The Most Common Types of Funeral Services: Five Indispensable Guidelines You Need to Know

By: VGFS
Sunday, May 16, 2021

Whether you are pre-planning your own funeral or that of a loved one, there are many decisions to be made.

You may never have given it much thought before, but funeral services come in a wide variety of forms, types, and combinations. The service can be a traditional full-service funeral or a more modern and customized affair. This decision is often largely shaped by the religious and cultural preferences of the departed and/or their loved ones. Regardless of the style, the purpose of the funeral service is twofold: to acknowledge the passing and lifetime achievements of the departed, and to allow grieving friends and family members to support one another.

In this article, we have outlined the most common types of funeral services to help you determine what’s right for you or your loved one.

Traditional Funeral Services

Traditional funeral services occur soon after a person’s passing and are held at churches, funeral homes, or private residences. The deceased’s body is present at this type of service. Often, religious components are included such as scripture readings, hymns, a sermon, and a eulogy. Once the traditional service concludes, the departed’s remains are moved by procession to the place of burial or cremation.

Viewing or Visitation (Wake)

Viewings and visitations, also referred to as wakes, provide an intimate setting for the grieving to gather prior to the formal services held in the days to follow. The location may be at a funeral home, private residence, church, or other venue. An open casket is present, allowing visitors the opportunity to see the departed and offer their final goodbyes. Visitations, on the other hand, may include an open casket, or there may be a closed casket instead, or the body may not be present at all.

Funeral Reception (Repast)

Unlike viewings or visitations, funeral receptions or repasts occur after the funeral event. Catered or potluck-style food and beverages are often served at a fellowship hall, restaurant, park, or residence. Gathering to eat provides a break from the more formal ceremonies and offers the grieving a chance to comfort and connect in a relaxed setting.

Committal/Graveside Service

Committal services occur when the body is committed to the ground or in the cremation chapel. They are often brief and include religious components such as opening sentences, the Lord's Prayer, and an additional blessing and benediction. These services can be simple or elaborate, open invitation or more intimate, and offered in addition to or instead of other funeral services. At a graveside service, the casket is present. Often, loved ones will be able to place flowers on the casket before the burial.

Adaptations can be made for military burials, cremation/interment of ashes, burial above ground/at sea, or for donation of the body for medical research.

Memorial Service

Memorial services can complement or replace more traditional services. The body of the departed is not present, although an urn or container with the cremated remains may be. Typically informal, memorial services can be held at a reception hall, park, or private residence. Music, slideshows, and food are often featured. Memorial services can take double as a celebration of life wherein the one who passed on is remembered in a festive setting.

Selecting funeral services can feel overwhelming, but it’s always best to start by learning what is available to you. Funeral costs vary widely and may factor into your final decisions. Cultural and religious factors may also influence the type of funeral service you choose. There is no one right way to arrange a funeral, so always make the choices that best suit your needs.

If you have questions or need guidance making determinations for your loved one’s arrangements, our compassionate professionals are here to help. Please reach out to us any time.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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