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You Don’t Need to Be Royalty to Have a Funeral Like the Queen

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10 Things from Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral That You Can Have Too 

On September 19, the world tuned in to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II who died at age 96, after reigning for 70 years. As the world watched in awe of the beauty and thoughtfulness of the Queen’s ceremony, Arbor Memorial’s funeral directors watched the event with a different lens and agreed that you don’t need to be royalty to have a funeral like the Queen.  

Here are 10 elements from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral that you can pre-plan into your own funeral arrangements:  

1. Music. The Queen’s piper, Pipe Major Paul Burns of Scotland, played a lament at the end of the committal service, “A Salute to the Royal Fendersmith.” The Queen enjoyed the sound of bagpipes playing beneath her window at her residences, acting as a personal alarm clock, as well on state occasions. Before her death, she reportedly asked him to play at her funeral.1

Picture Credits: Royal Family Channel YouTube Live Stream

Arbor funeral directors say music continues to be one of the most important elements of funerals. This is because we often associate music with recollection and remembrance. Choosing pieces of music that reflect the life, interests, and hobbies of a person is a meaningful way to personalize the service. It can also accompany us throughout our journey of grief as a way of remembering loved ones. 

2. Visitation. About 250,000 people saw Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin (or casket, as we refer to them in Canada) as she lay in state for four days at Westminster Hall in central London, according to figures released by the British government.2 Visitors told news outlets that the Queen was a constant in their lives, and it was important to them to be there to celebrate her life and say thank you to her.3 

Picture Credits: Royal Family Channel YouTube Live Stream

Arbor funeral directors believe visitations are an essential element of the healing process; a chance to heal, a way to say goodbye. When we recall a loved one, we focus on the interests and passions that make them unique. This is your chance to revisit these special qualities and relive joyous moments while saying goodbye. It is a time to receive the love, comfort, and support of friends and family.

3. Livestream. The Queen’s loss was felt deeply across the country. Broadcast on more than 50 UK channels, Queen Elizabeth II's funeral was reportedly watched by a peak of 37.5 million people in the UK, and four billion people worldwide.

Arbor's live streaming service provides an opportunity for those who are unable to attend in person to say their goodbyes and respects from the comfort of their own homes.

4. Flowers. A wreath sat on top of the coffin during the Queen’s procession and service, which Buckingham Palace says has a significant meaning. Not only did the wreath contain flowers and foliage cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove House, it included rosemary for “remembrance” and myrtle, which is "the ancient symbol of a happy marriage." The palace noted this was cut from a plant that was grown from a sprig of myrtle in the Queen's wedding bouquet in 1947. The wreath also contains English oak, which "symbolizes the strength of love." At the request of King Charles III, the wreath was made in a totally sustainable way, in a nest of English moss and oak branches, and without the use of floral foam.

Flowers are a traditional way to show respect for lost loved ones or express your condolences. Floral arrangements can be incredibly elaborate or severely simple statements. From casket sprays to wreaths to bouquets, funeral directors can assist you in choosing an arrangement that represents your loved one well. Popular flowers for a funeral include lilies, daisies, roses, orchids, snapdragons, carnations, gladiolus, irises, and hydrangeas, just to name a few. It’s common for families to choose florals based on what the flower and colour represent.

5. Decorated casket. The Queen’s coffin was heavily decorated in regalia, all representing various aspects of her life and legacy. It was draped in the Royal Standard, a flag representing the Sovereign and the UK. The Imperial State Crown sat atop the Royal Standard, along with the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and Sovereign’s Orb – items symbolizing her power and the monarch’s history.6  

Picture Credits: Royal Family Channel YouTube Live Stream

Arbor offers personalized caskets which allow you to show individuality and uniqueness until the end. Whether you are looking for intricate craftsmanship, simplicity, or plenty of personalization; there’s a casket option to suit your preference. Visually expressing meaningful relationships, spirituality, affiliations, and hobbies or interests is a unique way to create a personal tribute. Adding medallions or attachments to a casket is common because you can bring them home as a keepsake after the service. Caskets with a unique built-in memory drawer or time capsules are a private way to secure precious items that you’ll keep with you forever. The options for customization are endless.

6. Notes from family and friends. Another item stood out for its personal nature atop the Queen’s coffin – a special handwritten message from King Charles III, the Queen’s son and heir. The read: ‘In loving and devoted memory, Charles R, with R. being shorthand for "Rex," the Latin word for King.’7  Leaving a handwritten note is a tradition for the royals originating back to the funeral of King George VI in 1952. More recently, we saw Prince William, who was 15 at the time, leave a note in an envelope that simply read “Mummy” on Princess Diana’s funeral wreath.  

Placing a note on the casket is an old custom that tries to connect the living with the deceased. It helps those mourning process their grief, and it’s a way to make the deceased burial more personal and special for everyone. Notes, letters or cards can be placed anywhere inside the casket, which is common so that they don’t get lost in transport. 

7. Requesting that guests wear something that reminds them of you. Many members of the royal family paid tribute to the Queen with their jewellery.8 For example, Princess of Wales Kate Middleton wore a pearl and diamond necklace that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth II for the funeral. Princess Charlotte wore a small diamond broach shaped like a horseshoe; likely a tribute to the Queen’s passion for horses.  

Wearing a memento is a timeless way to honour a loved one. Arbor funeral directors say it’s increasingly common for people to request a particular dress code for their funeral service. From baseball jerseys for a Toronto Blue Jays fanatic to knitted sweaters for grandma, making this special request adds uniqueness and personality to a funeral, and allows visitors to be united in their tribute to you.  

8. Pre-planned funeral arrangements. It’s no surprise that Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral has been planned for some time now. Planning it has been the responsibility of Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who inherited the title of the 18th Duke of Norfolk when his father died in 2002. In addition to being a Duke, Fitzalan-Howard is the Earl Marshal of England, which puts him in charge of planning the state opening of Parliament, royal state funerals and the coronations of new monarchs. For the past 20 years, the service plans – codenamed Operation London Bridge – were reviewed annually by hundreds of trusted members of the royal household, including the Queen herself. John Sentamu, a retired Anglican bishop who was involved in the royal funeral planning during his time as archbishop of York, told the BBC that the Queen didn’t want her funeral to be “boring.”9  

Arbor funeral directors concur. They believe every life is unique, and how you choose to celebrate that life must be too. The traditional funeral is not for everyone. You may be looking for a unique send-off. That’s why Arbor Memorial has developed “Time to RememberTM”, an exclusive resource that will help you create a personal send-off that celebrates you – what you love and represent – within a budget that’s comfortable for you.  

9. Procession. The ceremonial processions for Queen Elizabeth II packed more than 1,000 years of monarchical tradition into a few symbolic miles. Each object and location reflected an aspect of the royal family’s place in British life, whether military, administrative or religious. The Queen consulted on the design and plans for the State Hearse10, which was used for the procession. Her final procession had thousands of onlookers as her casket made its way toward Windsor Castle and was attended by her beloved corgis and favourite pony.  

Picture Credits: Royal Family Channel YouTube Live Stream

Many funeral service professionals believe that accompanying the deceased on their final journey helps in the grieving process and allows them to say their final goodbye at the burial or cremation ritual. Funeral directors say that leading a procession fills them with pride; and helps to unite family, friends and the community in a traditional, powerful and respectful way. Families can request for their loved ones to pass by a special location one last time, bringing closure and comfort to everyone involved. 

10. Religious or spiritual ceremony. Almost every aspect of the Queen’s death has been steeped in religious significance. One of Queen Elizabeth II’s constitutional titles was the Supreme Governor and Defender of the Faith of the Church of England. Her favourite hymns, psalms and scriptures were incorporated into the funeral service at Westminster Abbey.  

Picture Credits: Royal Family Channel YouTube Live Stream

Arbor funeral directors believe that every service should be as unique as the life being celebrated. Today, there are many ways to personalize this important event, with your faith, culture and family traditions only the start. Our team has experience working with diverse communities and strives to be flexible in accommodating every reasonable request and can help guide you through your choices. 

What’s most notable about Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is that it was a true reflection of who she was and what she represented. It showcased her charming personality, passions and interests. We challenge you to ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” Do you want friends to say goodbye at a visitation? Will a casket or urn be present?  Is a graveside service more in keeping with your wishes? Would you prefer, as some people do, more than one service? You may also decide to have the service include live or recorded music, photos and videos, favourite readings, and even cherished memorabilia. 

A Time to Remember™ is Arbor’s exclusive approach to personalizing your end-of-life plans and honouring your remarkable life. You can design your final send-off specifically to suit your personality, or you can choose from one of our many themes. Whether you’re a chef, music lover, sports fan, or traveller, there’s a way to create the perfect tribute. Download your complimentary e-book here

Photo by Howard Cheng

1 CNN, September 19, 2022 

2 The Washington Post, September 20, 2022 
3 BuzzFeed News, September 19, 2022 
4 Radio Times, September 21, 2022 
5 CTV News, September 19, 2022 
6 CBS News, September 19, 2022 
7 Global News, September 19, 2022 
8 Entertainment Tonight, September 19, 2022 
9 Insider, September 18, 2022 
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