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A Brief Guide to Funeral Homes

Finding the right funeral home isn’t easy, but it can be increasingly difficult if you aren’t sure what to look for in a funeral home or what funeral homes do. In this short guide, we provide answers to some frequently asked questions surrounding funeral homes.

What does a funeral home do?

At a foundational level, a funeral home provides services for deceased persons and their family members or those closest to them. Below are some of the most common services available when working with a funeral home:

Direct cremation: Direct cremation is when the body is cremated almost immediately with no visitation or viewing. Since there is no viewing or visitation, the body is not embalmed.

Immediate burial: Direct or immediate burial is when the body is buried within a few days without visitation, viewing, or graveside services.

Visitations, viewings, or wakes: Funeral homes will provide this service and a space for viewing to take place. A viewing (or visitation) is when friends and family are invited to view the body and pay their final respects. Viewings are not required, even if it's part of a funeral package.

Memorial services: Memorial services take place when the body of the deceased is not present. If you opted for a direct cremation or burial, your funeral home would hold a memorial service where friends and family could join in remembering a loved one. (A celebration of life is a type of memorial service.)

Handling paperwork: The funeral home will be in charge of handling a lot of the paperwork and filing that’s done when someone passes away. This can often also include submitting an obituary to a local newspaper. Many local newspapers require that a death notice or obituary be submitted by the funeral home and will not accept obituaries submitted by private parties, even if they're immediate family.

Why is it called a funeral home?

Funeral homes (also known as funeral parlors) got their name from the history of families displaying their deceased in the “parlor” area of their homes. When the funeral industry became the main provider of funeral services, families turned to them to embalm their loved ones and provide services and the names funeral parlor and funeral home became synonymous.

How do you find a funeral home?

Generally, you can find a funeral home by searching for them online. Searching for a funeral home online is a great way to research their prices, location, and the amenities they might offer. It’s also a great way to look at reviews of those who have used their services before you. Many funeral homes will offer at least a basic insight into the services they offer, although many might ask that you call their funeral home for specific pricing information. If you’re interested in finding a funeral home near you (or even one in a different location), check out our funeral home directory.

What happens to a dead body at the funeral home?

When a body is brought to the funeral home, a few things can happen that depend on the disposition method you decide on. If a body is to be buried and you want a viewing or wake to take place with an open casket, preparations (such as cleaning, embalming, and cosmetics) will begin so that the body is appropriate for viewings. If the body is to be cremated, the funeral home can store the body in a refrigeration unit until the body is cremated. There are other services and preparations that might need to take place before preparation can begin (e.g, an autopsy for accidental death), but bodies are generally refrigerated until preparations begin.

What does a funeral cost?

According to Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage, the average funeral can cost between $7,000 and $12,000. The cost will depend largely on the services you choose, the type of disposition you choose, your location, and the business you’re working with. All funeral homes are required to give you a full and detailed print out of all the services they're charging for when they present you with a package deal. Be sure to request an itemized list and breakdown of charges you’re expected to pay. To save on funeral costs, consider purchasing funeral products online. It’s also useful to consider cremation as the disposition method, as it’s much less expensive than a burial. Direct cremations can start out in some states and cities as low as $695, which is much less expensive than the $12,000 price tag some traditional funerals hold.

You can easily find a funeral home in your area by searching through our directory or by looking online for funeral homes near you. It’s important to keep some of the points made above in mind when dealing with a funeral home so that you know what to expect and can make informed decisions.

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Last updated May 7, 2021
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