|It may not be
the ideal venue for all, but funeral homes are now moving into the market
as life celebration event venues. It is not surprising when you consider
that the industry estimates that around 50% of funeral chapel and gathering
facilities are largely stood unused these days, and that many funeral homes
have auspicious yet practical spaces that can easily house community and
From funeral parlor to community
The ability to rent out space
for events is offering a great opportunity for funeral businesses to gain
additional revenue and is being seized by those that have the capacity
to do so. Many average small funeral homes may only conduct 3 – 5
funerals a week, which leaves their chapel unused for significant periods.
Many funeral chapels in the
United States are now being rented out to host weddings, and at a lesser
cost than the same service in traditional wedding chapels. Many rural
funeral homes are often set in their own ‘green space’ offering a picturesque
backdrop for any wedding ceremony. Although some public responses
have been to find the notion of a wedding at a funeral home “creepy”, it
is really no different to the ceremony being held in a church, where newly-weds
may weave their way between headstones to reach the chapel.
The Floreses’ wedding in
December 2010 illustrated this trend - they married at the Community Center
at Washington Park East Cemetery in Indianapolis’ Far Eastside. With
a casket showroom down the hall that and 100,000 gravestones outside in
the 60-acre cemetery, the couple still described their setting as “breath-taking”.
Indeed many funeral facilities
are elaborate, ornate and extensive places with marble floors, polished
wood and impressive flower arrangements.
Flanner and Buchanan Funeral
Homes opened their Community Life Center at Washington Park East Cemetery
in 2001. It initially had a slow start with only 10 weddings per
year, but by 2011 they had 99 weddings preplanned in already with nearly
every Friday, Saturday and Sunday booked.
Creating new revenue streams
– the ‘modern’ funeral home
Those that already have the
facilities to offer banqueting are extending their services to weddings,
school proms, birthday and anniversary parties. Even funeral homes
without extensive chapel or banqueting facilities, are now commissioning
the additional building of life celebration centers in order to expand
Although the death industry
has been considered a stable industry for many years, recent cultural and
economic changes, are affecting revenue for funeral homes today.
With a move away from elaborate ‘traditional’ funerals and the rise in
cremation, it is estimated that funeral homes profit margins are down by
around 27%. A branch of the National Association for Funerals Directors
(NAFD) surveyed members in 2010 and found that around 10% were opening
their funeral facilities to the wider community to host events.
James Olson, who owns a funeral
home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and is a member of the NAFD claims that this
growing trend is as much to do with traditional wedding facilities closing
down, as funeral homes simply moving into a new market. "A lot of (traditional
wedding facilities) are shutting down because of the economy, while we
(funeral homes) aren't going anywhere," he said. "In our community, two
banquet halls closed because of the economy."
As well as offering elaborate
facilities at a fraction of the cost, many funeral homes have more availability
of dates to accommodate a planned wedding, whereas popular wedding venues
may be booked years in advance.
Whereas the Floreses’ chose
to host their wedding indoors at the Community Life Center at Washington
Park East Cemetery, a backdrop of gravestones was not an important aspect
of their service. However, the Community Center do host outdoor services
in a courtyard and have had couples who have chosen to get married near
to where family are buried.
So it is not probably everyone’s
choice, and some family may find it a little ‘spooky’, but certainly the
utilization of funeral chapels and life celebration centers is likely to
become a feature of the changing face of the celebration culture with the
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
homes find new life by hosting other events
Last Revised: 03/06/2013