A Guide to Memorial Events
Repasts, rosaries, celebrations of life, viewings, wakes -- when it comes to funeral services, there are a lot of terms thrown around. It can be confusing to understand what each one entails, especially during such an emotional time. Here is a guide to help you understand the different types of memorial events that take place when someone passes away.
The order of services for funerals
Before terms are defined, it can help to understand the order that the services typically occur in. Generally, a traditional funeral ceremony has the following order of services:
- Viewing (wake) / visitation
- Funeral service
- Interment / burial
- Funeral reception
While this is the most common order of events, it is important to remember that each funeral is unique and can be customized to fit the needs of the family.
What is a funeral viewing?
A viewing (or funeral wake) is a type of memorial event that is held before a funeral service. It gives family, friends, and loved ones an opportunity to pay their respects to the deceased. Viewings can be held at a funeral home, church, or other venue. The body of the deceased is present at a viewing, and it is common for the casket to be open. Viewings typically last for a few hours, and they are often held the night before or the day of a funeral service. Some families choose to have a viewing in addition to a funeral service, while others may opt for just a viewing or just a funeral service.
What's the difference between a funeral wake vs. a visitation?
The terms funeral wake (or viewing) and visitation are sometimes used interchangeably, though they mean slightly different things. A viewing is typically for individuals who knew the deceased to visit and view the body before the funeral.
A visitation is where the family has set aside time for friends, family, and other community members to visit them and express their sympathies directly. Since there is little opportunity for everyone to get in a word of sympathy at a funeral (due to the number of people that may be there) a visitation provides ample opportunity for those who wish to express their sympathies and condolences. A visitation typically takes place at a funeral home or family residence.
What is a funeral?
A funeral is a special occasion held to commemorate the life of someone who has died. It is a time for family, friends and loved ones to come together to remember the person and share their memories. Funerals are traditionally relatively somber affairs that are held at a funeral home, church, or other venue. A traditional funeral is typically managed by a funeral director or church officiant. The mood tends to be formal, somber, and traditional. Readings and songs you'll typically hear at a funeral service include a eulogy, prayers, hymns, and funeral songs. Lastly, the body of the deceased is typically present at a funeral service, whether it be closed casket or open casket.
What is an interment?
An interment is the burial of the deceased's body. This usually occurs after a funeral service. The casket is typically lowered into the ground during an interment ceremony.
For families that aren't interested in a full funeral (that includes a wake and a funeral service), a graveside service is a less expensive option. A graveside service is a service that's held at the cemetery or gravesite and occurs prior to interment.
What is a funeral reception?
A funeral reception is a gathering that takes place after the funeral service. It is an opportunity for mourners to come together, share their memories, and support one another.
Funeral receptions (also known as funeral luncheons or repast) are typically more informal than the funeral service itself. They often take place at someone’s home, a restaurant, a bar, or another rented venue and typically have food for after the funeral service takes place.
Other memorial events
Funerals are not the only type of event that takes place after someone passes away. Celebrations of life and memorial services are growing in popularity as more people look to create a unique send-off that reflects the life of the deceased. Here's an overview of what these terms mean and what to expect at said services.
What is a rosary service?
A rosary service is a type of funeral rite that is held prior to the funeral. It is a Catholic tradition that includes the recitation of the rosary, which is a series of prayers.
The rosary service usually takes place at the funeral home or church and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The funeral rosary typically takes place at the vigil or during the viewing.
What is a memorial service?
A memorial service is a ceremony held to honor and remember the life of someone who has died. Memorial services are often less formal than funerals and can be held at any location, such as a park, beach, or even someone's home.
While the body of the deceased is not traditionally present at a memorial service, some families choose to have the ashes of their loved one present.
Some families also choose to have a memorial service in lieu of a funeral because it is less expensive, less formal, and can be held at any time.
Like funerals, readings and music are often part of a memorial service. A eulogy, prayers, hymns, and funeral songs are all examples of what you might hear at a memorial service.
Both funeral and memorial services are opportunities to remember the life of someone who has died. They provide a space for family, friends, and loved ones to gather together and remember the person who has passed away. A memorial service may be somber, formal, or celebratory in tone.
While there are many similarities between these two types of services, there are also some important differences. The most notable difference with a memorial service vs. a funeral service is that a memorial service does not traditionally include the body of the deceased.
Another key difference is that a funeral service is typically more formal than a memorial service. A funeral service is also usually managed by a funeral director or church officiant, whereas a memorial service can be managed by anyone the family chooses.
What is a celebration of life?
A celebration of life service is a type of memorial service held to celebrate and honor the life of someone who has died. It is a time for family, friends, and loved ones to come together and share their memories.
Celebrations of life are typically less formal than funerals and are celebratory in both tone and mood. These events generally call for remembering the life of someone in an uplifting and joyous way. Attire that is typically worn to a celebration of life is brighter in color (and sometimes the family will even request certain outfits or articles of clothing be worn to the celebration).
Celebrations of life can be held anywhere -- notable locations typically include the beach, a park, a bar, a restaurant, or another rented venue.
The body of the deceased is not typically present at a celebration of life.
Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between memorial events, you can feel confident when planning out a memorial event or attending a service. For information on how to plan a memorial event, how to plan a funeral on a budget, or for answers to other funeral planning questions -- be sure to read through Ever Loved's articles.
If you are planning a memorial event for a loved one and are looking for a place to share event information, collect memories, share photos, collect RSVPs, and even raise donations -- Ever Loved is here for you. Start a memorial website in under 10 minutes, for free.