There are many types of funeral services, and we welcome your input and questions on how to personalize the services of your loved one. Services may be held at the funeral home, at a place of worship or completely at the cemetery. Usually clergy is present and often someone close to the deceased gives a eulogy. Military honors or other honors ceremonies may also be included and are usually performed at the cemetery.
As a rule, regardless of the type of service, it is best to pay attention, be respectful and follow the lead of the clergy and family. Some basic elements apply to almost all services and we have provided some guides below:
In many traditions, the family also receives guests who come to pay their condolences and offer emotional support before the funeral. In the past this was done in the family home for multiple days and sometimes included extensive religious services. Today this is rarely the case. Today visitation is almost always at the funeral home and is usually for a single evening. If the casket is to be open for the public, the visitation is referred to as a “wake”. If there is to be a closed casket or an urn, the event is simply referred to as “visitation” or “calling hours”.
During the visitation, the family sits at the front of the chapel and greets the guests as they arrive. For the most part, the visitation is a casual gathering, but it is not uncommon for clergy to come and perform a brief but more formal prayer service. Also, if the family is expecting a small gathering, sometimes they will choose to have a shorter visitation on the same day as the funeral.
In the Jewish tradition, the visitation or “shiva” is held after the funeral and is still usually hosted in the family home. It is often hosted for multiple nights and includes prayer services.