What if a funeral becomes an event?

Is there a future, for the events sector, in death? Sophie Naze and Katrijn Desteghe want to break the taboos and offer an alternative to a classic funeral.

Kevin Van der Straeten|show original
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Sophe Willems
Sophe Willems
New|2021-09-09 - 09:56u

Ik ga binnenkort de cursus event planner volgen om dan eventueel later als zelfstandige te starten.

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Is there a future, for the events sector, in death? Sophie Naze and Katrijn Desteghe want to break the taboos and offer an alternative to a classic funeral.

Bye Katrijn, bye Sophie, welcome to the studio .

Good morning g.

You have a remarkable plan: funerals .


Absolutely .

How do you get there to go from the event world to the funeral?

Gosh, well, I think there's a gigantic taboo hanging around anything to do with funerals anyway. We don't like to talk about death. We don't like to talk about funerals.

This is usually very unexpected. For some, unfortunately, sometimes not unexpected. But there is actually a lot of walking around.

And in the events, as most of us now know, with KonseptS, we mainly focus on positive emotions. Very often in a business context. It is not all very difficult. It is about, anyway, usually something fun, experiencing something together, you name it.

And actually, in my life in general, I am very fiercely concerned with emotions. And sadness is one of those things, which actually, yes, is also present in everyone. But we prefer not to talk about that too much. Especially with social media. We all avoid that a bit. It's all cool.

But that grief is essential. I always say: no pain, no pleasure. And that's just because it is part of life.

That's true.

And that is actually an ambition, for me personally as a person as well, because of, yes, that emotion of sadness, that it becomes a bit more negotiable. And most of the time, of course, the biggest sadness comes when we have to leave someone behind.

Now, when we talk about funerals, isn't that the field of funeral directors?

Why, as an event agency, work on that?

Because we feel that there really is a need. We already feel it within ourselves and also in the context in which we move ourselves.

That there is a need for: how have I lived and that is how I want to go. That's how I want my last goodbye. Coffee tables no longer belong to our everyday life.

Yeah, it's always the same too, huh.

Indeed, it is always the same. And in addition to that, we want to offer: it can be your way. From A to Z, your funeral, your death, your last trip, so to speak, may go your way. This can range from the right choice of music to the right food. Maybe you just want a party. Do you want a tent in the garden? Everything is possible, however you want. And I think that's a very important one. Because: we all live, but we also all die.

As Sophie just said: we don't like to talk about it, that has become a bit of a taboo. And we mainly want to get that out of the taboo sphere and, back, make it part of: whatever can be a celebration.

Yes, but going back to that undertaker for a moment. Is there also a division of: what do you do and what do they do?

Definitely. After all, being a funeral director is really an expertise. Which we don't have. So I think we should mainly look at the partnerships.

We have of course already lit our light, of course, before we got here in the studio. We've been working on the project for a while, so we've actually talked to a lot of people.

And they also have that need, hey. They also feel that people come to them in a different way than more.

And the pure task of a funeral director, if you actually look at it, yes, you can never ignore it. They have their hands full, usually in a week, or five ... five days to a week, with the preparations. And that is really specifically about: the person has died, he has to be transported. Yes, it must be kept, to put it that way for a moment. It must then be laid out for the family to greet. The administration must be done. They have to go to the municipalities. A place must be chosen. So yes, it all matters. That in itself is a full-time task. And all those extra questions, where they might feel that the need is there ...

Because they really confirm that the need is there. People want something different, people ask us: can we do it in the garden, or can we not do it at a different location than here in the auditorium. Because you have beautiful auditoriums. We have already gone from churches to auditoriums. And great, all fantastic.

But even now we are so far ahead that people might even question the auditorium for a moment. And still rather maybe at the place where I got married? Or at the place where I had my last good time, with my family, or something. So there actually. So more of a supplement, really a ...

No, not "more one". A supplement to the undertaker. So that part will remain anyway. From that perspective, we really do work with them.

And yes, that is quite the approach.

And who do you focus on? Because, you have the person who is sick, or maybe not sick yet. Who has certain wishes. But yes, it may be that that is a long time in advance.

Or you have the widow or widower, but then it has to go very quickly.

Yes definitely. We focus on both.

Everyone thinks about their own death from time to time and that is why we also have a deed of wish. That either online, or that I arrive at home, that we can fill it in together. And then we already know in advance: how do you want to arrange your farewell? And that has been determined in advance. We save that for you too. So that is actually completely arranged, from A to Z.

But it does happen that there are deaths now, and no one has been able to foresee them. And even then we can be called, very sure. And then we will look together, together, in conversation with the family, with the next of kin, with the widow, with the parents, possibly, with the friends of: who was this person and how would he or she have wanted it? And how do you want it?

And that we can look together, at the puzzle, to create such a beautiful one possible to say goodbye.

What does that mean for an organizer, for an event agency? Because we, as a sector, always say: yes, preferably come one year in advance. Because then we can plan everything very nicely for you. And certainly not last minute.

No that's right.

But isn't there a problem here?

It shouldn't be a problem, because in the end the process behind it is a very ...

The story, whether it is actually a happy event, or the events that we are already doing, or this, the phased work and the tasks that have to be done in it, are really just identical.

That script is very much the same.

To be honest, it's a bit of a copy / paste of the model behind it. From: what should I do? Yes, I have to have an intake interview. Okay, this intake interview is of course on a different emotional level. But it is the same way of working. You try to get in touch with, at that moment, your target group, being that family, those friends, how do they experience that? With the deceased. You're actually trying to construct that story, according to them. So, you really go for an intake interview. And after that intake interview, there is literally brainstorming. From: okay, what are we going to do? Where are we going?

Of course we can draw on that, from our endless list of possible partners for locations and ...

So we are, I think precisely because of the expertise of KonseptS, because that is of course a consequence, very quickly, very operational. And let's be honest, in our profession, at the moment, everything is also last minute. The chance that there are still events, very fierce in advance, is also less and less. So we're really trained on it, huh. So in that area, no problem.

Yes, but your expectations towards partners also mean: okay, you have to be here within three days, hey.

Yes correct. So that makes you expand your portfolio even more, huh. That you are really specific in that matter ...

Yes, all partners will know that it is for that matter. And they are also going to be able to work with it in advance, or not, hey. There are also going to be very clear, who say: ok, but then or then it will not work for us.

Now, the difference too: we mainly do B2B events. Yes, dying, that happens. That is not at any particular peak or off-peak moment. This happens all year round.

You're not planning that, are you.

No, voilà. So from that perspective, there are also some opportunities to have business at other times, which you, as a partner, might not have otherwise. So it does have opportunities.

Do you notice, with suppliers: is everyone eager for that? Or do you notice that there are also those who say: that is a matter ... Or that is something ...

Because of that taboo atmosphere. Or because it is last minute. We prefer to stay away from that.

No, I think most of the things we've talked about now are really like, wow, what you're going to do, that's real ...

Yes, there is a need for that. And we also want to contribute to that. Because everyone ... It also affects everyone personally, hey. You just did, somewhere in the family, someone or something ...

You actually come into contact with it almost every month, in one way or another. Or maybe even daily or weekly, if you start to think about it and really think about it consciously. We do not think about it. And that alone. Just make the fact of it negotiable. We now also see it, thanks to the great program, on VRT. Come to go. You see that something is alive.

Yes definitely.

Also with funeral directors themselves. That something changes. And I mainly think there: let's go back, as human beings, talk to each other. But don't shy away from those things either. I think that's our main goal as well.

We are going to do that too. One of our services will also be workshops. That Katrijn is going to give. It may sound a bit strange: a workshop with your family, to talk about our death and the future for a moment. But that really, in itself, could make the grief more bearable.

That is not easy either ...

Because you said it a moment ago, hey: you have happy events and these are less happy events. With such a happy event: yeah, right, we're going to hit it. And let us sit together for that brainstorm and it is possible, the crazier, the better.

But that demands a lot from you, as a contact person at such a moment, doesn't it? To be able to work in such a situation, in between that grief.

Yes that's right. That's right. That is not always easy, of course. Because there is a whole load coming, which is not so nice. Which involves a lot of grief and pain, so to speak. But that's what I want to do. That's what I can do, can do. And that is, yes, ...

That belongs to me. To guide people in mourning. You have life, you have death. And in between there is a lot of joy, but also a lot of mourning. A lot: how do you deal with this? And I have the training for that. I have the feeling for that . The heart for that, thank you.

Not unimportant.

Yes, but no, you have to be very empathetic to be able to ...

Allez, I think that applies to all funeral directors as well.

Sure, yes.

That alone is a profession in itself.

Yes Yes. But the more you start talking about that to people, the more you start to feel how unburdened death or mourning is.

We have made something of it: it is not allowed to be talked about, so it is heavily loaded anyway. But if you start thinking for yourself: how do I actually want my funeral? I can imagine very well what a fantastic party that will be. And if you can discuss that together with the people who matter to you, that can be a very nice discussion. That does not have to be all doom and gloom. And to see that and to feel that, how much life stands next to death, that is the most beautiful gift that I can pass on to my clientele.

I read in the information that you sent, and it has also been discussed very briefly, even if you are not sick, you can actually already think about it. And then...

What did you call it? A will...

A deed of wish.

A deed of wish. But what exactly is that. And what comes in there?

Yes, that is actually that you can see for yourself, individually, or with your family, or with your family: how do I want it? How do I want my funeral to be arranged? Do I want a white box? Maybe I don't want a chest at all? Do I want in a wicker basket with a shroud? Do I want to be in the auditorium and be cremated? Or do I just want a very nice garden party, with white tents? Do I want to be on stage, or not? Do I want a tape or not? Those things can all be recorded in that deed of wish.

You can do this either from the comfort of your home, at home, via an app, via the internet, which you fill in yourself. Or it is also possible that one of us will come to your house and that we will talk about it together, fill it in together.

And the advantage with us is that we will actually save it for you. And when the moment has come, and hopefully it will only be within twenty years, so to speak, then we will ensure that the wish stated in that deed is actually carried out.

Yeah, because that's the next problem, of course, huh. I can fill that in. But maybe I didn't say that to too many people either. It must also surface when it is needed, huh.

Yes, so in the layout of the tool, now, because we are also working hard on that, so it is not active yet.

But that also requires a lot of long-term thinking, hey. Because yes, you actually have to get that certificate from people somewhere. So we are now looking at that whole story in a process. With the web builders, among other things: how can we optimize that effectively? That we actually have that tool. That, literally, you from the seat ...

It might be a bit weird, huh. From the couch, once together with your partner. But, when I'm talking to friends or something, everyone talks about it with their partner from time to time. And I have a partner myself, who then ...

Every time I hear a song on the radio, I say, oh, hey, that's gotta be ...

Then he says: but anyway, can you write that down now, please? But I don't. Or I didn't. Yes, and it is actually partly because of that, that I had this awareness of: yes, indeed, I don't want music that I didn't think was very good.

Yes, and it is, hey. I have unfortunately also had to experience it recently. When the time comes, it has to go so fast that by then you ...

Nobody is doing that.

By the time you have remembered everything about how it should be, it is over.

Yes, the emotion also takes over. You are so in the emotion of: what is happening now? That the mind really can't think of it anymore. And by having that deed of wish in advance, you can just stay in the emotion and we will be the mind for you.

Yes, a great project.

That is well said, Katrijn. Hey, dear. I couldn't have said it that well now.

Sometimes there are those moments.

No, but a very nice project. Good luck with that.

Thank you.

I hope you can help a lot of people.

We hope so too.

And thanks for coming to the studio, huh.

Thank you very much for the invitation.

And thank you for watching. Until next week.