Funerals are supposed to be sad and solemn events, but some people still insist on having some sort of special theme for the occasion, usually in honor of the deceased. The people who see it all? Funeral directors. Here are the weirdest funerals they've ever had to organize:
#1 Not In Kansas, But...
As a funeral music planner and organist, I've worked with families on many funerals to honor "special requests." One was a "Wizard of Oz" themed funeral, where the deceased woman had loved the original movie and requested that music from it be used. Pallbearers and friends of the family dressed in costumes of the principal characters as they entered the church, including dozens of Munchkins, Toto, and the Witch. There wasn't a dry eye after the eulogy when the soloist sang "Over the Rainbow," but many smiles as the coffin was carried out of the church en route to the cemetery as everyone sang: "We're Off to See the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!"
#2 Flo's Favorite
When my grandmother passed away, we planned her memorial service ourselves. We had thought “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was a very fitting song, but my mom couldn’t get through any version without breaking down. After trying to cheer everyone up with Joey Ramone’s rendition, we decided to take a break and go through some items in different rooms.
My grandfather, who has passed away a dozen or so years earlier, had been an organist. He would take my grandmother to concerts and record them, so he had tons and tons of cassettes of recorded live organists. I had just grabbed a random tape from the box and looked at the handwritten list: Side B, song 3: Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Flo’s favorite. That was the version we played for her memorial. I still can’t get through that song without thinking of her.
#3 Hardcore Grandma
I’ve been in the funeral industry for over ten years now and most services I have arranged have been ‘"run-of-the-mill." Most people seem to want similar things but one service will always stand out to me. A family asked us to play some hardcore gangster rap for their grandmother at her service and we happily obliged. I can’t quite remember the name of the song but it had heavy themes and pretty foul language. Her service was then finished with a recital of the Lord’s Prayer. This lady was in her late eighties.
#4 Here's An Idea
When I first started dating my husband, my grandpa (in his '90s) died not long after. I told my boyfriend that I was going to be performing an acoustic arrangement of "Party Rock Anthem" at the funeral, as it was his favorite song. He actually believed me for a little bit and I think that’s hilarious. Now it’s become a joke and I genuinely want someone to do it at my funeral... or else I will haunt everyone.
#5 Back Of A Harley
When my grandfather died, we had a request we were afraid was odd, but the funeral director told us he'd seen much, much stranger, so it was okay. My grandfather was big into motorcycles. He had Harleys as long as I could remember, and even after he had his hip surgery and the doctor told him not to ride anymore, he retooled his bike into a trike so he could still ride.
So after he died, my uncle outfitted the trike with a special rig (very secure and very safe) so that we could take him to the cemetery in his coffin on the back of the motorcycle. My uncle drove the motorcycle while all the members of my grandfather's riding club circled him from the funeral parlor to the cemetery. It was badass and awesome, and I know my grandfather would've loved it.
#6 A Car Enthusiast's Request
There's a video on YouTube with a guy talking about how he drives a hearse and does burnouts with it. He got a call from someone; a car fan had died and wanted "that guy who does burnouts in a hearse" to do one with his mortal remains in the back on the way to the cemetery. And so he did, with a police escort and everything.
#7 Bad Idea
A young guy died in a diving accident. His friends and family wanted him to be cremated in his diving suit but the crematorium guys told them they could not do this. They did not tell the reason. So the family decided to sneakily put his diving suit underneath his normal clothing, to give their loved one a proper farewell...
Soon after, the neoprene suit caught fire and if you have ever seen a car tire fire, you know what comes next. Picture the scene, a lovely bit of countryside with lush green fields, birds tweeting, an elegant crematorium in the center, with huge black billowing clouds of smoke coming out of the chimney, to be seen and smelled all over the area...
#8 An Eco-Friendly Coffin
This is the story of the eco-friendly coffin. This crematorium had a system where the coffin during the ceremony would be lifted with two metal forks. With the oven door opened, the coffin would get inserted in, with the door closed halfway. The forks would then retract and the coffin, pressing against the door, would stay in the oven. Finally, the door would close completely.
The system was perfect for wooden coffins but this guy was into the environment, etc. and had an eco-friendly coffin made of some type of recycled cardboard. The forks lifted, the oven door opened, the forks slid in, the coffin disintegrated instantaneously, the door lowered to half, the forks retreated, then the body was taken back outside of the oven... Family and friends are distraught. The staff tried with broomsticks to push the corpse back in the oven, but total chaos ensued.
#9 The Proper Send-Off
I once went to a funeral of a young person who’d died from a terminal illness and had planned her own funeral. She had a white coffin and at the graveside, everyone took turns to sign the coffin and write messages in colored marker pens. It was pretty touching and honestly, it was the perfect way to send her off.
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#10 In Her Honor
Not a funeral organizer, but one of my sisters was ended by a driver under the influence, so as a family we were trying to figure out what to do for her funeral and memorial. She was cremated, so we had a lovely memorial at my dad's place outside, and we planted a couple of trees for her. My sister had a big personality in life and she loved to have fun and make people laugh.
My other sisters and I decided that rather than wear black, we would wear the most outrageous ballgowns we could get our hands-on. Mine ended up being black with peacock feathers embroidered all over. One of my other sisters wore an enormous orange tutu. She would have absolutely loved it. It helped make the day a little less bitter and a little sweeter.
#11 Special Request
My great aunt (who is essentially my grandmother, as my mom’s mother died when my mom was a teen and my great aunt never had kids) said that if any of us wear black to her funeral that she’ll come down from heaven and yell at us. She’s 92 and in better health than anyone else in the family. She just takes a Flinstone multivitamin and no medications. We’re pretty sure she’s going live forever.
#12 The Last Laugh
When my dad's auntie was dying, she arranged her own funeral and she didn't tell her kids about her wishes. She was a joker, with the foulest language, but so funny. After she died, the kids were informed that the funeral was to be a formal event. My cousins carried their mom's coffin dressed as clowns. She stitched them up and definitely had the last laugh.
#13 The "Fun" In "Funeral"
A "viking" funeral. They put the ashes of the deceased out to sea in a little boat fashioned out of salt and covered with dry flowers and kindling. They fashioned biodegradable arrows with flaming tips. Everyone shot flaming arrows at the boat and it caught fire,s then dissolved into the sea. (Now to be clear, Vikings never did any of this but Hollywood gave people ideas...) Apparently I am not the first, but it was cool. Put the "fun" back in "funeral."
#14 A Good Sense Of Humor
A few years ago, when my grandmother died, my two sisters and two cousins were preparing her body for the viewing, as they were all cosmetologists. I should say that my family has a bit of a strange sense of humor. And for anyone that says this might be disrespectful, my granny would have laughed at this. So anyway, they were putting on all her makeup and they are playfully arguing over how it should be done. Eventually, this escalated in them comparing their own makeup to what they were doing for granny.
They were joking about who did the better job, and to get an accurate depiction, they were lying down next to the coffin, closing their eyes and folding their arms on their chest and the others would compare. They would then adjust both their own makeup and grannies to get it right.
It was at this point that the funeral director walked in. He opened the door, saw my cousin lying on the floor as though she was dead, with the others giddily adjusting grandma's makeup and using my "dead" cousin as a reference. There was an awkward pause for a few seconds before the girls all burst into laughter. The funeral director was visibly uncomfortable and silently left.
They went to apologize to the director, admitting that they were just having a bit of fun. He said it was alright, just a bit strange. He admitted that he did chuckle a bit as he was walking away. Fast forward to the service—a family friend was giving a eulogy and the girls were looking at grandma upfront in the coffin. They were trying to hold back smirks to each other and a few people were noticing. They looked to the back of the room, where the funeral director was standing. He flashed them a smirk himself, then closed his eyes and pulled his hands to the chest to imitate a dead person in a coffin. Apparently, it took everything they had to not burst out laughing on the spot.
#15 Startling Shots
My dad had a military funeral. I’d never attended one (I’d never attended any funeral), so I wasn’t expecting the shots. I jumped so hard I almost fell out of my chair, and then I could not stop laughing. The combination of being so startled and just absolutely distraught and overrun with adrenaline made it impossible not to completely lose myself laughing for several minutes.
#16 I Can't Drive 55
I was not related to my family by blood, but they considered me family. I know a load of the family's secrets that if gotten out would be at least five paternity tests and probably eight divorces. Anyway, we lost a very close member of the family—he was a jerk type of guy, always messing with people who knew him. He died in a motorcycle accident he was doing 110 mph in a 55 mph zone. We thought it would be fun and we played "I Can't Drive 55" for the music. We got the last laugh, Ron.
#17 Pop Quiz
I went to one where there was a pop quiz... it was a man who had died in his 90s and there were probably 15 of us there, with 99% being family. It was VERY awkward as they did not have a sense of humor to go along with the quiz. He was a Marine and very serious... He never joked... it was the most awkward funeral I have ever been to. Also, no prizes were awarded; I think the minister just didn't know anything about the deceased and used it as a time filler.
#18 A Tall Coffin
I come from a long line of funeral directors. My great grandfather buried a lady that was over 8-feet tall and worked as a performer for the circus. He had to use an oversized display model for the casket and sat on the coffin for seats (horses back then). Buried the whole site with concrete to keep out grave robbers. Heard she was a really nice lady.
#19 Circle Of Life
A former funeral director here. Usually, I ran the back of the house bu It met with families on a few occasions. I met with the parents of a 16-year-old girl who had died in a car crash. Arrangements were tough at first because how could they not be? We got the official stuff out of the way and then talked about what she (the deceased) would've wanted.
I ended up re-arranging the funeral home so that the lobby had crockpots of boiled peanuts and a lounge with the Lion King playing. Inside the main parlor was a purple-themed dance party. The pinnacle of the evening was the girl's mom leading everyone in doing "the wiggle." It was amazing and I am still floored by this family for being able to really celebrate their daughter's life in this way.
#20 A True Steelers Fan
A co-worker's father passed away. As I was getting to where he was laid out, I heard the voices of Jack Flemming and Myron Cope calling Super Bowl IX, and I was immediately confused. I got to the main room of the funeral home and my co-worker's father was laid out not in a suit, but as if he were ready for a Sunday afternoon of Steeler football. There was a TV on showing their first Super Bowl win, and all kinds of football memorabilia around. My co-worker said they wanted to lay his father out as they truly remembered him. First time I ever saw something like that at a funeral.
#21 Choir Sounds
I sang in a community choir with a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This choir performed Handel's Messiah every year, and this man was our bass soloist on "the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light." So, even though this choir didn't normally sing at church services, his dying request was that we come to his church for the funeral. The minister's text was "the people that walked..." And we were told to sing all his favorite hymns.
While we were tearfully warming up on the day of, the choir director said, "He didn't specifically request it, but what if after the recessional, we surprised everyone by breaking into the Hallelujah chorus? As a reminder that we'll all be together again someday?"
So we did. We finished the requested recessional while the pallbearers were recessing and then burst into Hallelujah before the mourners left. Not a dry eye in the house.
#22 Celebration Of Life
I organized a “celebration of life” for my mom, but while she was still alive to enjoy it. All my cousins came, her friends, etc., there were speeches, tequila (her favorite), it was a blast. Earlier in the year, we’d been to one for my aunt, and everyone kept saying how much she would have enjoyed it. I found that sad and was thus inspired.
#23 Funeral Hijack
I had a friend that died. He was a musician, locally famous for all his TV performances. He used to perform this one song, very often, and it was obvious it should be played at his funeral, but we live in a boring, stiff, Catholic orthodox country, and the funeral is more about the religious ceremony than the actual dead person getting their goodbyes.
The priest wouldn't allow any song that wasn't religious to be played at the funeral, so a bunch of friends basically went and hijacked the whole ceremony! They turned up the speakers and played his song loud and clear for everyone to hear. And everyone besides the priest was content. His children were really small back then, and probably didn't understand a lot, but I'm glad they got a memory of that song associated with their father forever. He died of leukemia.
#24 A Full Flyover
Some retired admiral died, and his wife "insisted" that a group of F-18s perform a flyover during the service. Well, this was extremely difficult to pull off, for numerous reasons. Anyway, the owner of the funeral home was able to make it happen. Unfortunately, the flyover was roughly 2-3 minutes earlier than scheduled. The wife was so mad that she tried to withhold paying.
#25 Ash Reveal
When my great uncle passed away, his last request was to have his ashes scattered on the same mountain my grandpa is scattered on. The way he wanted it done though is the weird part. He wanted his ashes put in a plastic bag, hung in a large pine tree, and then have everyone shoot it. Only three family members actually shot but it was pretty wild. Kind of like one of those gender-reveal balloons. My great uncle was a weird man.
#26 Fan Of The Rings
A woman died in her late 80s. Her entire family was there, including three or four great-grandkids even. She had a big family and was well-liked in her community, so there were about 100 to 150 people there. Everyone was dressed super nice, and from talking to everyone, it was clear no one knew what was coming... Turns out, their grandmother was a huge LotR fan. So, she had a Lord of the Rings themed funeral. It was fun, but the shock on everyone's faces was hilarious!
#27 Side Gig
My welding teacher was a funeral director (I guess that’s one way to create a business, however nobody has died). He did the nontraditional ones in town. Once, he took out the electricity for the block, and another time they had a goat sacrifice in the parking lot. That was interesting to hear about before going to send lava at metal.
#28 Going Out With A Bang
Not a funeral director but this is what we did with my grandmother. She was supposed to have a Jewish funeral but was accidentally embalmed when she died. So then it was decided by the family to have her cremated. Double negative I guess... Every year, my family goes to the same beach and that year my aunt brought the ashes.
Without telling or asking anyone my cousins and I took about half of her ashes and put them in a handful of tiny plastic baggies and then taped said baggies to a bunch of bottle rockets. We then gathered the family at the beach and set off the fireworks over the ocean immediately after telling the family about the ashes but that we left half of them behind. No one was mad and it was agreed by all that she would have loved knowing she went out with a bang.
#29 Drum And Bass
One of my husband's friends lost his life; it was actually the 10-year anniversary last week. He was a massive drum and bass fan, so at the end of service, as his coffin went into the tunnel to be cremated, Chase and Status' "End Credits "played. It was mad to hear drum and bass at a funeral. I love that song, but it always has a tinge of sadness to it for me.
#30 Closing The Curtain
The guys who helped with my family friend's funeral said they had never seen anything like it. He had worked in theatre since he was a teen and everyone he knew was theatre people. We got to use his old theatre for the funeral and everyone who was a technician wore their work blacks. He was buried in his too. Several actors and musicians performed poems and fitting music and we sent him off with a curtain close. It was heart-wrenching as he had young kids but it was the perfect funeral for him.
#31 The Third Reich
I’m living in Germany and we have some kind of remainder of the Third Reich called Reichsbürger. Just Google them, some crazy people... So usually they are distributed, but for their comrade who recently passed, they gathered together to about 50 people. It was so surreal that something like this still exists and is even allowed to do so. I didn’t know about this before and I think I’ll never forget about it.
#32 No Religion
A cousin of mine lost his life several years ago and his service had no religion whatsoever. it was just family and friends speaking about him. As someone who doesn't do religion myself, it was so nice not to have all that thrown in. My childhood doctor's funeral ended nice—everyone sang his favorite song: "When the Saints Go Marching In." I much prefer going to the viewing the night before, there isn't as much sadness and you can mingle.
#33 The Wrong Preacher
Grandpa had very clearly stated this one specific preacher he wanted. I’d met this guy before and it was very clear he had early signs of dementia, but that’s who grandpa wanted. He got up there and the funeral and started complaining about everything from cell phones, unions, gay people, elevators, and how beautiful women are. I literally think he forgot he was at a funeral because he didn’t mention my grandpa once. It was really upsetting and he contradicted a lot of my grandpa’s strongly held beliefs.
#34 A Horrible Eulogy
My husband and I grew up in the same US major metropolitan area, but different sides of it. We were both Catholic but our families were from different churches and varieties of Eastern Europe. So imagine our surprise when my great grandmother and his grandmother, who died a few years apart, had the same priest for their funerals. And even though we were uncertain if he was the same guy at first, he went off on a rant mid-eulogy about the evils of linoleum flooring in both funerals. No freaking clue why. And for whatever reason, the rest of our families shrugged and kept on.
#35 Room Of Tears
I played for a funeral for a fallen RCMP officer. There were six uniformed officers standing behind me as I played music for the service. One of the officers stood right behind me and read the lyrics of my sheet music as he sang. It was distracting. But in a good way. It was a nice service—mostly police and medical emergency crew attended. I kind of have a thing for uniforms.
The most memorable was playing for my auntie's funeral. The church was full to the capacity with over 400 people. When asked to perform a solo, I didn't dare look up until I was finished. When I did, I gasped. There were people lined up because all the pews were full. People were lined up in the hall and outside. The entire church was listening to the music and many had their eyes closed. Seeing my dad and mum watch me as they cried—nearly broke my heart. The hardest thing I ever had to do. Even playing at my mum's funeral wasn't as hard.
#36 The Cookie Jar
When my nana died, we were looking at urns and nothing felt right. I said to my mom, "Nana really loved baking, I wish we could bury her in a cookie jar." We looked at the funeral director and he said, "Sure! We just have to seal it shut." We went to HomeSense and got a ridiculous orange cat cookie jar. My nana loved cats and baking and I know she's up there somewhere smiling at her "urn."
#37 For The Lively Spirit
I had a church member unexpectedly pass. She was one for theatrics and was loved by all. We got to her wake and could hear "Freebird" playing. I could hear people asking the family why and they just shrugged, saying: "This is what she wanted." When it was time to go up to the casket, there were Cadbury creme eggs on each shoulder and other candy in the casket.
#38 50 Cents
For some reason, my great grandfather always gave us money. At his funeral, everyone got an envelope with his writing saying he loved us, along with two 50-cent coins. Apparently, he collected 50-cent coins all his life. I still got those coins and now that I think about it, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them.
#39 Lenient Dress Code
I organized my boyfriend's funeral last month. His death was sudden, so he didn't make any special plans. We spoke before about our funerals and he said that he would be mad if people would come all black. So, I told my friends that feel free to come dressed as you want. One of our friends came in as Guzma (from Pokemon).
#40 Gone Out On A Boat
Been in the industry for 20 years. The most interesting one I personally organized was a young guy in his early 20s who loved to fish. We put him in his canoe for the viewing and service, and he was cremated later. The service was at a church, and the canoe was way too big for the hearse. The lesson to take away is: You never know exactly what's in a U-Haul.
#41 Human Taxidermy
I thought everyone was joking until I actually saw the pictures. They had a guy whose family wanted him staged and posed for the viewing. Like instead of an open casket laying peacefully, they literally had him mounted on his motorcycle in full gear: leather jacket, backward hat, sunglasses. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen... It gave me a human taxidermy vibe.
#42 A Horrible Twist
One of the founders of the railroad museum I volunteered at was cremated and half of his ashes were blown out the stack of a steam locomotive to be spread along the museum's tracks. He wanted all the ashes, but the family wanted to keep some so it was roughly half. Well, they thought it was his ashes, but it turns out it was probably cement powder... The crematorium was busted for tossing 350 bodies in the woods behind the place because the incinerator was broken.
#43 Let's Party
A family friend of ours passed away maybe 10 to 15 years ago from heart failure at the age of around 50. He knew he was dying; he’d been on the transplant list and then got too sick when he got to the top. So he planned his own funeral, which he wanted to be a party.
After he died, his wife threw the funeral he had planned. They blocked off their street and had essentially a festival. He had played in two separate bands, so they both performed at the party—one in the back of their house and one in front. There were games and more food than you can imagine. It really was a celebration of his life.
#44 Imperial March
A close friend of my dad's 14-year-old son was killed when he was hit by a car. He was a big Star Wars fan. A local graffiti artist sprayed his coffin with a Star Wars theme. As his coffin arrived all we could see were these white figures in the distance. Stormtroopers led his coffin to the church and walked him in, with Darth Vader at the front. He was walked into the church to The Imperial March.
#45 Making Popcorn
My dad passed away in January. He always joked about wanting popcorn kernels in his pockets when he was cremated. So, my siblings and I decided to get four one-pound bags of kernels and pour them all over him in his cremation box. We also split a Miller High Life (his beer of choice) in his honor and placed that with him as well. The funeral director put our dad into the furnace and closed the door. Seconds later, he hurried us over so we could hear the popping of the popcorn.
It was surreal. At the viewing, everyone was allowed a Miller High Life before the service began because that’s what he would have wanted. The funeral procession was led by a semi-truck since my dad was an over the road driver. When my father was interred, the semi drove through the cemetery parking lot and out onto the street honking his horn the whole way to honor him.
#46 Hot Rod Procession
When my grandad passed, he had been big into classic cars and had a large group that all brought their cars to car shows together across the region. So at the funeral, the procession to the cemetery was a line of about 70 restored classic cars led by my dad in my grandad’s 47 Ford truck hotrod. It was a badass sight to see.
#47 It's In The Will
The will of the deceased said something about "having a group of well dressed black men with sunglasses dancing to a techno beat." I saw some guys on Craigslist saying they performed at these specific religious acts. Next thing you know, it's the day, the family mourns and the prayers are sent. Out of the blue, they freaking picked up the coffin and electronic music blasted through my ears. They were freaking dancing with the casket on their backs! Bobbing up and down with a freaking disco ball. It was insane. The weirdest stuff I've ever seen by FAR.
#48 Hmong Funerals
If you’re interested, look into Hmong funerals. The more traditional the family, the longer and more extreme the funeral process becomes. There is such a large concentration of Hmong people in my home region that a nearby city has a funeral home specifically tailored to them because they can be so unique. It's just a part of the culture and traditions of my people.
#49 Sk8ter Boi
An older, well known, local skater died and we held a skate funeral. We hung his board, pads, and helmet on the fence. A good friend of his eulogized him. Some other folks told some stories about him. After that, we all pounded our boards on the pavement in synch for about 5 minutes, chanting his name and his various handles. We skated hard to his favorite bands and passed the hat for his family...I have been to worse funerals.
#50 Odd Attendees
I had the opportunity to see the funeral requests written into wills at a previous job. The one that stands out—a person that stated he did not want a funeral at all. He was to be cremated, his ashes were to be released on a specific beach and only his wife, bird, cat, and (no kidding) turtle could be present. All I could picture when reading it was this poor, grieving spouse walking down a beach carrying an urn while wrangling a cat, a bird, and a turtle! I am convinced he hated his spouse.