What is a modern funeral director?

Poppy Mardall preparing a coffin

Three minute read

At Poppy’s, we’re proud of being modern funeral directors, but it’s not always clear what that actually means. Here's why we believe that being modern is all about choices, transparency and trust, not swapping one set of expectations for another.

It’s not about abandoning tradition

The jumping-off point between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ funeral directors can mean different things to different people. A lot of the time, it gets oversimplified to visuals like black top hats versus a leopard print hearse. There’s a sense that being modern means out with the old and in with the new.

But for us, that’s not what being modern is about at all. Traditional funerals are still meaningful for a huge number of people, and we’re always here to help support these families — in the same way we’re here to help with any funeral.

The problem is when friends and family are pushed to make choices that may not have much significance to them. A black hearse is perfect if that’s what you’re hoping for, but it isn’t if you’d rather have a motorcycle sidecar. But people can still feel pressured to accept things they don’t really want because it’s presented as the right thing to do.

In our experience, a good funeral is one that feels meaningful, whether it’s completely original, more traditional or somewhere in between. You can have a formal church ceremony or invite a rock band, the best kind of funeral is simply one that works for you.

Being modern is about choice

Being a modern funeral director is really about being open to choices and making it clear that they’re available. We’ve been honoured to support people who have held funerals on boats, made their own coffins, and conducted a burial in their garden.

It’s also important to recognise that the language of grief doesn’t always have to be confined to ‘modern’ or ‘traditional.’ Funerals are a part of life that usually bring together different generations and people.

It’s absolutely fine to blend ideas and customs — and many people do. You can have a bicycle procession to a formal church service, and you can wear a three-piece suit to a natural burial.

As funeral directors, our job isn’t to tell people what expressing their grief should look like. We’re here to support and guide people as they work through what options to choose.

View our catalogue for more of the options available.

Why we need to talk about death

We believe that full transparency is key to everything we do. In the funeral sector, there’s sometimes the feeling that people need to be protected from the realities of death. Not only is this condescending, it also translates into a real lack of choice for friends and family.

At Poppy’s, we always describe what’s happening in straightforward language without any euphemisms so that people can make informed decisions. The more open we are, the easier it becomes to really explore what feels meaningful.

That also means trusting people to make their own choices and equipping them with the practical tools to make that happen.

In some cases, they may very well not want to get involved but that decision is theirs to make — not one a funeral director assumes on their behalf. This transparent, person-centred care should always be at the heart of our sector.

Ultimately, being a modern funeral director means being responsive to people’s needs by supporting their choices and not dictating them. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether someone wants to play Mozart or Metallica — or both.

What’s important is that friends and family feel confident they’ve had the best possible experience, no matter what that looks like.

Looking for more brilliant ideas? Don't miss why you don't need to embalm and how to throw a funeral planning party.

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