When a family loses a loved one, honoring their life, legacy, and personality often requires more than a standard casket. Casket distributors and funeral directors across the nation are answering this need by catering to regional, ethnic, religious, and lifestyle requests with custom wooden caskets.

When funeral directors purchase custom wood caskets for families instead of standard metal caskets, certain qualities of the wood and style can bring back fond memories. For instance, aromatic red cedar can recall memories of grandma’s cedar chest or grandpa’s cedar fence posts. Oak can recall the reliability and sturdiness of a farmer’s life.

Culture and Lifestyle
In regards to style, today’s custom caskets have developed along with regional cultures and lifestyles. One custom casket, for instance – made of solid oak with the look of reclaimed lumber taken from an old barn, with rod iron handles, old world nail heads, and an embroidered barn head panel – does particularly well with farmers.

A rustic oak casket can reflect southern farm heritage. For funeral homes in the Mississippi Delta, a big farming region, one casket manufacturer has even embroidered wheat stacks in a couple of head panels, and a cotton boll in another head panel.

Even as the demand for handcrafted custom wooden caskets grows to meet the local needs of casket distributors and funeral directors nationwide, few U.S. casket manufacturers can deliver. The ones that can are already offering a full line of conventional, Jewish Orthodox, and oversize caskets that can be customized in virtually any aspect.

For regions like the South and Midwest where hunting and the outdoors are a lifelong passion, custom caskets can honor a loved one’s lifestyle. Some made of solid oak sport a camouflage interior and wrought iron handles. Some with a solid hickory and oak interior even have real elk antler handles, true deerskin head panels and trim, and “real embroidered deerskin.”

Along the Bible Belt, crosses, doves, or praying hands embroidered on head panels are frequently requested in custom cedar, oak, hickory, poplar, or walnut caskets.

In the Midwest, engraved pictures of crosses, the Last Supper, or the Pieta (the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus’ body after the crucifixion) are commonly requested on custom casket hardware, often in brushed nickel.
The range of custom requests can vary greatly day by day. One day a mahogany casket for a priest with a velvet interior and no hinges may be required so the whole lid comes off. Another day, a Jewish Orthodox casket made strictly from wood, with no nuts, bolts, nails or metal, put together by dowel pegs may be needed.

Why consider custom wood caskets? Because local, regional, and family preferences must be satisfied, often quickly at the last minute. Further customization may be required in addition to cultural or lifestyle considerations.

Size Requirements
Meeting casket size requirements can also be an important consideration, and a reason to choose a custom wood casket manufacturer. Jewish cemeteries, for instance, may require caskets much narrower than the typical crypt. Nationwide, people are getting bigger and taller too, well beyond the typical casket interior width and length.

Special Requests
Customizing is vital to help funeral directors meet the needs of their families. Special requests can vary from custom exteriors and interiors, from full couch to reverse panels and beyond.
A certain color may have been the loved one’s favorite color. A certain hobby or holiday may have been their favorite way to spend time, and a cherished expression of their personality.

Whether a family makes a cultural, lifestyle, size, or other special request of a funeral director, providing them with a prompt answer is important. In their time of need, this can provide much needed comfort.

Providing a quick answer to a family’s special request could require working with a casket manufacturer with an intimate understanding of the casket’s production process. It may also require an ability to walk onto the production floor to change or expedite certain processes.

But, in the end, those casket distributors and funeral directors who cater to regional, ethnic, religious, lifestyle, and special requests with custom wooden caskets will find that the loved one’s family and friends truly appreciate the effort.

Such an effort not only builds trust. It also makes those distributors and funeral directors who customize the casket likely to be the family’s first choice the next time they are ready to honor and remember a loved one. FBA


New England Casket Co.Lou Tobia Jr. is a co-owner of New England Casket Company and a 3rd generation casket builder.  New England Casket is a family owned company specializing in handcrafted wooden caskets that cater to regional, religious, and special requests. Lou can be reached by phone at 617-569-1510 or by email at [email protected]