Selfies, angel wings, sports logos: Colorful vinyl casket wraps brighten funerals
Image via Fresh Take Florida.

'It really does help with this stigma of death — it’s something that everyone’s going to experience all through life.'

It was supposed to be a regular day for 12-year-old Mariah Reginae Smith when she sat on her couch to watch “SpongeBob SquarePants” on Aug. 25. A few minutes later, bullets shot and fired into her Lake City home killed her.

Nearly half a year later, Mariah’s mother, Todneisha Filer, still struggles to come to terms with her daughter’s death, but she has found comfort in embracing photos and other images of her life.

One image was particularly helpful: A plastic banner with Mariah’s image on it that wrapped her burial casket, displaying her in the clouds with angel wings behind her back and a halo.

It was designed by A Touch of Jai, a casket wrapping and memorabilia business owned by Larry Fulton, 40, and his wife, Jaime, 38, in Gainesville.

The vinyl wrapping industry includes businesses that wrap cars, appliances, tool boxes — and caskets. Unheard of a few years ago, casket wrapping is becoming increasingly common across the U.S.

Casket wrappers often sell prefabricated wraps showing stock images of nature scenes and religious symbols. The wraps, made from a vinyl plastic material that is adhered using heat, can be made in one or two days.

But custom wraps displaying the deceased and their favorite things like logos from a favorite sports team or images of a favorite place provides meaning to the business, Larry Fulton said.

The Fultons’ is one of few casket wrapping businesses in the U.S. They began designing and wrapping caskets for a living in 2022. Their business became even more personal, however, after Larry Fulton’s sister died.

“I keep referring to her as my baby sister even though she was 32,” he said on a video uploaded to TikTok. “She was still my baby sister and she was dope.”

Touch of Jai’s prices its casket wraps from $3,000 to $5,000. Demand is variable, according to Larry Fulton. There are weeks where they have zero caskets to wrap and other weeks where they might produce five, but the average is two to three.

Their business is privately held, so there are no publicly disclosed financial reports of profits or revenues, however, in the U.S. funeral service is an estimated $23 billion business.

Large graphic depictions of a loved one can completely surround an otherwise impersonal coffin. Sometimes the customized graphic is surrounded by glitter and bling that Larry Fulton said represents the deceased’s personality. The Fultons said they got into the business of casket wrapping to help provide comfort to their clients.

“Take the pictures, get the video, leave the voicemails,” Jaime Fulton said. “Everything we do requires the pictures, you know, those memories. We’re trying to help you leave a lasting legacy.”

On A Touch of Jai’s website, customers fill out a form to order a casket wrap. The completed wraps can be shipped within 250 miles.

“When you see your loved one in a coffin and it is everything that they love, want and worry about, it will give you a lasting impression,” Jaime Fulton said.

Since the Fultons started posting their casket wrap services on TikTok, some commenters have called them pointless, tedious and expensive. But the Fultons disagree, noting that in various cultures, especially among African Americans, a funeral is treated as a celebration of life rather than a day of mourning. And a casket wrap is a way to celebrate the deceased.

“It really does help with this stigma of death — it’s something that everyone’s going to experience all through life,” Jaimie Fulton said. “But it doesn’t have to be anything scary.”

Camelia Clarke, owner of Paradise Memorial Funeral Home in Milwaukee and a longtime member of the National Funeral Directors Association, said casket wrapping is “a level of memorialization and personalization” that is “really helping families with a healthier grieving journey.”

Clarke added: “Joy in the face of adversity. That comes from the ability to find joy and maintain a strong community despite all the historical and cultural adversities that have happened.”

Lenora Mazon-Smith, 48, of High Springs in north central Florida, lost her son, D’Aunta Latrav’s D’mond Williams, 28, to lupus on May 10. Williams, called “Nipp Nipp” by his family, loved playing basketball and teaching people of all ages to play, his mother said.

Larry Fulton said Williams was so beloved in their community that A Touch of Jai made a purple basketball themed casket wrap of Smith’s son and wrapped a basketball in his honor.

“I was amazed,” Smith said of the company’s gesture. “It was tears of joy.”

Williams previously had cancer, then lupus, and both illnesses took a toll on his body. He even struggled to walk the aisle during his high school graduation because of the disease.

Smith said the wrapped memorabilia helped her to soak in the life of her son before his passing. She now spends her time focused on lupus awareness.

Burials have roots in the African American approach to the customs of funerals as a celebration of life, a time for joy and remembrance, not for solemnity, according to Joseph A. Brown, a Catholic priest and director for the School of Africana and Multicultural Studies at Southern Illinois University.

“In Catholicism, the blemishing of one’s soul is represented by a cloth over a casket,” Brown said.

Brown said such traditions come from Africa and ancestral ties stemmed from slavery — such as the sprinkling of holy water over a casket — and can symbolize the act of “ancestors crying tears of joy that we have returned to them.”

Jamil Robinson, 35, of Fort Lauderdale and the creative director at We Wrap Caskets, a South Florida casket wrapping business located in Davie, agreed.

“There is no right or wrong way to celebrate (life),” Robinson said. “But if you’re going to celebrate, make sure it looks as beautiful as it can for them and put your all into it.”

We Wrap Caskets opened July 2016. Customers are mostly funeral directors, and while the business delivers nationally, and even internationally, most are in Florida.

Robinson’s designs range from $725 to $1,200 not including shipping. We Wrap Caskets recently delivered a casket wrapping to the Bahamas after a resident ordered the design online.

“If you’re really honoring someone’s whole life, make sure you honor it in the fullest,” Robinson said. “The best that you can, and we’d be happy to do that for you if we may.”


This story was produced by Fresh Take Business, a news service covering business news from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at [email protected].

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