What To Do If You Don't Want A Funeral When You Die

You spend your whole life working hard, planning for the future, and supporting your family. And after putting yourself last for so long, it becomes a habit to focus on everyone else’s needs instead of on your own. But someday, your life will end, and the people you leave behind will have to take care of your final arrangements for you. So it’s really important to plan ahead, making your wishes known so that you never become a burden to those you love the most.

Without any specific guidance, it’s very likely your family will plan a traditional funeral after you’re gone. But what if a traditional funeral isn’t what you really want?

What Are Some Reasons For Not Having A Funeral?

After all, there are many valid reasons why you may not want a funeral after you die. It may be a privacy issue, revolves around expenses and stress or perhaps they aren't religious and would simply rather not have a funeral. Whatever reason you may have in mind, these are your final arrangements so you have every right to have a say in them. Don’t be afraid to tell others exactly what you expect after you’re gone.


If you were a private person in life, it makes total sense to prefer privacy in death too. Being the center of attention is not for everyone, even if it is at your funeral.

So if the thought of people seeing you in an open casket or staring at a huge photo of you next to an urn makes you uncomfortable, be sure to express these feelings to your family members before you pass away. It’s okay to want your privacy in life and when your life ends.


The average cost of a funeral can be upwards of $8000-$10,000 so you may request no funeral solely from a financial standpoint. Whether your family is already struggling to make ends meet or you simply don’t want them to spend that kind of money on a traditional funeral, it is perfectly acceptable to prefer an alternative funeral option.

And even if you have a large life insurance policy or are leaving significant assets behind, you can always request that they spend the money on a family vacation, paying off debt, or saving for retirement instead of paying for a traditional funeral with those funds.

You worked hard to make a living and it’s okay to ask that your family use that money to have fun or get ahead financially during their time of grief.

For more information on planning a funeral without any money, please see this guide: https://www.evrmemories.com/how-to-have-a-funeral-when-you-dont-have-any-money.


The death of a loved one is always a stressful time for those left behind, especially when the death was sudden and unexpected. And funeral planning can add a lot of stress to family members who are still grappling with their loss.

Choosing not to have a traditional funeral because you don’t want to create undue stress on your family is a perfectly reasonable decision. Funeral planning takes a lot of time and energy so feel free to take that stress away from your family if that is what you wish.


Another practical reason for not wanting to have a funeral after you’re gone is if you only have a few close family members and friends. Whether most of them died before you or you were just more of a private person in life, you may choose not to have a traditional funeral because there won’t be that many people in attendance to mourn you.

Not having a huge turnout is a perfectly good reason to skip having a funeral if that’s what you want.


Every family has its share of conflict and having feuding family members at your funeral can certainly affect the entire day. So you may choose not to have a funeral simply to avoid starting additional family conflict. There is nothing worse than having what should be a day about you turning into a day all about them.

And avoiding bad situations and keeping the comfort of your other funeral guests in mind can be a smart thing to do in certain circumstances. It’s a shame but it’s definitely an experience many people have had to deal with.


Forgoing a traditional funeral doesn’t mean you don’t have non-traditional funeral ideas in mind. If a memorial 5k or an alternative funeral at your favorite golf course is a better fit for you, let your family know what activities you would prefer they host instead of a traditional funeral.

If your family knows your wishes ahead of time, it will be easier for them to accept them, plan them, and invite the appropriate guests to participate in the festivities.


Many traditional funerals take place in a church so you may not want to have a funeral simply because you’re not a religious person. It’s also possible that you’re not the same religion as the loved ones you’re leaving behind, and so you’re concerned about their comfort level.

There’s always the option of having a non-religious funeral at a funeral home, but that may not be a great fit for you either. So skipping any type of funeral may be the right decision for you or you may want to look into alternative funeral ideas or a celebration of life.

What Is The Importance Of Making Your Last Wishes Known?

Whatever the reason may be, if you choose not to have a traditional funeral after your death, it’s important to communicate this to your family ahead of time. Many people will make the assumption that they’ll be planning a traditional funeral for you after you die, and they may have conflicting emotions if you don’t wish to have one.

Giving them the time to process your last wishes long before you pass away is important if you want them to be carried out. Being blindsided by unexpected information while they’re grieving, may result in your family ignoring your last wishes and planning a traditional funeral anyway. And you certainly don’t want that to happen after all of your careful consideration and planning. 


Please keep in mind that making your last wishes known is not a selfish act. It’s a gift that reduces the stress placed on your family after your passing. Your last wishes provide them with proper guidance, take away any guesswork, and help them narrow down the options available to them.

Losing someone close to you is always a sad and stressful experience. But you can lessen family stress by providing clear and concise directions for them in an organized format called a legacy binder.

What is a legacy binder?

A legacy binder stores all of the important information your family will need at the time of your death in one convenient location. A legacy binder should include:

  • Your last will and testament
  • Bank and credit card account information including passwords
  • Insurance policies
  • Home deed and auto title
  • Other legal paperwork
  • List of your personal effects and how they should be distributed
  • Your end of life plans

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to legacy binders. Yours will look entirely different from other people’s based on the lifestyle you led. And leaving your last wishes along with all of your legal paperwork makes it easy for your family members to find.

Why do you need a legacy binder?

By creating a legacy binder, you make it much simpler for your family to know exactly what assets you have, where they’re located, and what your specific requests are now that you’re gone. This helps them save a ton of time and energy searching for all of your accounts and wondering what money they have been left to make your final arrangements.

Without a legacy binder, your family will have to make several big decisions for you and your estate, while mourning your loss at the same time. So think of leaving a detailed legacy binder with your end-of-life wishes as a gift for your family just when they need it most.

What Are Some Alternative Ideas To A Traditional Funeral?

Another option to consider including in your legacy binder is a list of alternative ideas to a traditional funeral that your family members can then choose from if they wish. Alternatives to a funeral can include:


Setting up a memorial website is an easy process and the link can be shared with all family members and friends. People can then visit the website to post favorite photos, share memories, light virtual candles, and connect with each other.


Asking for donations to a favorite charity is always a good way to honor a loved one and bless people in your local community at the same time.


A celebration of life is a great alternative to a traditional funeral for many people. Instead of being a sad occasion, guests at a celebration of life are there to fondly remember the deceased and reminisce about the life he or she led.


Many people long to be laid to rest in a beautiful location that made them happy in life. So having your body buried or your ashes scattered at sea may be the perfect option for anyone who feels at peace near the beach.


Having a tree planted in your memory is beneficial for the Earth and the people you leave behind. Your loved ones can visit the tree anytime they want to feel your presence.


Memory photo books bring lasting memories together of favorite holidays, celebrations, vacations, and anniversaries that your loved ones will cherish forever.


Everyone has a favorite location they like to visit so it’s only natural that you would want to rest there for all of eternity. If you don’t wish to be buried in a cemetery, having your ashes scattered in a favorite spot is a wise alternative.


If you supported non-profit organizations in life, it makes perfect sense you would want to continue to support them in any way that you could after you’re gone. Asking family and friends to volunteer is a beautiful request in your honor.

What Do I Need To Know About Planning An Alternative Funeral?

When planning an alternative funeral, there are a few things you need to know. Knowing the location, any guests you'd like invited and the timing of the event can make things significantly easier for the family to plan after you have passed.


You can also include a list of your favorite places in your legacy binder so your family knows exactly where you would like to see them host an alternative to a funeral. Places that are close to nature such as the park, the beach, the mountains or a botanical garden are all great outdoor alternative funeral location ideas.

Some other more creative ideas include aboard a boat, a vacation destination or in the stands of your favorite sports team. You can also host a gathering in a local hall or town tavern or have a backyard bbq in celebration.


Just remember, in their time of grief, your family may also struggle with the guest list for any alternative funeral options. So be clear about who you would like to participate in any memorial services that they plan for you.

From family members to friends and co-workers, there are many people in your life who may want to be included in any event that memorializes your life. You would be surprised by how many people you have touched throughout the years who would like to pay their respects, so take some time creating a list that includes as many of those people as possible.


And there is no right or wrong time for your family to schedule the alternative funeral event. You can leave instructions behind asking them to plan the event quickly after your death, or you may request that they plan it on any date that has a special meaning for you.

Whether it’s your birthday, an anniversary, or your favorite time of year, it is perfectly fine to want your family and friends to remember you at any time after your passing so there is no reason to feel rushed.

What Is A Celebration Of Life?

Whether you choose to have no funeral at all, a traditional funeral, or an alternative funeral, you always have the option of requesting a celebration of life. Unlike a funeral where people go to mourn and pay their respects to the deceased, a celebration of life is a happy occasion.

By having a celebration of life, your closest family members and friends can gather days, weeks, or even months after your passing to celebrate a life well-lived, share special memories, laugh, cry, and enjoy each other’s company.

There are many unique ways to celebrate your life in a cheerful way. And the best ideas involve all of the guests in attendance. You can ask the guests to bring their favorite recipe and create a memorial cookbook. This also allows you to incorporate treasured photos, memories, songs and quotes and include them next to each recipe. It serves not only as a cookbook but as a memorial scrapbook as well.

You can also ask the guests to come together to complete a small home renovation project for the family of the deceased or a local non-profit. This helps guests feel useful and gives them plenty of time to reminisce. Projects such as a memorial garden gives all guests a place to visit and feel close to their loved one. So hand out shovels and plant a beautiful garden in memory of the deceased.

The options are really endless when it comes to honoring the deceased at a celebration of life.

What Are Some Alternative Burial Ideas?

The best part is that there are many burial alternative ideas that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly such as biodegradable caskets and urns, body composting and green burials to name a few. Remember, these burial alternative ideas are not the normal burial most people are accustomed to so they might take some getting used to.


Alkaline hydrolysis is a burial alternative in which the body is cremated using lye and heat inside of a pressurized vessel. Alkaline hydrolysis is an environmentally friendly alternative because it uses only a quarter of the energy and produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than traditional cremation.

Plus, a white ash forms from the breakdown of the bones which can then be given to the family members for use in urns and cremation jewelry or to be scattered outdoors.


There are many biodegradable caskets and urns available on the market today. Biodegradable caskets and urns are made from several sustainable materials such as:

Bamboo - Bamboo is a grass that grows quickly and regenerates itself so it’s a very sustainable option for burials.

Banana leaves - Banana leaves degrade very quickly and have been used throughout history as an eco-friendly packing material.

Cardboard - Cardboard decomposes quickly and produces minimal ash making it a great alternative to traditional caskets.

Cork - Cork is a by-product of the cork oak tree, and it’s completely recyclable.

Cotton - Cotton is a natural fiber that grows on the cotton plant, and it has a low-carbon footprint.

Hemp - Hemp is an incredibly fast-growing plant that can be spun into fibers, and it’s light-weight but very strong.

Rattan - Rattan is a vine-like plant that is used to make natural products because it’s ready to be harvested after growing for only two years.

Seagrass - Seagrasses are sturdy flowering plants that grow underwater and are a completely renewable resource.

Teak - Teak is a hardwood that is sustainably grown on regulated plantations and is naturally resistant to pests.

Tree bark - Tree bark is the outer layer of a tree that is continuously renewed, and it’s both durable and biodegradable.

Willow - Willow trees reach maturity in just a few years and they also regrow very quickly making them a great option for natural burials.

Wool - Wool comes from shearing sheep so it’s an all-natural product that does not pollute the Earth.

No matter which option you choose, you can feel good about using materials that are both Earth-friendly and affordable.


Body composting is the same process that you would use to create compost for your garden. The body is placed inside a vessel with other organic materials and rotated occasionally over a period of several weeks.

Just like coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, and vegetable peels, the body decomposes naturally to create soil which can then be used in gardens and yards.


Green burials are a traditional burial alternative you may also want to consider. Unlike during a traditional burial, the body is not embalmed with toxic chemicals and put in a coffin during a green burial.

Instead, the body is left in its natural state or embalmed with a nontoxic agent, wrapped in a biodegradable shroud made of linen, cotton, wool, or silk, and then buried underground.


Another interesting burial alternative idea is a sea burial. During a sea burial, the body can be buried at sea in a biodegradable shroud with steel chains or an approved casket such as a metal casket with holes drilled into the sides.

For cremains, a biodegradable urn can be dropped into the ocean or the ashes can be scattered at sea.


Sky burials are perhaps the most unique of the burial alternative ideas. During a sky burial, the body is laid outside in the wild to decompose naturally with the aid of vultures and other scavenger animals.

Sky burials are a Tibetan and Native American custom and certainly are an interesting choice. However, they are not currently legal in the United States, so your family may have some difficulty arranging a sky burial for you in another country.

What Are Some Alternative Ideas To Using The Cremated Ashes?

If you go the cremation route, you have many alternative options when it comes to your using cremains other than just having them scattered.


One such option for ash alternatives is incorporating your ashes into a piece of art or pottery. There are many artists who use cremains to create beautiful pieces of art such as paintings, paperweights, marbles, globes, and beads.

And your ashes can also be used in the creation of pottery such as vases, pots, and even dinnerware. Just think, you could always be present at all of the family gatherings in the future.


If you like to be the center of attention while living, you may want to consider having your cremains turned into fireworks after you pass. The most meaningful thing about cremation fireworks is that you can put on a beautiful fireworks display for your entire family to enjoy while thinking about how much you touched all of their lives.

Surprisingly, cremation fireworks start out at incredibly affordable prices so it is likely you’ll be able to find one in your price range.


One of the most popular ashes alternative ideas is turning your ashes into a beautiful piece of jewelry or storing the ashes in a cremation urn. You can even request that each of your family members select their own favorite style of jewelry to hold your cremains before you die.

If you are buying a cremation urn for the first time, please refer to this guide for helpful advice: https://www.evrmemories.com/what-are-the-different-types-of-urns/.


If you love everything about the ocean and sea life, one of the most interesting ash alternative ideas is to turn your cremains into an eternal reef. Eternal reefs are artificial coral reefs that are made from human cremains and environmentally friendly concrete.

The best part is that they are then placed into the ocean to support wildlife and provide a refuge for smaller fish.


Another interesting idea is turning your ashes into a custom piece of furniture. Craftsmen who manufacture Polywood furniture out of recycled milk jugs or granite can include your cremains in a custom furniture piece.

So you can actually arrange to have your ashes become a gift for family members after you pass. Furniture pieces can include a memorial bench, Adirondack chairs, or a table. 


Have you always been fascinated with outer space? A memorial spaceflight may be just the opportunity that you’ve been waiting for.   

With a memorial spaceflight, you can actually send your ashes to be scattered in space and there are several destinations to choose from.


Many people get meaningful tattoos after a loved one passes, but now you can actually have your cremains included in a memorial tattoo. Tattoo artists can mix your cremains with tattoo ink and give your loved ones a permanent reminder of how special you are to them.

Memorial tattoos can include your face, name, special dates, favorite quotes, or other artistic renderings of what mattered most to you in life.


A favorite ashes alternative idea for nature lovers these days is to become a beautiful tree. After your passing, your family can add your ashes to a tree urn kit and plant a memorial tree in your honor.

There are many types of trees to choose from, and you can also have a custom engraved memorial stone made and placed under your tree.


Are you a huge music lover? Consider turning your ashes into a vinyl record. 

Your cremains will be stamped into vinyl to create a custom record that can include a recording of a personal message, a soundtrack of your favorite songs, or even audio tracks from the videos on your phone.

What Are Memorial Keepsakes?

Even if you don’t want a funeral, you most certainly want to be remembered. And asking your family members to create memorial keepsakes after you're gone is a sure way to guarantee that they will remember you always. There are several different options for you to choose from.


Cremation jewelry keeps your loved ones close to your heart. There are so many modern styles available for purchase, and you can even select between gold, white gold, rose gold, silver, glass, and stainless steel.

Each of the necklaces, bracelets, rings, and accessories serves as an urn for a loved one’s ashes. And ash jewelry makes a great gift idea for anyone close to the deceased so you can always request that certain people in your life receive one.


Another great memorial jewelry option is fingerprint jewelry. Fingerprint jewelry comes in many styles and is engraved with your loved ones’ fingerprint. Some styles also hold ashes or are created using ashes.

Learn more about custom engraving & buying guide on fingerprint jewelry at https://www.evrmemories.com/custom-engraving-a-fingerprint/.


Memorial portraits make a great decor piece for funerals, celebrations of life, and home use. Created from a photo of your loved one, they are made to look like an oil painting with brush strokes and all.

Plus, memorial portraits can be a beautiful accent to a portrait gallery wall and can be passed down through the generations. Your descendants will be able to feel you close by when they have your portrait in their homes. 


Photo engraved jewelry gives you the opportunity to see your loved one and remember them each and every day. Once you select the perfect photo, it will be engraved onto a stylish dog tag, necklace, or keychain of your choosing.

You even have the option of having a special message, quote, or memory engraved onto the back. Picking out a photo, a piece of jewelry, and your favorite quote or personal message beforehand will ensure that all of your loved ones receive a special gift after your passing.


Your family can also purchase a package of memorial keepsakes so that all of your close family members and friends can have something to remember you by. 

Memorial package ideas include the larger keepsakes like urns and memorial portraits as well as smaller keepsakes like:

  • Customized magnets
  • Keepsake box 
  • Memorial coins
  • Personalized bookmarks
  • Photo engraved keychains
  • Initial keychains

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do instead of a funeral?

You have many options available to you instead of having a traditional funeral after you pass away. You may simply request no funeral at all or you may ask loved ones to host a celebration of life or a memorial service instead. You can also leave instructions for burial alternatives such as scattering your ashes, remaining in an urn in your home, or having your ashes included in jewelry, trees, or fireworks.

Can you refuse to have a funeral?

You can certainly refuse to have a funeral after you pass away by requesting no funeral service in your will. However, last wishes may not be legally binding, so you will want to make sure that your wishes are clearly communicated to the executor of your will before you pass away as they will be responsible for making the final decision after you’re gone.

Is it selfish to not want a funeral after I'm gone?

It is not a selfish act to request not to have a funeral after you pass away. There are many reasons why you may not want to have a funeral and any of them are valid. You deserve to have any send-off that you wish for, so don’t be afraid to share your last wishes with your family openly and honestly.

How do you pay respects when there is no funeral?

There are many options available when it comes to paying your respects when there is no funeral for the deceased. Creating a memorial keepsake for your loved one, visiting a place he or she loved, designing a memorial website, lighting a candle, or making a donation in his or her name are just a few examples of how to pay respects to someone when a funeral is not arranged. Getting together with other close family members and friends to share memories is also a great way to pay your respects and say goodbye.

How do I get closure without a funeral?

It is possible to get closure even when there’s no funeral for a loved one who’s passed away. The most important first step is to ask yourself what you can do to accept your loss, to start the grieving process, and then to move forward with your life. Many people find comfort in praying, visiting a spot that had special meaning for their loved one, speaking with a professional, or spending time with others who were close to the deceased. 

Is it okay to not have a funeral service?

It is perfectly okay to request no funeral after your death or to not arrange a funeral for a loved one who did not want one. Although some people may be upset by the lack of a traditional funeral, the wishes of the deceased should be followed when at all possible.

Should we skip a funeral if the famiily does not get along?

Arranging a traditional funeral is not mandatory, so some people may choose to skip having a funeral if the family does not get along with one another. The end-of-life wishes of the deceased should be taken into consideration, but families can always choose to arrange a non-traditional funeral or have no funeral at all.

What are my options if my deceased loved one does not want a funeral?

If your deceased loved one doesn’t want a funeral you should do your best to honor their wishes. Consider arranging a non-traditional funeral, memorial, or celebration of life if that was what he or she wanted. It’s also a nice gesture to create keepsakes for close family members and friends, to plant a tree, or to volunteer or donate to a favorite organization of the deceased.

Can you scatter ashes anywhere?

While you can scatter the ashes on your own property or other private property with the permission of the owner, some public properties have restrictions in place in regards to scattering ashes. For example, scattering ashes at sea is allowed but only if it’s 3 nautical miles or more from shore. So it’s always best to check local laws before you decide to scatter ashes in a public setting.

Does there have to be a ceremony if you scatter ashes?

While a ceremony can certainly be nice for the family members and friends in attendance, there is no requirement for a ceremony to take place prior to scattering ashes. The best thing to do is honor the wishes of the deceased and allow people to say goodbye, share a memory, or say a prayer if they choose.

Saying Farewell Your Way

No matter what you decide from a traditional funeral, burial, or scattering of ashes, or any of the alternate options available to you today, it’s important to make sure that the last wishes you leave behind for your family are clear and concise. 

Organizing them in a legacy binder helps your family make important decisions about your arrangements without undue stress during their time of mourning. Remember, it is perfectly okay to request no funeral or any of the alternative ideas in this list. All that matters is that you communicate your end-of-life plans so that your wishes are well-known and honored by those you leave behind.

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June 10, 2021 by Frances Kay