The idea of getting married or having a corporate event in a funeral home may seem bizarre for most people, but funeral homes aren’t just for funerals anymore. Businesses that once focused almost entirely on honouring the dead are now starting to open to an array of events as they seek to add revenue.
Although the funeral industry has been considered a stable industry for many years, recent cultural and economic changes, are affecting revenue for funeral homes today. Funeral businesses are saying they’re being squeezed as more people favour simpler, less expensive funeral services.
“Independent funeral homes need to find new ways to keep growing”, said Peter Erceg, Owner and Founder, eziFunerals. “People aren’t as religious as they once were … and their attitudes toward death are changing. Younger generations are also growing up without the same stigma toward death that their parents and grandparents had”, he says.
“Funeral homes used to be seen for one reason: to have a funeral. Now they can be used for all kinds of things.” However his theory comes with a caveat: “The site should have some separation between the wedding and funeral businesses, because there’s a cultural taboo against mixing death too closely with weddings, which often are about birth and the starting of families.”
Photo: Courtesy of Wooling Hill Estate.
Despite their growing openness to holding various events, funeral directors don’t have to replace their main business. These funeral homes promote the concept of multi-purpose function centres with consumer friendly facilities. Not only have these funeral homes seen their facilities used more often and profitable, but they have been able to grow market share for funeral services by having the rooms available.
We recently spoke to Troy and Liddy Upfield, Owners of Chapter House Funerals and Wooling Hill Memorial Estate. Their memorial estate can host weddings and funerals. The versatility of this business helps with their main line of work. Even when people are looking into holding services for a deceased loved one, they’re opting more for celebrations of life.
“Our clients are able to book full catering and bar services. Wooling Hill Estate is considered one of the most historic proprieties in the Macedon Ranges. It consists of 16 hectares of lawns, mature trees and shrubs, with six lakes and other water features. Plans are already underway by Wooling Hill to rejuvenate the gardens and waterfalls, a new Chapel, Arts and Culture Centre, which are ideal for weddings and private events”, says Troy and Liddy.
Photo: A beautiful service conducted at Wooling Hills Estate by funeral directors Chapter House Funerals around Lake Araluen. People have a choice of locations on the 16 hectare estate.
Peter Erceg believes a new generation of funeral directors would rather see their funeral homes utilised than let them sit idly empty, regardless of their intended use. “Instead of letting this empty reception space go unused, why not let families use it?” he says. “It could be a wedding or a birthday party, corporate function or any kind of event.”
Many of the funeral chapels we visit are elaborate and ornate places with impressive flower arrangements. There is no reason why they can’t be rented out to host other events, at a lesser cost than the same service in traditional function centres.
Although it’s not probably everyone’s choice, and some families may find it a little ‘spooky’, the utilisation of funeral chapels for weddings and other events is likely to become a feature of the changing face of the celebration culture within Australia.
eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an Australian-owned and operated company. We are not part of any other funeral company.
Our member Funeral Directors operate in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Australia wide. They are chosen for their knowledge, quality, service, personalisation and experience. They go above and beyond, and will take the time to support the family.
For more information or to make contact with a trusted Independent funeral director, call eziFunerals on 1300 236 402 or visit www.ezifunerals.com.au.