Another new concept. . . can it catch on?

Only a couple of weeks ago Funeral Director Daily published an article entitled “Is an Event Center in your business future”.  I thought it was a fairly innocuous article about the growth of “event centers” and their potential as an off-site component of a retail death care business — both for direct cremation firms and highly traditional firms.

Quite surprisingly to me, the author of that article, I received lots of feedback.  At least from what I heard, it turns out that there are many in our profession who think event centers are the next coming thing. . . . and there are many in our profession, some whom have tried the idea, who think they are a real easy way for funeral homes to lose lots of money.

I’ve read the comments and I continue to believe, from experience and recent trends, funeral/memorial/celebration events in the death care realm will continue to grow at non-traditional sites — that is sites that are not considered churches and funeral homes.  For instance, in my community of a service population of about 40,000 people, we have held services at vineyards, wedding event chapels, Bible camps – including both outdoor and indoor services, 5-Star hotel ballrooms, and even at my golf club.  I think growth in those sites for remembrance services will continue to grow.

Here’s a few things that I think I learned from the feedback.  First of all, an events center for “Remembrance Events” needs to be more than about Death Care only.  It needs to be “wholistic” enough in function so that it can attract weddings, anniversary parties, and possibly even business events.  And by being “wholistic” I would suggest that it have separate areas for services, gatherings (such as dances), meals, and maybe more.  I found that “one big room” doesn’t really cut it. . . . a wedding party would like the wedding in one part of the venue and the reception and/or dance in another part. . . . and the same goes for Remembrance events — families would prefer to be ushered out of the service setting into another portion of the venue for the reception.

An outdoor service at Luther Crest Bible Camp

I also found that you probably need to spend enough in the construction and amenities of the facility so that it can attract even the most discriminating wedding parties.  Unless you are a 500 call funeral home or more it will probably be difficult to cash-flow the enterprise with only Remembrance events. . . . . so you have to be able to compete and attract even the most discriminating wedding party.

Food is another variable that is a determining factor by many.  And, if you don’t have your own fabulous reputation for your food, you need to have agreements with the best restaurants and/or caterers to help attract the non-Remembrance events.

Finally, I learned that a potential builder and owner of an event center should not take for granted zoning issues.  In your community an event center will probably be zoned differently than a “specific use” building such as a funeral home.  Two main differences might be the number of parking spaces and the number of restroom facilities required for an event center in comparison to a funeral home requirement.

So, that lead up brings me to a new Death Care business that I discovered in the Chicago area.  Lighten, whose website you can access here, appears to be a direct cremation business that then moves in a creative way to offer highly choreographed Remembrance Services held in different locations.

It appears that Lighten does not have their own event center but rents out locations that fit a family’s Remembrance Service wishes.  For instance their website lists services such as a “Backyard Memorial” or “The Big Screen” where it appears they hold the service at a rented movie theater, or “The Gatsby” where the service is held in Chicago’s Stan Mansion, or “The Art Connoisseur” where the service is held at Lincoln Park’s Floating World Gallery. . . . and the list goes on and can probably be as creative as the family or the the family counselors at Lighten can imagine.

So, it appears to me that Lighten has taken Direct Cremation – for which their website states they charge $1,250 – and is hoping to customize these cremations into a higher margin service by offering unique Remembrance packages without the high overhead of their own event center.   If that is possible and successful that throws all kinds of ideas into the event center concept. . . . For instance, can you be creative in building these type of services in your own event center?

I think Lighten could be a trend setting Death Care business to watch.

Here is an article on Lighten Founder and CEO Alexandra Koys from Suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper.

RelatedHere is an article on a Service Corporation International (SCI) funeral home in Tampa that opened a Speakeasy themed hospitality room a year ago.

RelatedFuneral directors in Ireland report “crazy trend” as business “completely changed”.  The Irish Mirror (Ireland)

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