A traditional funeral usually consists of a religious service in a church, chapel, or funeral home, followed by a procession to the cemetery or crematory, where a brief service often takes place as the body is buried or cremated.

Funerals can be either “open casket” or “closed casket,” depending on whether the deceased’s body is on display. The choice of open versus closed casket is often a matter of personal opinion, with both sides having merit. Many believe that being able to see the deceased’s body helps the loved ones better confront the realities of grief and loss, which many find to be a valuable part of the healing process. Others choose a closed casket out of respect for the dead and a protection of privacy. Sometimes a closed casket is necessary because the body was too badly damaged or deformed from accident or illness, or because someone in the family is emotionally unable to cope with viewing the corpse. Particular religious practices may forbid open casket funerals.

What to Expect in a Traditional Funeral Service

  • Welcome/Introduction: The introduction consists of a few words to welcome those gathered and say why everyone is there, expressing condolences and setting the tone for the remainder of the service.
  • Readings/Prayers: In a traditional religious service, relatives select scripture readings and prayers to read aloud– often special verses or ones that speak about eternal life and moving from Earth to the next plane of existence. In a non-religious ceremony, readings can be poems or excerpts from larger works that hold meaning for family or the deceased.
  • Music/Hymns: There are hymns specifically for funerals that provide comfort to the living and celebrate eternal life for the soul. Music selections can be personalized and may include favorite songs or ones that express the tone of the day.
  • Eulogy:  The eulogy is a longer speech that commemorates the life of the deceased and gives details about the person who has passed, often with sharing of special stories or memories and the legacy left behind. Family or friends as well as the celebrant or minister may give them. In addition to the main eulogy, there may be an opportunity for others to speak and share memories.
  • Moment of Silence: There is a moment of silence for private prayer, meditation, and reflection. It is also a gesture of respect for the dead and for those mourning the loss.
  • Viewing: In open casket funerals, attendees may be given one more viewing of the deceased before the casket is closed and prepared for interment. This provides family and friends a moment to see their loved one once more and give final goodbyes before burial or cremation services.
  • Closing: At the end of the funeral, there is usually a prayer or a few final words to bring the service to a close. The minister may also give information regarding the burial before the procession out begins.