A Quick Overview of Funerals

A funeral is a ceremony for memorializing someone who has died. Funerals take place before burial or cremation, and are usually held within a few days of the death.

Funeral location

Most often, funerals are held in funeral homes, religious places of worship, chapels at the cemetery, or at the gravesite. These places are generally best equipped to handle the funeral service and its logistics.

Traditional funeral features

At some services the casket may already be set up in the front of the room, while at other services the casket may be brought in by pallbearers. During the service, people may say prayers, deliver eulogies, read passages from scripture or literature, or sing songs. At the end of the service, the body will be removed to a hearse by the pallbearers and brought to the cemetery for interment. In the case of cremation, the body will be removed to a crematory for cremation.

For advice on how to plan a funeral service, see Plan the Funeral or Memorial Service & Surrounding Events.

Holding a viewing, wake, or visitation

Many funerals begins with a viewing, wake, or visitation at which the body is on display. This may take place at a funeral home, a religious place of worship, or your own home. If you will be following any religious or cultural traditions, be aware that some religions do not include viewings, visitations, or wakes as a part of their customs. To learn more about different religion's traditions around viewings, wakes, and visitations see our article Religious Perspectives on Holding a Viewing, Wake, or Visitation.

To learn more about planning pre-service events, see our article Viewing, Wake, or Visitation.

Holding a funeral followed by burial

In the case of burial, there is usually a brief service held at the gravesite. This 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 lowered into the ground.

To learn more about burial, see our article Burial.

Holding a funeral followed by 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, if desired.

To learn more about cremation, see our article Cremation.

Post-funeral reception

After the interment, it is common to have a reception, 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.

To learn more about planning post-service events, see our article Post-Funeral Reception.

When to hold the funeral

The date and time of the funeral will largely depend upon where you choose to hold these events. If you’ll be following any religious or cultural customs, those may dictate how long after the death you wait before holding a funeral.

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