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What are the four basic types of funerals?

Funeral types can typically be broken into four different categories:

  • Traditional funeral,
  • Graveside service,
  • Memorial service, and
  • Immediate disposition (with immediate disposition broken into two sub-categories – immediate cremation and immediate burial).

Traditional Funeral

Traditional services typically make use of the full suite of services provided by funeral homes, including:

  • Viewing of the deceased,
  • A service at the funeral home (or church) where the deceased and a casket are present,
  • Embalming, and
  • Use of a funeral hearse to transport the deceased to the cemetery.

This type of funeral will generally be the most expensive.

Graveside Service

With a graveside service, the funeral service takes place at the cemetery or burial site. Funeral homes will still provide much of the same core services as with a traditional funeral – including the transportation and care of the deceased, but with a Graveside service there is generally no visitation period and no embalming provided. Funeral attendees gather at the gravesite for a ceremony led by a chosen officiant. With a graveside service, the deceased may be buried, or may instead have already been cremated with the cremains being buried. After the service the body or cremains are lowered into the grave or placed in a mausoleum or crypt.

Memorial Service

A memorial service may have many of the same features of a traditional funeral but with a key difference being that the deceased and the casket will not be present during the ceremony. Also, in most cases, the deceased will have already been cremated. With these key differences, and if the family decides that a formal viewing is not necessary, they may decide not to pay for the cost of embalming.

Immediate Disposition – Cremation and Burial

With an immediate disposition, there typically won’t be a service, or any type of viewing. Instead the deceased is buried or cremated soon after the deceased’s passing. Immediate dispositions are the least expensive types of funeral.

Note that if the family wishes to be at the cemetery for the burial, the funeral home may charge an additional fee for that service. Also, with immediate disposition, while the family will not hold a service through the funeral home, there is nothing stopping the family from having a more informal service at a later date at another venue.

Important Note

Although we have provided you with brief comments on the general types of funerals, funeral homes will work together with families to customize their services to make it a truly meaningful and unique experience for your family.

What are some of the decisions that need to be made when planning a funeral?

Funeral Timing

The decision on when to hold the funeral is entirely at the discretion of the bereaved family. While some people decide to hold the funeral within a few days after the deceased’s passing, it is not uncommon for funerals to be held 5-7 days after the passing. Taking a few extra days can often help the bereaved family ensure they select the funeral home and the funeral services which best meet their needs and which best memorializes their loved one.

Burial or Cremation

Let’s start by understanding how cremation and burials are different. When the deceased is cremated, the body is incinerated so that all that is left are the ashes of the deceased. With a burial, the body of the deceased remains intact.

With a burial, the body can be buried in the ground, or entombed in what is called a mausoleum (which is an above ground building where the body of the deceased can be entombed). Cremated remains can also be buried or entombed in a columbarium (which is the same as a mausoleum but for cremated remains); however, cremation offers additional options including having the cremated remains kept by the family or scattered in a place that is special to the deceased.

What are some of the key factors which influence the decision on a burial versus a cremation?

This is a highly personal decision and one which, ultimately, should rely heavily on the beliefs, wishes, and feelings of the deceased. Other factors to consider:

  • Religious or cultural beliefs may play an important part in the decision. Certain religions such as Orthodox Judaism, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Islam prohibit cremation.
  • Cost will also factor in cremations are substantially less expensive than a burial – particularly when one considers the cost of the burial plot and the casket.


Visitation refers to a time when the deceased’s family, friends and loved ones gather together in the presence of the deceased to pay their respects and offer their condolences to the family.

The deceased will typically be able to be viewed in an open casket – though this is not a requirement. A visitation is also commonly referred to as a viewing.

A visitation is typically part of a traditional funeral service. It can be held the day of the funeral service, or up to several days prior. (When reviewing the funeral service pricing offered by the different funeral homes listed on, we will – in most cases – specify what time period the visitation pricing relates to. Please consider this when making your decision as it is natural for visitation costs to be much higher for a funeral home offering a 4-hour visitation on the day prior to the service, versus a funeral home which offers one hour visitation just prior to the service. The funeral home offering the longer, prior day visitation will likely consider lowering their visitation costs if you only need one hour visitation prior to the service.

Service Location

There are a whole host of options to consider when deciding upon the location of the funeral service. The two most common locations are a funeral chapel or a place of worship such as a church. Other options include the gravesite, your home, a public place such as a park, the cemetery/crematorium chapel. You can also sometimes have a services at multiple locations – you could start with a formal service at a church, followed by a second service with the family only at the gravesite. You could then end with a reception at your home.

The key point here is there isn’t a one size fits all solution and that you have the ability to make the decisions which are most meaningful for your family.


Embalming is defined as “the process of chemically treating the deceased to reduce the presence and growth of microorganisms, to temporarily inhibit organic decomposition, and to restore an acceptable physical appearance.” With the exception of transporting a body across borders or with public transportation, embalming is not a legal requirement. Funeral homes may, however, require embalming if there is a public viewing of the deceased.

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