A unique and personal funeral

words: Andrew Collier

Not very long ago, bereaved families could have any kind of funeral they liked as long as it was black. And, of course, highly traditional. Everything was respectful, dignified and well done, but wide choice wasn’t really an option.

That lack of choice has changed in recent years. A growing number of funeral directors have modernised their offering by providing an imaginative range of packages reflecting the lifestyle, passions and wishes of the deceased. Themed send-offs, services outside traditional religious settings and even coloured coffins and highly individual funerals are becoming ever more popular, catering for loved ones who want something different.

White Rose Funerals and Memorials of Cardiff is one independent funeral business which has tailored itself to provide a wide range of non-traditional offerings. The company was established two years ago by three brothers – Amjad, Ahmed and Amir Alsisi – initially catering for the Welsh Muslim community.

“We were the only funeral business in Wales offering Islamic funerals and it’s quite a close knit community, so the people who were our clients tended to be friends or acquaintances of the family,” Amjad explained.

“We now provide all types of funeral, including Christian and non-religious ones. Of course we still do traditional services, but the younger generation in particular sometimes want themed or personalised events and we are happy to do that.”

Amjad gives the example of a local rugby fan who wanted a service with rugby shirts and the Welsh flag included. “Some people no longer want to go to a church or other place of worship, but instead they want to celebrate the life and passions of the person who has died.”

A comprehensive range of choices are on offer. Funerals can take place at someone’s home, in a garden or even at their place of work. Wakes can be held at the seaside or on a boat.

Coffins and caskets can feature different colours or with a design featuring flags. They are even available with a Spiderman-styled finish or as a copy of an old-fashioned police box. Another option is a plain coffin which loved ones can then write a message on in their own handwriting.

“Our bearers can fit with the chosen theme by wearing coloured ties or even casual clothing. It’s all about respecting people’s wishes and providing the personal touch.”

Amjad and his brothers also decided that they wanted to be fully transparent and to cater for all budgets. “Generally, we’re a bit cheaper than our competitors in the marketplace, but we offer the same level of provision.

“However, even if someone comes to us and says that they only have a certain amount of money, we can offer a dignified service with pallbearers and a quality coffin.”

The business also puts prices on its website so bereaved families know in advance what they will be expected to pay. That also reflects a changing trend.

“With the growth of the internet, people no longer ask a friend or neighbour to recommend a funeral director,” Amjad says. “They are likely to look at websites and see what is on offer.”

White Rose Funerals is keen to reflect the voice of the profession as well as the wishes of the community. It recently opened a new, larger office with a celebration including local councillors and clergy.

It also hosts an annual bereavement event for discussing issues within the sector. Again, clergy and council representatives are invited as well as local doctors, coroners and even the Chief Coroner.

In profile: Amjad Alsisi

Amjad Alsisi is something of a whirlwind in the independent funeral sector. Incredibly, he is just 19 years old, and his brothers are only in their twenties.

Amjad was drawn into the funeral business, he says, by his brother Ahmed, a chaplain in Cardiff and South Wales prisons. “White Rose is very much a family business. I am now the main director, but we all see ourselves as entrepreneurs.”

Their parents have a medical background and brought them up to earn a good living, demand respect, promote compassion and work to help others.

“We want to share the love we have in our family. As far as the future is concerned, I would love to be a professional boxer. My brother is a boxing coach and it’s something I enjoy doing too. It would be very different to the work I do now!”

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