Weddings at Funeral Homes? Believe It

Milward Funeral Directors’ new Reception Center just off Man O’ War Boulevard sits at the intersection of the oldest family business in Lexington and the newest ideas for funeral homes.

Reinventing the concept of funerals is not something that owner Rob Milward would have envisioned 10 years ago.

With the opening of the new 7,500 square-foot, bright and airy building, Milward is focusing on contemporary “life celebrations” of all kinds.

“The visitation of yesterday is the reception of today,” said Milward, whose great, great, great grandfather founded the business in 1825.

Nearly two centuries later, Milward is breaking the stereotypes of the industry.

To imagine the new Reception Center, think of the opposite of what typically is associated with funeral homes.

Think skylights in a 30-foot ceiling. Flat screen TVs. A large reception room. Open, airy spaces. A piano (no organ).

Envision a kitchen for catering for all of life’s celebrations such as anniversary and retirement parties, birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, christenings, and weddings and rehearsal dinners.

Even the arts. In June, the Reception Center will host a play, “Three Viewings,” staged by the theater group, On The Verge.

Plays and weddings at a funeral home? It’s already happening across the country and now in Lexington.

“People are comfortable in the space we created, and they’re open to this idea, much more so than I thought,” Milward said.

“There’s nothing else like this in Kentucky.”

As for its funeral services, the new location at Man O’ War allows Milward to provide families with more hospitality.

This reflects the evolution of funerals over the years. A century ago, funeral directors handled arrangements at the farm house of the deceased.

In the 21st century, in urban settings with families scattered geographically, the funeral home has become the center of the experience.

And that experience need not be dark and dreary but a celebration of a loved one’s life.

That’s a far cry from the services performed a half-century ago when Rob’s father, Bob, joined the family business.

And what does the 75-year-old patriarch think of the new Recreation Center?
Said Rob: “Now that he’s seen it, he thinks it’s fantastic.”