When you're dead but still have to show off, try a custom casket
“Letting people shine is our motto, and we really try to do just that,” says Tiffany Sublett of Trey Ganem Designs. Hers is a company that builds custom funeral caskets — a growing trend in America as well as worldwide.
Sublett, assistant to head designer and builder Trey Ganem, says that the company frequently ships these fancy caskets all across the country, using email, photographs and digital proofs to work with customers.
There are custom casket companies in the UK and Australia as well.
But Trey Ganem Designs garners extensive national attention for its work in casket design, their unique mission, and their charitable work. As the story goes, Trey Ganem was inspired to start the company after attending a funeral of a close friend.
“He was just looking at the casket and thought it could have better represented his friend,” says Sublett. “It could have improved the mood and been so much more than a cold, metal box.”
That, in addition to Ganem’s musings about what he could do to have his own casket better represent his life someday, was the foundation for the company.
Sublett explains that it’s more than just painting a traditional casket someone’s favorite color.
“We have our own designer line of caskets ,” she says. “And we can customize the interior and exterior. We also have our own state of the art paint booth. So we can match absolutely any color, even if the person was into crazy colors.”
She adds that they are even able to do digital prints with graphics, which can really transform a casket.
“Basically anything someone can dream up we can do,” she continues. “We’ve actually turned a casket into a car. We’ve done a train. We’ve had a veteran — an amputee — and we designed his casket with his ‘feet’ sticking out.”
While the process of manufacturing and designing the casket is by no means simple, the company tries to make the process as easy as it can for loved ones seeking a casket given the nature of what they do.
“When someone calls with an order request, we work one-on-one with families,” Sublett explains. They guide people through the process of selecting and customizing the casket with care and support.
After all, it is an incredibly sad thing.
“We do a lot of children’s caskets,” she adds. “When we represent a child, it’s a way we can help it not be as hard and sad. It’s going to be hard, and it’s a horrible thing [when a child dies], but we can help make it a little less hard and a little less sad.”
Kelly HIll, a licensed counselor specializing in grief, shares that she “wasn’t surprised” so many of Trey Ganem’s orders were for children’s caskets.
“Grieving a child is definitely different,” she says. “The devastation can be much greater. Having something like a personalized casket made to cater to the child can be very personal.” She explains that a lot of decision behind funerals and caskets are an extremely personal one, but also one largely shaped by culture.
Rituals, like funerals, or personal rituals, like lighting a candle in remembrance on Christmas, are a large and important part of the grieving process, HIll says.
Customized caskets can be a way to bring personalization to that ritual.
“White, American culture tends to shy away from any conversation about death,” HIll adds
But she says it seems to be shifting gradually to be more open. In fact, most of the millennials we asked said they would consider a custom coffin for themselves, a friend, or family member.
“I guess it feels a little more respectful, in a way,” says Landon Peterson, 27. “You know, not just a cookie cutter end.”
“I was actually talking with my mom about this the other day!” Jenny Garcia, 26, exclaims. “I want a custom casket at my funeral. My mom thinks it’s a morbid concept. But it’s really just about celebrating life, and making it unique.”
Trey Ganem designs is all about that. It wants to make funerals more personal and a little easier for loved ones in any way it can.
Which is one of the reasons the organization has also become well known for its charitable work.
“It can be really hard to not have the funds to put your loved one to rest,” Sublett says. Unexpected deaths, or even just death in general is a huge financial burden, especially if there were medical costs associated with the death.
To help provide families with personalized caskets, Trey Ganem Designs accepts donations.
“As often as we can we help, we work with families to do so,” Sublett says.
Customized caskets are more than just a cool idea or unique venture. They represent a cultural shift, from just going along with old rituals and being afraid to broach the subject of death, to viewing funerals as celebrations of someone’s life — challenging the cold, stereotypical metal or wooden box.
Customization gives people who’ve lost a loved one (or someone who has pre-planned the event) a chance to feel a little less cheated by death or a little closer to the loved one they lost when laying them to rest.
At the end of the day, Sublett shares, it’s just nice to know they’re helping make funerals a little less hard, a little less sad.
A little less macabre.