Laptops, bottles of whisky and mobile phones – welcome to modern funerals and what people ask to be buried with their loved ones.

An article in the Mirror – an interview with a young funeral director – showed that we live in changed times. In years of old, it was common for people to be buried in their Sunday best and perhaps accompanied by a flower. Not so these days, according to Rachel Ryan who works for her family’s firm, Michael G Ryan Son and Daughters Ltd in Newport, Wales.

Ms Ryan – the industry’s youngest female funeral director at the age of 20 – told Wales Online that a number of people she has worked with have asked that their family member be buried with their laptop or mobile phone.

Others have asked that a bottle of spirits – such as whisky or vodka – be added to the coffin. Another modern funeral trend is the use of wicker or cardboard coffins, which people can then write on or stick on post-it notes with a personal message. Wicker and cardboard are environmentally-friendly options because they are biodegradable.

Ms Ryan said her job had given her an appreciation for life – and wanting to live it to the full. She said the best gift anyone can give their family is for those family members to know the person lived a happy and full life.

Funerals have changed considerably in recent years, with a trend to making the event more of a celebration. In Victorian times, mourning had strict rules attached to it, led by the example of Queen Victoria. When her husband Prince Albert died in 1861, Victoria stayed in seclusion for many years.

Following her example, it became usual for families to go through elaborate rituals commemorating their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish (and often expensive) funeral, not going out for a set period of time, and putting up an ornate monument on the grave. There were complicated rules for mourning dress and how long it should be worn. Mourning clothes went from black to grey and mauve over time.

In recent years, people have opted for humanist funerals – i.e. non-religious funerals, and fully biodegradable woodland burials where there are no headstones or markers.

Live jazz bands, bagpipers, Abba, the Beatles and Elvis are taking the place of traditional hymns, while people request that mourners wear football colours that correspond with the deceased’s football team.

Humour is also a feature of modern funerals – a far cry from the solemnity of the Victorian ages. Family anecdotes are often told, and guests are encouraged to share their own funny stories that they remember.

Another trend is the popularity of cremations. In 1930, only 5 percent of funerals were cremations. It currently stands at 70 to 75 percent (80 percent in the greater London area). Apart from the lack of burial sites, one of the reasons for the popularity of cremations might be because you can scatter the ashes in a place that meant something to the deceased – such as a place where they lived, where they liked to walk or where they got married.

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