Funeral rites vary across regions, cultures, and religious traditions. Choosing the proper funeral arrangements for your loved one can be confusing with all the options available. Nevertheless, a funeral service is an opportunity to honor a person’s life that close friends and family will remember for years.
Let’s look at common types of funeral services to help you make an informed and appropriate choice.
A funeral service occurs in a funeral home or church, and the deceased’s body is in a casket. Funerals can be open or closed caskets. Funerals are time-sensitive as the body is usually present.
Funerals consist of several elements, all of which can be selected depending on preference. Features of a funeral service include eulogies, religious readings, prayers, and songs. In addition, a traditional funeral service is a way for family and friends to come together and pay their respects.
A graveside service is similar to a funeral ceremony, except all elements happen outdoors next to where the burial will occur. Again, similar to a funeral, these services typically include eulogies, songs, and religious readings. If the deceased served in the military, the graveside service is where special ceremonies to honor their service will take place.
Some refer to a graveside service as a committal service, as well. The phrase “committal service” originates from The Book of Common Prayer. As such, committal services are religious, while graveside services do not have to be.
A direct burial skips any formal service and immediately buries the body. Direct burials are often referred to as affordable burials as they cut down significantly on funeral costs. In addition, because the body is laid directly in its final resting place, embalming is not needed.
Direct burials require a plot at a burial ground, which means a headstone or grave marker will also need to be purchased. Some people cut costs even more by using a simple box instead of a casket. However, you can still buy a high-quality casket for this final disposition.
A full-service cremation is when the funeral service and viewing happen before the body is cremated. Often, a family will want to embalm the body and have the casket present at the formal service. Once the services conclude and people have said their final goodbye, the body is cremated.
Like a direct burial, with direct cremation, there are no formal services before the final disposition. Instead, the family, or funeral home, typically works with a crematorium, and the deceased is incinerated immediately after death. Unless otherwise specified, you will receive the deceased’s remains in a plastic bag within a small nondescript box and then must choose a cremation urn.
Direct cremations do not have a formal ceremony or wake preceding them. However, as with direct cremations and burials, the family can hold a formal funeral service or a funeral reception later.
Memorial services are a hybrid of a funeral and a celebration of life. Typically, memorial services are for those with cremated remains. One of the main distinguishers between a memorial service and a funeral is that the body is present at a funeral.
Memorial services can consist of funeral and celebration elements and also have a wider window of time for planning as the remains have already been cared for through burial or cremation.
Celebration of Life
A celebration of life is a gathering that happens after the deceased person’s remains have either been buried or cremated, which allows more time and flexibility for planning. A celebration of life can be whatever a family or individual chooses. However, these gatherings typically elevate the loved one’s life and achievements and are a time for people to be together and reminisce on happy memories.
While many funeral practices originate from different religious traditions, atheist or non-religious ceremonies are becoming more popular. These non-religious ceremonies can still consist of a formal funeral service. However, the spiritual elements are left out.
Another non-traditional way to honor a person’s life is a green funeral or burial. These services often do not enlist the services of a funeral director or home. Instead, these natural burials limit waste and chemicals so the deceased’s remains can return to earth and decompose. Instead of a traditional burial, a green burial uses a much more simplified casket. Sometimes, a casket is unused, and the cremated remains are scattered or planted with a tree.
Viewings, Visitations, and Wakes
The viewing, visitation, and wake are often used interchangeably, but there are slight differences between the three. These are not necessarily funeral services themselves but rather components of more extensive burial services.
A viewing is typically held at the funeral home, and family members and guests are invited to view the embalmed body the day before the funeral service. The deceased’s body is on display in a casket. The casket can be made from various materials, including wood, metal, or even a custom design. A viewing can also be held for cremated remains if the family chooses. Viewing is one of the optional funeral practices.
Some people use wake and viewing interchangeably, but the most significant difference between these parts of funeral services is that a wake is rooted in religious tradition while viewing is not. Practices around wakes vary depending on the religion, but typically they are more informal gatherings where people come together and tell stories and pay their respects to the family. There is also often food.
A visitation typically happens soon after someone passes away. Visitations can occur either at the family’s home or the funeral home. Visiting with the immediate family is a way to support them during the grieving process and spend time together.
Choosing the Right Funeral Service
When selecting a funeral service, it’s important to honor the person’s life and keep any specific wishes they had in mind. For example, religious families might want to focus on more traditional elements, while others may seek out a non-religious ceremony. Whatever the choice, it should be a meaningful tribute to your loved one’s life.
Dealing with the complexities of death is never easy, and the grieving process can make planning even harder. We’ve made it easy for you to find the right casket for your funeral service and are available 24/7 to answer any questions.