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When it comes to planning funerals, a host of options are available, depending on a person’s religious and cultural traditions, personal preferences, and financial means. Some individuals might prefer a simple, private ceremony, while others may want a more traditional funeral with a viewing and visitation. Still others may choose cremation or wish to donate their body to science. In any event, the only way to ensure that a person’s final wishes are followed is by pre-planning and making those wishes known to family and friends. Let’s take a look now at some of the available planning options.
The most common type of final arrangement today is the traditional funeral, which includes three typical rituals: a visitation, a funeral or memorial service, and a burial/interment.
A visitation, also known as a viewing or a wake, allows family and friends to gather to say their final goodbyes. The deceased’s body is placed in a casket, which can be closed or open depending on the wishes of the deceased and the family, as well as the circumstances surrounding the death. A wake or visitation often occurs at a funeral home or church; in some parts of the country, it may be held at the home of the deceased or a family member. It typically takes place the evening or morning before the funeral service and involves rituals such as
• signing a guest book;
• walking through a receiving line and offering condolences to family members;
• viewing photos, videos, or favorite items of the deceased; and
• displaying flower arrangements from family and friends around the casket.
Not all cultures and religions hold a wake, however. For example, among the Jewish religion, family members hold an extended visiting period (about one week) where they gather in a home and invite family and friends to celebrate and mourn the deceased. Unlike a wake, the deceased’s body is not displayed.
A funeral service often includes prayers, readings from religious texts, music, and a sermon by a spiritual leader. Often, family members, friends, or a spiritual leader may deliver a eulogy, which may involve sharing stories, memories, and accomplishments of the deceased. In most cases, a funeral occurs within three to five days after death, although this period may vary due to medical circumstances and religious or cultural beliefs. Many religions have formal rites that can provide a framework for the service. A person can also choose a secular funeral service to be held outside a religious establishment or can incorporate some limited religious aspects into the service.
A funeral service can be a public event, attended by anyone who cares to attend, or it can be small and private, attended only by family and close friends. A person can also pre-plan where he or she would like the funeral to be held. While most religious services are held in a church or synagogue, they can also be held in a variety of other locations, such as the home of friends or family or directly at a funeral home.
A memorial service is typically a less formal ceremony than a funeral. The main distinction between the two is that the body is present at a funeral; at a memorial service, it is not. Often, when there are no remains, a family may choose to have a memorial service instead. The main purpose of a memorial service is to remember and celebrate the life of a loved one who has died. A memorial service can be held in a church, at a funeral home, in a cemetery chapel, outdoors, or at a restaurant, among other places. The service can be held at any time and is not required to be held
shortly after death. Like a funeral, a memorial service gives family and friends the opportunity to commemorate a person’s life through songs, readings, videos, and pictures. People may also be encouraged to speak openly and share stories about the deceased. Today, many families choose to have both a funeral and a memorial service. Typically, the funeral service is more religious while the memorial is more secular.
A burial service typically occurs immediately following the funeral. The body is transported to the cemetery or mausoleum where a priest, minister, or other spiritual leader will say final blessings and prayers. Often, pallbearers (typically close family or friends) carry the casket from the church or other place of worship after the funeral service to the hearse, and then from the hearse to the gravesite. At the gravesite, family members may place flowers or sentimental items on the casket and can say their final goodbyes. After leaving the cemetery or mausoleum, staff members will bury the body.
Again, the steps in a burial service will vary depending on the religious and cultural beliefs of the deceased and the family. They will also vary depending on whether the person has chosen to be buried or cremated.
While most funerals today are “traditional funerals”—that is, they occur at a funeral home and involve a viewing, funeral and/or memorial service, and burial—a number of other options are also available, including cremation, green funerals, and donating one’s body to science.
Trying to decide on the right casket for a loved one is a very difficult task. You should consider what color and material you may prefer as well as what they may have liked. Caskets come in two basic categories; metal or wood. Once you decide on that, things such as interior material, shape of the casket and personalization features will help you to narrow your choices. Take a few minutes to watch the informational video below which explains the many options that we offer in casket selections.
If you have more questions, remember we are here to answer them 24 hours a day.
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