Funeral or Memorial

The Difference Between A Funeral or Memorial Service


You will need to make a decision early on what type of service you will want to have. There are some differences you will want to take note of. You may also want to take a look at First Steps in Funeral Planning or How to Plan A Funeral Service. In either types of services, make sure you plan to create programs that help guide and serve as a keepsake for family and attendees. Sometimes, circumstances dictate which service you have. For example, if the body is not found or is in an unrecognizable state, you may opt to have a memorial service instead of a funeral with an open casket. You can still do a funeral with a closed casket if the body is present.

Memorial Service

A memorial service is less rigid than the traditional funeral service but is still very meaningful to family and friends. These services can be performed just about anywhere such at a lake, on a boat, in the mountains, in a community center, or of course, in the traditional church setting. 

Because the body is not present for the memorial, you have more flexibility in scheduling the date and time of the service. You can have it weeks or even months after the death. Memorials can also be held in another state of where the deceased was actually buried. Family and friends can gather together and have a memorial service for the deceased. Sometimes the surviving family member may request a funeral service just for the immediate family and have a large, public memorial service. The service is more simpler than a funeral service and can be less expensive. 

Funeral Service

A funeral service is generally held within a week of the death. It can be longer however, if the deceased has been cremated. Funeral services can have very distinct funeral rituals depending on whether or not if is religious based or non-religious. The location of a funeral service is typically held in a chapel or church facility with a member of the clergy as the officiant.

The body is present throughout the entire service and can have the funeral casket closed or opened. Funeral services typically follow some type of format in the order of service. The service opens in a prayer or open statement from the officiant. Most people seek assistance from a funeral home where they will work with a funeral director who will take you through the process.

Planning Considerations

Whichever service you decide upon, there are some things to consider in the planning of either. It's best to write these thoughts out on paper to assist you when deciding and in the planning preparations.

  1. Write down your loved one's plans, dreams and goals in life.
  2. What were his/her major achievements in life?
  3. Whom do you want to invite to the service?
  4. Did they have any favorite poetry, music or literature? If so, list them.
  5. What causes did they support?
  6. Do you want balloons released at the end of the gravesite ceremony?
  7. What type of flowers will you include, if any?
  8. What did they love most about life? Nature, Animals, People?
  9. Do you want to include a video collage of their life in pictures? 
  10. Should personal letters be read?
  11. Do you want to have a small reception after the service?
  12. Should candles be lit to symbolize the light of life.
  13. Who can you delegate to say the readings and eulogy?

These are all important things you should think about whether you do a funeral or memorial service, they all apply. The important thing when planning is that you highlight your loved one's life since this is their final celebration of life.

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