As planning your own funeral becomes more popular, we see more and more celebrities publicly sharing the details of their own send-offs.
Here are some examples of celebrities’ funeral plans, showcasing the variety of funeral ceremonies and how one size never fits all.
Who is this article for?
Joanna Lumley is known to have a no-nonsense attitude, and this also applies to her views on funeral planning. An interview in 2014 revealed that she plans to be buried in a cardboard coffin, inspired by her parents doing the same. She wants her coffin to contain “nice bits and pieces” like books, feathers and notes.
Joanna is a staunch supporter of planning your funeral and writing a will, to make things easier for family.
Muhammad Ali’s funeral was a huge public event, but you may still be surprised to learn that he took 10 years to plan it with a circle of close friends. All of the details were written down in a document known simply as The Book. You can start writing down your own funeral plans by downloading our free Funeral Wishes Planner.
The funeral included a procession throughout his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, including his childhood home and the museum and street both named after him. There was also a eulogy delivered by long-time friend Bill Clinton to an arena of 15,000 people. The pallbearers included Will Smith and Lennox Lewis.
Despite such a big ceremony, the grave itself only has a small marker, and the burial was in accordance with Muslim tradition.
Despite his flashy persona on stage, David Bowie’s death was a very minimalist affair.
He didn’t have a funeral. He opted instead for an unattended direct cremation. Bowie's body was cremated in New Jersey and his ashes were scattered in Bali, Indonesia.
If a low cost and no frills direct cremation send-off appeals to you, read more about our No Frills funeral plans here.
As you might expect, Prince Philip’s funeral was grandiose and meticulously-planned.
The funeral plan, code-named Operation Forth Bridge, had to be modified to fit Covid-19 regulations; this included a limit of 30 attendees, not allowing attendees to sing, no public procession, and advising the public against leaving tributes outside Buckingham Palace. Despite the limitations, the funeral was still fit for royalty. If you’d like your own funeral to be a grand event, take a look at our Bells & Whistles funeral plans.
Prince Philip lay in rest in Windsor Castle, before being transported in a custom green Land Rover to King George VI’s Memorial Chapel, where he was buried alongside family members.
He had a military funeral at St George’s Chapel. The military band played various hymns and the English national anthem. His coffin was draped with his personal standard, and topped with his naval cap, sword, and a wreath of white roses and lilies with a handwritten note from Her Majesty The Queen.
Sex And The City actress Kim Cattrall may have spent most of her life in the USA and Canada, but she plans to be buried in her birthplace of Liverpool. She revealed in 2016 that she plans to be buried in her family’s grave in the Holy Trinity Churchyard, and has had her name engraved on the headstone already... which sparked a bit of a controversy with some distant relatives.
While preparing for your funeral is a great idea, make sure your family is on board with your plans beforehand!
To find out more about why documenting your funeral wishes is so important, read this.
Many of the regular panellists on ITV's Loose Women have discussed their funeral plans and Will writing on the show.
Naturally, each has their own plans and opinions, but they all seem to agree on this: while it can be painful to make these decisions, or even just to think about it, doing it now will be better for your family in the long run. As Ruth Langsford put it, “It takes a lot of the pain away for people when it’s specified”.
They’ve also discussed some of the differences between British and Caribbean funerals, and how music can have a huge impact on the mood of a funeral.Click here for our top tips for choosing the music for your funeral and setting the mood you want.
Former Girls Aloud member, Sarah Harding, passed away from cancer in September 2021.
In March 2021, she released her autobiography Hear Me Out, part of which discusses her funeral plans. She revealed that she wanted a big party “to say thank you and goodbye” and a charity gala with donations going to cancer research. In line with this, all profits from her final single Wear It Like A Crown are being donated to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the hospital where she was treated.
Sarah also showed a sense of humour in funeral planning, saying that her headstone would be engraved with the acronym “FFS”.
In an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (S7 E14), Kris buys a burial plot at celebrity cemetery Hollywood Forever and invites her daughters to help her plan more details of her funeral.
The episode shows her doing a lot of research such as trying out caskets, buying multiple plots for other family members, and even considering buying a mausoleum on a lake. Regardless of your opinions about the Kardashians, we think that this level of planning is something that everyone should try to keep up with!
The episode also brings up an important point: planning your funeral can be difficult for your family to get involved with. Kris’ daughters express their discomfort with thinking about their mother’s death and tell her that they don’t want to be involved. Most importantly, both sides come to an agreement. They understand that funeral planning is important to avoid future problems, but that it shouldn’t cause unnecessary upset now.
For our advice regarding how to discuss funeral planning with your family, click here.
Dame Barbara Windsor DBE
Another celebrity funeral impacted by Covid-19 was for Barbara Windsor - the nation's favourite bubbly blonde actress of Carry On film and Eastenders fame. Despite the restrictions, she was still given a send-off that paid full homage to her long and iconic acting career.
The service before her cremation at Golders Green, London, was attended by British actress Anna Karen (best known for playing Olive in the sitcom On The Buses), actors Christopher Biggins and Ross Kemp, comedian and children's author David Walliams, comedian and Great British Bake Off co-presenter Matt Lucas, journalist and TV presenter Jane Moore, and Eastenders actor Jamie Borthwick.
The venue was decorated with floral arrangements spelling “Babs”, “Saucy” and “The Dame”, and a portrait painted in the style of the Queen Vic’s logo. Her coffin was brought in to On The Sunny Side Of The Street by Frank Sinatra, and the service featured a recording from Sparrows Can’t Sing. There was also a JustGiving page made in her honour which raised nearly £150,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
American actress, Doris Day, is another example of a celebrity who didn’t have a funeral. Her specific request was to have “no funeral, no memorial and no marker”. Instead, she encouraged fans wanting to commemorate her life to donate to the Doris Day Animal Foundation.
Sir Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen’s funeral plans pay tribute to his iconic acting career.
There will be a celebratory memorial service in a theatre with free admission. He said in 2018 that he was still working on the plan, but once he’s done he’d like a “dress rehearsal” so he can see it himself.
Recommended Resources & Articles
How to write your own eulogy
Whether you want the last word or would like to relieve someone else of this daunting task, here's a short guide and free checklist showing you how to write a eulogy you can be proud of, even if you're not a writer.
Eulogy and funeral planning inspiration
Take a look at the fantasy funeral plans and 'self-penned' eulogies we've created for celebrities and much-loved fictional characters, such as James Bond 007, Enid Blyton, and Lord Blackadder.
Enid Blyton's Fantasy Funeral Plan
If Blyton had planned her funeral
Free Funeral Wishes Planner
Leave clear instructions to get the send off you want and help loved ones avoid making decisions at an already difficult time. It's the perfect companion document for your Will and funeral plan if you have one. Leave great memories, not loose ends.
Free Eulogy Checklist
You've read the guide, now download your checklist to help you write your own eulogy.