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Funeral service

What's the Difference Between a Funeral Service and a Memorial Service?

  • December 14, 2019

Funeral homes provide different services depending on the needs and preferences of the decedent’s family.  While many people use the phrases "funeral service" and "memorial service" interchangeably, they are actually different services.

A “funeral service” is any official ceremony that takes place in the presence of a casketed body.  In other words, the body (inside a casket) is present during the ceremony.  The casket lid may be open or closed.

A “memorial service”, on the other hand, is any official ceremony that takes place without the casketed body being present.  For example, the ceremony might take place with just an urn containing cremated remains (i.e. “ashes”) serving as the focal point of the ceremony.  Alternatively, the focal point could be just a picture of the deceased displayed on an easel.

Traditional Funeral Service: The Advantages and Disadvantages

This article identifies a variety of considerations related to holding a traditional funeral service.  Reviewing these considerations will help you identify the type of funeral service that is most appropriate in your situation.

Advantages of a traditional funeral service

A traditional funeral service is the most popular –and therefore, socially acceptable- type of funeral service in America.  The structured formality of the traditional funeral service may provide the family with a sense of comfort and closure not experienced in less formal service arrangements.

The traditional funeral affords ample time for friends and extended family to attend and support the surviving family members.  A traditional funeral usually includes some type of viewing ceremony held one or two nights before the actual funeral.  Since the funeral ceremony itself is almost always held during the daytime, this nighttime visitation allows friends to pay their respects, even if they work during the day.  Also, by scheduling the traditional funeral three to six days after the death, extended family members have time to make travel arrangements, if necessary.

The traditional funeral provides many ways to celebrate the life of the deceased.  Although the traditional funeral can be a fairly structured event, it also provides maximum flexibility in terms of casket choice, religious readings, flower arrangements, and eulogies.

Lastly, the expenses associated with a traditional funeral service leave plenty of room for negotiating a big discount.  Using a resource like the Funeral Saver’s Kit to plan your funeral can often slash several thousands dollars from the funeral home’s bill.