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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 04:54 GMT 05:54 UK
Drinkers asked to plan funerals
An Oxford councillor wanted a bicycle-drawn hearse
An Oxford councillor wanted a bicycle-drawn hearse
Britons are being urged to talk more about their funerals, to make sure the service reflects their life.

Co-operative Funeralcare is sending special "last orders" beer mats across the UK to encourage people to talk about their funerals over a pint.

The mats are being sent to pubs in 21 cities across the country.

The company said surveys had suggested that half of all mourners felt funerals they had attended did not adequately reflect the individual's life.

It has suggested personal touches including choosing pop songs instead of hymns, releasing doves, using a motorcycle hearse or donning football colours for the ceremony.

After a couple of pints, people say things they don't really mean
Adam Heath, National Association of Funeral Directors
It will produce an information booklet with some of the best ideas it receives.

"It's a subject area that a lot of people don't want to think about until it happens," a company spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"A lot of people are not aware of the options that are available. Hopefully this will get people to be more open."

She said it was important to mourners that funerals encapsulated the life of the person to whom they were bidding farewell.

A survey conducted for the Co-op in 2000 found there was a growing appetite for custom-made ceremonies.

Some of those surveyed suggested having gangland-style funeral processions, or mixing their ashes with gunpowder for a fireworks display.

It also found most people wanted mourners to wear bright-coloured clothes instead of black.


Adam Heath, from the National Association of Funeral Directors, said it "seemed like a strange idea" to try and foster conversations about death at a pub.

Motorcycle-hearses or horse-drawn hearses
Gangland-style funeral processions
Hiring New Orleans-style jazz bands
Mixing ashes with gunpowder for fireworks show
Putting part of the ashes in lockets for loved ones to carry
"After a couple of pints, people say things they don't really mean. I know I do," he said.

But he agreed people needed to talk more with relatives and friends about what they wanted from their own funerals.

He said horse-drawn hearses and handmade coffins were becoming increasingly popular in services.

David Kaye, editor of the Funeral Services Journal, said being more open about one's wishes would ease the burden on those left behind.

"It's always been the problem that someone dies and the family is left worrying about whether they'll organise the right kind of service," he said.

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