Understanding the Different Types of Funeral Ceremonies (And How to Pick the Right One)

Nothing about life is simple or routine. Every individual creates change throughout their life and touches the lives of others. When life comes to pass, it’s comforting to know that there are many options for commemorating those lives.

Picking a funeral ceremony that honors the memory of a departed friend, family member, or loved one can be a bit daunting. The numerous choices let you custom-craft something fitting, but it’s hard to work through all the options when emotions run high.

Making a ceremony to fit a specific person doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though. Starting with a simple template based on broad types, you can arrive at a final event worthy of the departed.

Read on to learn about the types of funeral ceremonies available and the benefits of each.

Funeral Ceremony Types

The following ceremony options differ in where the deceased is ultimately laid to rest, the method of preparation and the types of officiant used. The tone, decor, and length of services all come down to preference.

This listed covers options offered in most of the Western world. If you want to learn more about interesting customs from around the world, check out this article.

Burial at Sea

A common misconception is that burial at sea is only available to Naval personnel. While the Environmental Protection Agency restricts permits for the ceremony, it is possible to request one.

Burial at sea usually involves casting the cremated ashes of the departed into the waters. It’s also possible to purchase special coffins for purposes of full-body burial. Note that burial at sea requires a sea or ocean for full-body services.

Direct Cremation

As you already noted from the previous option, cremation is a component of a variety of services. In a direct cremation, there is no committal service or visitation before the procedure.

Selecting a direct cremation fits best when the deceased lived far from the family or sometimes by medical necessity. The process of cremation is fascinating in its own right and stretches back 8000 years to early services in China.

Typically, when remains are interned in an urn or another such receptacle, a service – such as a wake or memorial – is held to provide closure for the family.

Graveside Service

Not all types of funerals have a graveside (or committal) service. Even so, graveside interment is a popular option that provides a fitting end to the funerary service but also creates a space to return to for memories and comfort.

Garvesides may be small and short events with a few words before lowering the casket. They may also have a larger amount of pomp in the case of military personnel with gun firing salutes and the presentation of a flag.

Green Service

Some would argue that the first services were all-natural services, but the resurgence owes a lot to environmentally conscious movements.

Green services seek to remove as many of the additional trappings of modern technology as possible. This starts with the preparation of the body using fewer, if not zero, embalming chemicals.

Caskets are built of biodegradable materials, and the gravesite is not vaulted with steel or concrete to further lower the carbon footprint.

Memorial Service

Memorial services are probably the thing that people picture when you mention a funeral. This is the process of viewing the body of the deceased. Speaking a eulogy or other remembrances are typical for a memorial.

A critical difference between a memorial and a funeral service, in the insider lexicon, is whether the body is present or not. A ceremony often does not need to have the deceased present in any form.

Memorials are sometimes held concurrently with a funeral service to provide a bereavement option for people that’ can’t attend the main funeral.

Memorials are about celebrating the life of the departed. That said, they can be somber or lively occasions with no wrong way to go.


The fastest-growing sector of religion currently is the nones. Surveys indicate that more of the younger generations prefer to keep faith out of their services.

Sometimes referred to as humanist ceremonies, the most significant change for those attending or arranging a non-religious service is about respect for the wishes of the departed.

It’s common for people, especially older people, to invoke a lot of faith and religion when dealing with loss and death. Non-religious services try to focus on the life that has ended, not promises of possible futures.

Traditional Service

A traditional, or sometimes just funeral, service follows a fairly strict format. Visitors arrive and view the body in the casket, which may be opened or closed. There’s a general period for conversation and sharing thoughts.

The service itself then begins and includes songs, prayers, at least one eulogy but commonly several speakers, and final words spoken by a member of a chosen clergy.

Honoring Wishes and Making Choices

Deciding which ceremonies to include and which ones to avoid comes down to the choices of the departed and budget.

Many people speak idly about what they would want their funeral to be like and who they would want to attend. These thoughts change over time with flashier options spoken by youths and, somber options chosen by adults, and often looser options selected by the elderly.

When express wishes are not listed in a will or other written document, it can be tough to make a decision based on speculation.

In the absence of specific instructions, provide a service that gives something to the loved ones that remain. Death is a final step to a life lived and deserves a moment to be considered by those affected.

Begin Your Process

Combining a few options into a custom funeral ceremony is usually the best way to proceed. The information provided here should get you started in making arrangements or give you the words to make your own wishes known.

If you have further questions about the services we provide and scheduling options, contact us.