Death comes to all of us, but funeral homes are doing more to customize the final farewell.
Maybe it's a poker party. Or a logo on a casket. Or a service in a unique setting.
Whatever it is, funeral homes facing challenging times realize that many families consider the traditional service mundane and overpriced. More of those families are choosing cremation rather than a funeral. The future of funeral homes might depend on showing loved ones other options.
The $15 billion U.S. funeral home industry is expected to grow more slowly than the national economy — 1.5 percent a year vs. 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to an analysis this month by IBISWorld, a global market research company.
To counter that, they are offering customized caskets or urns — for example, highlighting military service or a favorite sports team. They also are willing to go out of their way to personalize the funeral.
Serenity Funeral Home & Cremation, outside Fort Lauderdale, put on a poker party to honor someone who loved the game.
Other funeral homes have ditched traditional services for ones on golf courses — or in restaurants, in gardens, on the beach or at sea.
"We do what the family wants us to do. We find a lot of creative ways to help them," said Brad Zahn, director of the Tillman Funeral Home in West Palm Beach.
"People are concerned about money," Zahn said. But they also want to provide a memorable send-off to loved ones. "They want more individualistic, less cookie-cutter type of services."
Jack Hagin, president of Brooks Cremation and Funeral Services in Fort Lauderdale, recalls one service when about a dozen people rented a yacht and sipped the loved one's favorite gin.
"It was 5 p.m. — cocktail time," he said.