel or a church.
The venue of the service is usually chosen by the family, and it is fair to say that many people are not aware that these services can be held at surf and other clubs, parks and halls. Many of these establishments are becoming more amenable to having coffin in place services on their premises.
The final choice for the service is a personal one and many families prefer the traditional way of saying farewell to a loved one in a chapel. If a religious service is required, then the service is usually held in a church but can be also be held in a chapel with a priest or minister officiating. I wrote this blog to provide some thoughts and information on the various venues available.
Parks of course are a wonderful choice for a service. I have conducted and assisted with services at some wonderful outdoor areas but the drawback here is bad weather. I’ve conducted services at wineries both in Tasmania and NSW, a beautiful Buddhist hall in Newtown, clubs in the Sutherland Shire and in people’s homes.
These services have been memorable for many reasons. Firstly, the family and the celebrant are not under the usual time constraints that exist at crematorium chapels. Most Sydney chapels allow for a 45 minute service, which includes the time taken for people to come in and out of the chapel. Some chapels in the Illawarra allow about an hour for the whole service. Although the family don’t want a service to go for too long, it is comforting when they know they don’t have to rush through a service or limit the number of speakers.
But the main advantage as I see it is the atmosphere created by having the service in such venues. One service that comes to mind was conducted at a surf club. The sun was shining and the views over the beach were spectacular. During the service a few whales could be seen as they travelled north. This just made the day a little bit easier to bear because people were in a pleasant and peaceful place.
The same gentle atmosphere was experienced by those who attended a memorial service at a winery on a cold day in Hobart. The fire was blazing, there were tables set up with photos of the lady who had died, as well as some of her amazing craft work. People were provided with glasses of wine or champagne to sip while the ceremony took place. It was a great celebration of life.
Of course, this is not to say that chapel services cannot be uplifting and true celebrations. They can, and I have also conducted many such services. I’ve danced with family members to Suzi Quattro and Johnny O’Keefe and sang favourite football songs. Caskets have been adorned with special mementos belonging to the person who has died. One gentleman’s casket arrived at the chapel on a Harley Davidson!
I ensure that each service is unique and personal, no matter what the venue. As I said, this blog provides some information on alternatives for celebrating a loved one’s life. And that is the most important aspect of any funeral or memorial service.