Funeral Planning

Six unique memorials you can plan for yourself

Once your body’s cold in the ground, how do you want to be remembered? You’ve pretty much relinquished control at this point, but there are things you can do to help people remember you the way you want.

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Six unique memorials you can plan for yourself
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Once your body’s cold in the ground, how do you want to be remembered? You’ve pretty much relinquished control at this point, but there are things you can do to help people remember you the way you want.

Some people may just want a last goodbye getting lowered into the ground or rolled back into the depths of the crematorium. If you'd rather have a longer-lasting legacy, there are unique memorials you can consider. Here are six unique ways you can let the world know who you were.

1.  Gravestones and plaques

As a concept, it's not exactly groundbreaking, but bear with me here. Have you ever thought about your epitaph? Spike Milligan did, with a headstone that reads "Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite," meaning "I told you I was ill” in Irish. 

I want to tell you that your imagination is the only barrier to the gravestone or memorial garden plaque you can have. Alas, there are rules about these things, which can get pretty strict.

Before deciding which piece of wit or wisdom you want engraving, you need to choose where you'll be laid up forevermore. Then, check what the rules are at the cemetery. Some cemeteries won't let you add a nickname or an "x" for a kiss.

In Church of England burial grounds, the last say usually goes to the local vicar. The Catholic Church doesn't have set rules, so priests decide what's appropriate. Inscriptions at local government burial grounds can be objected to by the local bishop, but no reasons are given in the 1977 Local Authorities' Cemeteries Order.

Rule of thumb: If you want a risqué or comical gravestone, plan ahead of time.

Obvious as it sounds, remember that your words are quite literally set in stone. You'll pay roughly £700-2000 for a gravestone, so be sure you know what you're doing and aren't upsetting anyone!

2.  Urns for ashes

Who said your ashes have to sit in a carved jar for eternity? Yes, you can choose to have them scattered, and some people go to great lengths to send ashes of their loved ones around the world to be thrown into the wind.

If that’s not your bag, or you want to be front and centre in your family living room for years to come, you can get an urn made. There’s nothing special about urns for ashes – it’s a simple container.

Consider commissioning a local artist to make you an urn. It could reference your favourite sports team, hobby, place, any design you want is possible with the right artist. Materials you can choose from include: 

  • Wood
  • Ceramic
  • Stone
  • Resin

Anything that’s not porous and can seal properly should do the job.

3.  Memorial jewellery

If it can adorn a body as jewellery, there's a way to add your dead self to it. You can do some things, like engraving your handwriting or fingerprint into gold or silver whilst you're alive. You can even add a lock of hair into a glass or resin to make jewellery from.

If you want your ashes made into jewellery, you'll need to plan in advance, pay upfront, choose the design, and leave instructions for those left behind.

What's essential when you splash out on memorial jewellery is remembering to put it in your will. The right person needs to get what you’ve organised for them!

4.  Sports memorials

This idea can spam a whole gamut of things. It sprung to mind because my football team displays all their fans who died that year at the last home game of the year. I got my mum's name up there since she was a lifelong fan.

You might not be able to predict when you’re going to go, but you can still plan something along these lines. You could request your local team do a minute’s silence or cheer the week you go, or retire your jersey number if you were a respected team member.

Adding a plaque or paying for a bench at your local cricket or bowls club will have people thinking about you for years to come. Bequeathing some money to the local rugby team could get their clubhouse named after you. Donate some chess sets to your local chess club, and they might name a competition after you.

5.  Scholarships

It might be out of a lot of people’s price range, but it’s worth considering. You don’t have to leave money to cover someone’s fees for Eton, but you could leave prize or scholarship money for a local school.

Attaching your name to a scholarship fund could be a nice touch, but you don’t have to. Be aware of the legalities if you do have cash available – you might need to set up a trust fund, and be sure the executors of your will are prepared with the details.

A former pupil at my high school left £2,000 to the school to give out as prizes for public speaking over ten years. I was a lucky recipient of one such prize, which went towards buying some books, and I'll always be grateful. It's a lovely legacy to leave behind.

6.  Party time

One last shindig might be all the legacy you need to leave. The level of planning you put into this will depend on how soon you think you’re going to die. If you’re terminally ill, you can consider sitting down with a party planner or even just the owner of your local pub or club and setting out what you want and paying for it.

Like to plan just in case? Write a wish list as detailed as you like and give it to a few people. Leave a lump of cash in your will to cover the costs and let the party roll.

It doesn’t have to be the wake of your funeral – you can have the party at a set time after you’re gone, maybe on what would have been your birthday or the year anniversary of you heading off.

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