The New Pioneers

Part of what I’ve always done is watch the trends.  I wasn’t the first to put a crematory in my funeral home, but I did see the trends and was the first in my county to do so.  I also wasn’t the first funeral home to add staff to concentrate on preneed funeral planning and pre-financing. . .but, I was probably the first in my area to do that in a big way and use cable television, radio, and newspaper to promote the idea.  I also think that moving forward with those “trends at the time” showed the public that we would be up-to-date on how we can minister to their needs at the time of loss.  And, I think that thought process by the consumer continues to work in favor of our funeral home as one who is “with the times”.

I now think it is the time where funeral homes need to get in front of the trend of funeral celebration companies or risk losing market share on the event side of the death care business to them. . . . .

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

On Tuesday of this week I went to morning coffee with two of my golfing buddies. . . who both happen to go to the same church as I do.  They also both happened to be “Hockey dads” who when our boys were younger played on the same team as my son.  I told them that I had had a discussion with our community’s director of tourism and he told me that youth hockey tournaments, a staple of the winter tourism trade in our little community, are having a hard time filling the team slots because hotels do not have vacancies for the teams to stay at.  And, this is after the community has just added our 3rd indoor arena with funds now being raised for a 4th arena.

Now, our community trade area is the county with a population of about 40,000 people and sits virtually halfway between Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota — about 100 miles from each – easily reached from both via interstate highway.  We have always had our abundance of pine trees, lakes, resorts, and now we have added a variety of . . . wedding venues.  The tourism director pointed out that the community is becoming a very popular “wedding venue” destination because of that proximity to those cities.  In essence, our proximity and venues allow for cost-effective “Destination Weddings”. . . and they fill up all the hotel rooms months in advance.

My golfing buddies said, “Well, that’s just a fad isn’t it?”  I had my iPad at the Caribou Coffee shop (that’s another story for another day — you have your Starbucks, in Minnesota we have our Caribou) and pulled up this graphic of church attendance and membership trends.


Before writing this story on Thursday morning I asked my wife, “When was the last church wedding we went to?”  Quite frankly, we could not think of it – it may be five years ago.  A niece and a nephew had weddings lately and they were both out-of-state at destination sites. . . . friends of our boy’s have recently been married — all at destination sites — some in our community, some outside of the community.

My take to the funeral profession on this wedding destination trend?  Get ready, I think it will be happening in the death care business faster than you think.  I think there are a lot of reasons that this will happen. . . here’s a couple:

  • As we age, become infirmed, and live longer, senior adults may be much less active in their churches.  They may move into age-appropriate living complexes that may be away from the home church community.  This eventually pulls them away from that church tradition.
  • There are less small churches.  Being a Pastor of a large congregation requires more of a business-like skill-set.  Not that it is right, but these pastors don’t necessarily get to know young people (for church weddings) like they used to, nor do they have the opportunity to visit older people and build that relationship that fosters a church funeral.  It’s just a fact — ministry is only a portion of a pastor’s duties today.
  • There is the fact that membership in the churches that are operating is declining.  For people that don’t have a church. . . . traditions such as traditional funeral home services or church services are no longer a hurdle that has to overcome family objections in planning their own memorial at a different location.
  • Consumers may look for a low-price point for the disposition of the body. . . generally direct cremation — and we are seeing those online direct cremation with no services companies being established in every community.  Consumers then may look elsewhere to have a Memorial/Remembrance/Celebration.  That “elsewhere” may be a “venue” or “planner” that solicits these non-traditional funeral/cremation clients.  In essence, the competition for not only the disposition of the body will be greater, but the competition for the remembrance/celebration services will be greater.

Here’s an idea of what those companies will look like.  These two pioneers, Sendoff and Lighten, are already operating in the Minneapolis and Chicago markets respectively:

Sendoff – Funerals Reimagined

Lighten — Hold a celebration worthy of their life

Related —  There’s a new way to cremate and memorialize loved ones.  Envoi Cremation.  Cision PR Newswire

Envoi Cremation website

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1 Comment

  1. Chad Wittman on December 9, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Fantastic analysis per usual 👏

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