Difference Between a Funeral and Memorial Services

Press Release   •   Feb 16, 2011 21:29 GMT

Making funeral arrangements for a perished loved ones, or pre-planning your own funeral or memorial service can be a confusing and overwhelming task.  When making funeral arrangements, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is what type of service is preferred.  Though the terms funeral and memorial service are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some significant differences between the two services. Funeral Service is a service which held to memorialize a deceased person with their body present. A Memorial Service is a service which held to memorialize a deceased person with their body not present.

Funeral Services:
Funeral refers to the ceremonies held prior to the burial of the deceased. The time frame for a funeral is one of the most significant differentiator between a funeral and memorial service. Usually a funeral is held close to the time of the passing of the deceased. Typically funerals are associated with religious or cultural traditions, and can be held within the religious centers themselves, or funeral home or graveside.

Many funeral services include a multi-day gathering time, that process is commonly termed as viewing.  Not all viewings include an open casket.  Some families choose to make the viewing a closed casket event, with individual family members reserving the right to see the deceased privately for final goodbyes. Though this is not always the case, most often funerals are associated with traditional burial services rather than cremation. For this reason, many funerals conclude with a funeral procession to the actual burial site where a final ceremony may be held.

Funeral arrangements for traditional funeral services usually encompasses plans for where the body is to be buried, selection of a funeral home to help with the arrangements, selection of music, eulogists, scripture readings, and selection of a religious officiant.

Memorial Service:
The memorial service has become increasingly popular as families and friends are more dispersed from one another than in previous generations.  Memorial services can occur at anytime after the death of a loved one, and often take place in cities other than where the deceased may have lived or been interred. Memorial services are considered by some to be more secular, or non-religious services, though religious foundations to the service are not unusual.  Memorial services typically are less formal than traditional funeral services and also tend to have a “celebration of life” atmosphere.

Most families adopt a memorial service when cremation is involved.  For this reason many people associate burial with funerals and cremation with memorial services.  However, it has also become more common for families to hold a burial service with a later memorial service to accommodate distant family and friends who may not be able to make travel and work plans quickly enough to participate in the funeral services.

Memorial service planning is not limited to a funeral home setting.  Many families choose to gather at a location of some significance to the deceased, for example a natural setting on a beach or at the home of a family member. Because there are usually fewer costs involved, memorial services also tend to be less expensive options than traditional funerals.  Memorial services can be simply a gathering of family and friends who come together to celebrate the life of the departed.

Making funeral arrangements for a loved one’s demise is an important part of the grieving process.  When choosing between a funeral or memorial service, take time to consider the kind of goodbye ceremony that would have meant the most to the deceased, as well as taking into account the various travel plans necessary for family and friends.