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What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service? Part 1

There are several ways to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one.  Sometimes the terms can be a bit confusing.  Many people do not know the main difference between a funeral service and a memorial service.  At a funeral service the body is present, while at a memorial service it is not.

A funeral service means that the body of the deceased will be present at the funeral service.

The body will be in a casket and the casket may be open or closed.  What I see more often now is that the casket is open initially for the immediate family members only prior to the public visitation.  This private time allows the immediate family members to view the deceased and pay their final respects as they say good-bye for the last time.

The casket is then closed for the public visitation.  Typical visiting times are from two to four in the afternoon and then again from seven to nine in the evening.  These times are not obligatory.  Some families may elect to have visiting from four to nine in the evening or any variation of this.  It is quite uncommon now to have visiting for two or three days.  If there are multiple visiting times it is usually to celebrate the life of a public figure or perhaps it was a sudden and tragic death.

The next day the funeral service may be held in the funeral home or place of worship. If the casket was open for the visitation, it will be closed for the funeral service.  If the funeral is held in a place of worship, then clergy presides.  If the funeral is held in the funeral home, then clergy or a funeral celebrant usually presides.  This is not mandatory and some families elect to have family members conduct the funeral service.

Following the funeral service the deceased is either buried or cremated.

Many families are now electing to have a reception immediately following the funeral service, and the final committal will be done later and privately with the immediate family only.  The rationale here is that if the family has the burial immediately following the funeral service many people will not remain in attendance for the reception and will leave after the funeral service.  Of course this is situational as sometimes the cemetery is close by and people will attend the committal service and/or wait until the family returns from the committal service for the reception.  A reception is not mandatory, yet many families appreciate the social aspects of a reception and the opportunity to catch up with family members and friends.

If the casket is to be cremated and if the funeral was at a place of worship the casket will be returned to the funeral home and then transferred to the crematorium.  The cremated remains will be returned to the funeral home within a few days.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog next week to help you decide what type of service is best for you.

I would love to hear from you.  You can connect with me via email or telephone, leave a comment here on the site or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website. Don’t forget to join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter too!


Katherine Downey is the #1 Funeral Preplanning Professional in Canada for the fourth time. She is a professional educator, author, licensed funeral director and insurance advisor. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly.

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  1. […] part 1 of this blog I mentioned that a funeral service means that the body of the deceased is present at […]

  2. […] part 1 of this blog I mentioned that a funeral service means that the body of the deceased is present at the service.  […]

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