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5 Types of Funerals: What You Need to Know

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Did you know that there are five different types of ceremonies that are used in Western culture to honour the life of someone who has passed away and to say goodbye?

If you answered “no”, you are not alone. Most people are not aware of the different ways to remember and mourn the dearly departed.

This article will explain the five different types of ceremonies: funeral service; memorial service; committal (or graveside service); viewing and visitation; and funeral reception.

This information will help you decide which type or types of ceremonies are right for you (if you are pre-planning your own service), or for a loved one who has passed away. 

A Funeral Service

A funeral service is a formal ceremony that is based on the religious and cultural beliefs of the deceased. The ceremony is for celebrating or remembering the life of a person who has died.

This type of service usually takes place within a few days of the death, at the home of the deceased, in a funeral home, or a church.

Family and friends of the deceased attend and pay their last respects to the deceased and their immediate family.

At this type of ceremony, the deceased’s body must be present and must not be cremated.

The deceased’s remains are moved from their home or the funeral home, to the church where the ceremony continues with scripture readings, hymns, a short sermon and a eulogy.

The deceased’s remains are then moved by procession to the cemetery for the burial or to the crematorium for cremation.

If you or your loved one is religious and religion has been a big part of their life, the traditional funeral service may be the best option.

If you decide on a traditional funeral service, there are a number of additional matters that you will need to address, including:

  • Where the initial ceremony will take place – at the home of the deceased, or in the funeral home?
  • Clothing and styling?
  • Do you wish to have a funeral mass or service at the church?
  • What scripture readings should be used?
  • What kinds of flowers do you wish to have?
  • What hymns or music you would like played?
  • How you are going to get the body from the initial ceremony to the church and to the burial ground?
  • Who will be the pall bearers?
  • What are the proceedings for the graveside ceremony?

A Memorial Service

A memorial service is a ceremony for celebrating or remembering the life of a person who has died.

It takes place after the body has been buried or cremated (the cremated remains may be present during the memorial service).

The main difference between a funeral service and a memorial service is the presence of the deceased’s body.

Unlike a funeral service, the body of the deceased is not present at a memorial service.

Because the body does not need to be present, a memorial service can be held at any time after the death, from days, to a week to a year.

This type of service is often used for celebrations of life, which are usually more informal and non-religious.

A memorial service gives family, friends and acquaintances an opportunity to gather together to celebrate the life of a loved one after their death.

After the initial impact and feelings of grief have subsided, a memorial service can be more of a celebration of the life of your loved one, as opposed to a final goodbye.

A memorial service can be held virtually anywhere that you or loved ones prefer.

If your loved one had a special or favourite place such as a beach, park, restaurant or hiking trail, consider that location as an option.

The memorial service can also be held at a more traditional or religious venue such as a funeral home, church or temple.

If your loved one was the nature-loving adventurer, a memorial service held at their favourite place to visit would probably be more appropriate than in a church or temple.

It would better reflect the life that everyone is there to celebrate.

If you opt for a memorial service, there are a few things that you should give some thought to:

  • What music you would like played at the ceremony (i.e. your loved one’s favourite song)?
  • Do you want to include any religious readings?
  • Who will be the Master of Ceremonies?
  • Will the cremated remains be present at the service?  If so, what urn you would like them to be placed in?
  • Who should deliver the eulogy? 

A Committal (or Graveside) Service

Although a funeral service and memorial service might include a committal service (also referred to as a graveside service), some people choose to solely do a committal service.

A committal service is a brief ritual, often involving prayer. A committal service takes place at the graveside following a funeral, or in the case of creation, in the cremation chapel.

Flowers are often placed upon the casket by loved ones before the grave is filled with soil.

If you choose to have a graveside service alone, then you may need to organize most of the ceremony yourself, if you want something more than just chairs and a sound system.

Viewings and Visitations

In addition to the actual service, often people choose to hold some kind of visitation or viewing.

These events are hosted in order to allow friends and family of the deceased to visit and express sympathy to the deceased’s family; or to provide an opportunity to actually see the person who has died for last time and say goodbye.

Family visitations can provide family and friends with the opportunity to share their grief with one another in a more personal and intimate setting, outside of the formal ceremony.

This helps ease the grieving process and can provide some sense of closure to family and friends suffering a loss.

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A Viewing 

A viewing can be organized if you are choosing to have an open casket funeral.

A viewing is an event that gives family and friends, and acquaintances the opportunity to see the person who has died for the last time and say their goodbyes.

Viewings usually occur before or during Visitation. 

A Visitation 

A visitation is an event that gives family, friends, and acquaintances the opportunity to express sympathy to the family of the deceased.

It is generally held at the funeral home but can be held at a family home, church, or some other venue.

A visitation can occur whether the body is present or has been cremated, whereas a viewing is for open casket funerals.

A viewing and visitation sometimes are collectively referred to as a Wake.

A Funeral Reception

A funeral reception may be held after the formal service. A funeral reception provides guests and family members the opportunity to spend time together and remember the person they have lost in a more casual setting.

Many receptions are held at the family’s home, though they may be held in church halls, restaurants, or other venues. Food and drinks are usually served.

A funeral reception, like a viewing or visitation, can really help the healing process for those loved ones left behind.

Loved ones can share memories of the deceased, discuss their loss with friends and family, and find comfort in being around people who are going through the same sorrow you are.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Your Death With Your Loved Ones

Dying is one of the only inevitable things in life, but for a lot of us, we find it difficult to talk about our funeral and burial wishes.

However, answering questions about what kind of service you want can really save your loved ones a great deal of stress when the time comes.

Planning these things ahead also ensures that your final life celebration will be a reflection of who you are.

Ask your loved ones how they would like to mark their final ceremony.

Ask them if they want to be cremated.

Ask them where they would like to be laid to rest.

Ask them if they want a traditional funeral service or memorial celebration of life service.

Ask them if they want their religion to be a part of the service.

Death is a part of life and planning your final ceremony or the final ceremony of a loved one can be a heavy task as it feels as though you are planning their final farewell.

The more you talk about death with your loved ones, the less stressful planning this event will seem when the time comes.

You can also follow our Pinterest board for more funeral planning resources.