A funeral is a ritualized ceremony following a death to honor, memorialize, and celebrate an individual. A funeral service specifically occurs with a casketed body present. If cremated remains are present, or if there is no body present, the service is considered a memorial service. Funeral services may be held in a funeral home chapel, a place or worship, or at the cemetery (commonly referred to as graveside).

The type, and order, of funeral services, are determined by the next of kin along with the officiant and funeral director during a funeral arrangement conference. The funeral arrangement conference is a meeting held, typically at the funeral home, in the hours or days following a death. It is important to note that funeral homes are regulated by the federal government through the FTC Funeral Rule (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule), and a standardized General Price List according to the Funeral Rule must be presented by the funeral director at the beginning the arrangement conference. Failure to present a written general price list is a violation of FTC guidelines and may result in fines. If pre-need funeral arrangements are made prior to a passing, the funeral arrangement conference is not necessary and the next of kin may focus more completely on the personal details of the service such as the eulogies to be given, the pallbearers to be honored, and the meals of condolence / shiva / visitation.

A funeral service is the culmination of the funeral directors’ professional services. Prior to the funeral service, a funeral director is responsible for the care of the individual from the time of death. Care and preparation may include transportation, dressing, cosmetics, or embalming. Embalming is necessary for funerals which are preceded by an open casket visitation. The process of embalming may be performed by a licensed and trained funeral director or by a trade embalmer.

In general, when a funeral takes place at a funeral home chapel or in a religious sanctuary, the service is immediately followed by the transportation of the body to the cemetery or crematory for burial. At the conclusion of the service a funeral director makes an announcement of the location for the burial. A family may elect for a private burial in which case the announcement may provide a location or refer to how and when further respects may be paid to the family. Alternatively, if it is not a private burial, then those in attendance at the funeral service may follow the hearse and the family in a procession. When the body is moved to the cemetery it is transported in a hearse. A funeral procession of cars will proceed behind the hearse to the cemetery for burial or entombment. The funeral procession may be escorted by law enforcement to facilitate safe travel through intersections.

Purpose & Characteristics of a Funeral

The primary purpose of a funeral is to bury an individual in their final resting place. In addition, the purpose of a funeral service is to provide honor and dignity to the memory of the deceased individual. The funeral service also allows the family and community of mourners to gather together to grieve and share remembrances. During a time of loss it is common for several family members to participate in the determination for the final resting place and the type of funeral service. To the extent that a deceased individual documents or pre-plans for their funeral this may reduce the decisions and/or complexities involved in at the time of need. When pre-planning or planning a funeral service the individual's wishes, traditions, and beliefs are a few characteristics to take into account.

Types of Funeral Services

  • Traditional Chapel Funeral Service
  • Graveside Funeral Service
  • Private Family Funeral
  • Funeral Mass
  • Religious Funeral Service
  • Secular Service
  • Celebration of Life

The type of funeral is mainly determined by the religion, culture, and tradition of the individual, next of kin and extended family. Religious funeral services are led by clergy and follow a prescribed order of service based on the religion's specific guidance. Catholic funerals include a funeral mass. Jewish services may include the religious preparation of the body by the Chevra Kadisha prior to burial. Islamic services follow Sharia guidance. Secular funeral services are led by a funeral celebrant and may be more personalized. Secular services do not follow a prescribed order of service which allows for a greater variety of passages read, eulogies given, and memories shared. Certified funeral celebrants receive training and certification from professional societies such as the Celebrant Institute or Insight Celebrants. If a certified celebrant is unavailable, a properly prepared friend or funeral director can lead funeral services. It is uncommon for the family to act as the service leader because of the emotional burden.

Funeral Costs

The cost of the funeral and funeral service is determined based on a number of factors and fees including, the Professional Service Fee, Casket, Vault, and Cash Advance items. This is separate from the cemetery costs which includes the burial plot, committal service. The funeral director's Professional Service Fee is may include services such as the funeral arrangement conference, filing of necessary certificates and permits with the local and federal governments, placement of obituary notices in newspapers and online, and the coordination with the clergy, suppliers, and cemetery. The Casket is a rectangular burial container for human remains, typically made of wood, metal, fiberglass, or plastic vessel in which the individual is placed prior to the funeral and burial service. A Casket may be purchased directly through the funeral director or from any 3rd party source. It is illegal for a funeral director not to allow a 3rd party to provide a casket. Generally, caskets and coffins are referred to interchangeably by many individuals although there are distinct definitional differences. Over time, coffins were replaced by caskets and are now considered obsolete. The Vault is a sealed and lined container placed around a casket so as to simultaneously prevent the grave from sinking and to protect the casket from the surrounding area. Alternatively, an unsealed concrete container called an outer burial container may be used. The vault, or outer burial container, may at times be supplied by the cemetery. Cash Advance Items include all funeral-related but not funeral director specific costs such as death certificates, clergy honorariums, and newspaper notices. As is common in many industries, there are various types of service professionals or funeral directors. Many are employees of a funeral home while others are independent funeral directors. In general, funeral directors employed by a funeral home offer

Additional Information about Funerals

Over many decades’ the funeral in general, along with the types of funerals and associated services have evolved. There are differences between funeral directors that work for funeral homes and independent funeral directors. Full-service funeral homes typically have funeral chapels, gathering spaces, and viewing rooms designed to accommodate mourners prior to and during funeral services. Modern funeral homes may also offer post service facilities for luncheons or meals of condolence. In contrast, independent funeral directors may either sub-contract preparatory services or rent available space within another funeral home. Full-service funeral homes may have higher professional service costs due to their higher fixed overhead cost. Conversely, independent funeral directors may have lower costs. As noted, funerals may now include post service, also referred to as after care offerings such as banquet rooms, luncheons, and fully caterer wakes.