There are many moving parts when it comes to your family’s Estate Planning, which is why we're here to take the confusion out of choosing the preferred funeral type for yourself or your loved one.
There are several types of funerals a person can choose from that vary in style, tribute, cost, process, and based on an individual’s or family’s religious beliefs. Determining the funeral type that’s right for you will take some consideration, so the following guide will break down the basics and thoroughly explain what you need to know — no matter the path you choose to follow. Here you’ll learn about:
Types of Funerals
“What kind of funeral should I host for my close friend or family member?” “Will the option I choose meet their religious preferences?” “Where should I hold the ceremony?” “What are the differences between funeral types?” These are questions on many people’s minds regarding funerals and we’re going to help you answer them.
To start, the most common types of funerals include:
Memorial Service/Celebration of Life
Full Service Funeral
A full funeral service — also referred to as a “traditional” or “full service” funeral — is the most common funeral type in most cultures. This usually occurs within days of a death and takes place at a church or funeral home. Friends and family gather to view their loved one at either an open or closed-casket ceremony. Because a full service funeral is often religious in nature, a pastor or priest will share a few words and a blessing. This can be followed by one or more eulogies given by family or close friends.
Once the formal service concludes, attendees will move to the location of the burial or cremation, either a cemetery or crematorium, to finalize the ceremony and pay last respects.
On occasion, the family of the deceased holds a reception in their home following the burial or cremation. This is certainly not required of a full service funeral and will depend on each family’s preferences and circumstances.
A graveside service — also known as a “committal service” — is the part of the ceremony that follows the full or traditional service funeral explained above; however, some families choose to partake in only the graveside procedure, forgoing the church service. This can be an alternative option if the deceased or their family is not religious. With this option, the entire service takes place at the cemetery or crematorium and the funeral director, as well as friends and family, can share their eulogies. A prayer is typically read and attendees will present flowers or other memorabilia at the deceased’s grave.
Viewing or Visitation service
A viewing service is for those who opt for an open-casket funeral while a visitation service is held for those who choose a closed-casket burial or cremation. The viewing or visitation service occurs before the formal full service and is usually reserved for close friends and family members to express sympathy and say their last words and goodbyes. This ritual is the most intimate and can provide a sense of comfort for those most afflicted. Viewings and visitations are held at the church, funeral home, cemetery, crematorium, or home of the deceased and can be observed by any religious denomination.
Note that a viewing or visitation service is often referred to in the Catholic tradition as a wake.
A memorial service, or a “celebration of life”, does exactly that — remembers and celebrates the life of the deceased in a cheerful, more informal, fashion. One of the biggest differences between a memorial service and a full, graveside, or visitation service funeral is that the body of the decedent doesn't necessarily have to be present at the ceremony — although it still can if the family so chooses. And because the remains of the loved one aren’t required, the ceremony can take place at any time after the passing.
Another important distinction between a memorial service and other funeral types is the location of the gathering. The celebration of life can be held anywhere the family decides; whether that be in their homes, an event venue, or a location that was cherished by the decedent (like a park, beach, restaurant, or other venue.) This funeral type can also include what is known as a “Scattering of Ashes” Ceremony. If your late friend or family member chooses to be cremated, you may scatter their ashes in a predetermined location or location that was meaningful to your loved one. This ritual can take place during the memorial service.
A memorial service can consist of eating, drinking, merriment, and the solemn sharing of stories about the departed’s life. So if you’re interested in memorializing your loved ones by remembering the best parts of their existence, a celebration of life could be the best funeral type for you.
Types Of Burials
Choosing the type of funeral you want to host for your loved one is only part of the process — it’s of equal importance to choose a preferred burial type. The following five methods are most common:
Above Ground Burial - Public or Private Mausoleum
Above Ground Burial in a Lawn Crypt
An in-ground burial is essentially what it sounds like: when the body of the decedent is interned in a casket and subsequently placed into a vault or other burial container and buried beneath soil at a gravesite. A gravestone engraved with an epigraph is typically placed at the gravesite and serves as a memorial.
An above ground burial is similar in that the body of the decedent is kept in a casket, but the casket is preserved at a public or private mausoleum or lawn crypt. Note, a mausoleum is an above-ground building that houses the caskets and vaults of those who have passed. A lawn crypt is essentially a below-ground mausoleum (think: the compromise between a mausoleum and traditional gravesite). A lawn crypt also allows two bodies to be buried in the same place.
This burial option can be preferable because it offers a secure, safe, and dry place for friends and family to cherish their loved ones for eternity.
A cremation is the final disposition of a deceased body through burning and is the alternative to a casket-based ceremony. This option is accepted in many religions (although prohibited for Muslims and some members of conservative Jewish sects) so we recommend consulting your religious leader before pursuing this route. Cremation can be a great option for those who wish to take part in a “scattering of ashes” service or keep their loved one in a ceremonial urn; it is also the most cost-effective funeral type.
Natural burials are an option for those who wish to pursue an eco-friendly funeral. This process does not use embalming fluid, a casket, or vault and instead allows a body to decompose naturally into the earth. The grave is even dug by hand without help from heavy machinery.
Which Funeral Type is Right for You?
When it comes to choosing the type of funeral that’s right for you or your loved one, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made:
Where should the funeral take place?
Who should attend the funeral?
How should attendees dress for the funeral?
Should there be a religious reading at the funeral?
When should I host the ceremony?
Who should read a eulogy?
In times of distress, answering these questions can feel overwhelming, which is why we want to remove the guesswork from the process.
Still not sure which option will best fit your needs? We can listen, and help! Making these decisions doesn’t have to be something you do alone, especially if you prioritize your Estate Planning in advance. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve and stop waiting when it comes to getting your affairs in order.