Traditional funeral features
A funeral service generally begins with the body being brought in by pallbearers. During the service, people may say prayers, deliver eulogies, read passages from scripture or literature, or sing songs. More and more people are incorporating technology-driven features, such as photo slideshows and videos. After the service, the body is brought to a cemetery for burial or a crematory for cremation.
Funeral service locations
Most often, funerals are held in funeral homes, religious places of worship, or a chapel at the cemetery. These places are generally best equipped to handle a funeral service and its logistics. However, if you’d like your funeral to be held somewhere else you should talk to those venues to see if they will accommodate a funeral. There are no legal prohibitions against having a body on display (that is, you are not legally obligated to have a funeral at either a funeral home, cemetery, or religious place of worship), though hosting the funeral is ultimately at the venue’s discretion.
You may also choose to have your funeral service at your own home. To learn more about home funeral, see our article Pre-Planning a Home Funeral Service.
Funeral service followed by a burial
In the case of burial, the body will be removed to a hearse by the pallbearers and brought to the cemetery for interment at the end of the funeral service. Once at the cemetery, there will usually be a brief service after the funeral held at the gravesite. Depending on your preference, the graveside service may be limited to immediate family or may include everyone who attended the funeral service. The funeral officiant may recite more prayers or readings and the body is buried in the ground or entombed in a crypt.
To learn more about graveside services, see our article Pre-Planning a Graveside Funeral Service.
Funeral service followed by a cremation
In the case of cremation, the body is usually taken directly from the funeral to the crematory. Family members may gather at the crematory to say prayers or watch the cremation, or not.
To learn more about cremation, see our article Pre-Planning Cremation.
Post-funeral reception or gathering
After the interment, it is common to have a reception or gathering, which can be held at a funeral home, religious place of worship, a family home, or another location that can accommodate all those who attended the funeral. Food and drink are often provided, sometimes by the family and sometimes by the community.
To learn more about planning a post-service reception, see our article Pre-Planning a Reception.
Pre-planning a funeral offers you an opportunity to plan elements of the service to your liking that you otherwise might not have been able to plan. For example, you can choose to have a viewing, visitation or wake before the service. You may want those attending your funeral to wear red instead of the traditional black. Perhaps you want to write a speech that you have someone deliver on your behalf at the service. You may decide that you want your favorite band to play, or you want pizza served at the reception. Or maybe you want guests to donate to a charity in your name. There are many ways to personalize your funeral service. Talk to your family about the features you’d like to incorporate.
To learn about other types of services you can have, see our article Pre-Planning a Funeral Service, Graveside Service, or Memorial Service.