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Types of Funeral Services

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Types of Funeral Services

Today, we commemorate a death in several different ways. Each culture and religious belief defines a funeral a little differently. Some people are now customising the funeral service to reflect the personality of the deceased rather than what is traditionally acceptable. Elysian Fields Funerals respects personal choice. We will work with you to honour your loved one your way.

Traditional funeral services are held in the presence of the body in a coffin. These services are typically held in a church, crematorium or cemetery chapel, in the chapel at the funeral home, another place of worship. Funeral services are also held at the graveside in the cemetery.

Other options commonly used today are funeral services in the family home and memorial services, where the body of the deceased is not present.

Traditional Funeral Services

These services typically include:

  • A service to commemorate the life of the deceased with the body present in an open or closed coffin or casket.
  • One or more viewings where the mourners gather, with the body present in an open or closed coffin/casket, to express condolences.
  • A procession to the cemetery (known as a “cortege”) where additional ceremonies may take place and the deceased is buried.

2. Memorial Services

Memorial Services commemorate the life of the deceased without the body present. They are usually following burial or unattended cremation, or if the body has not been recovered (for example lost at sea, or missing). These can be held in any location. Some families also choose to inter or scatter cremated remains at a memorial service. Depending on where the service is to be held, you may elect not to have a funeral director present for a memorial service. Elysian Fields Funerals will be able to advise you whether our attendance is required. If not, then you may have our most cost effective funeral alternative – an unattended funeral and your memorial service once the ashes are returned or deceased interred in the cemetery.

3. Combined Traditional and Memorial Services

Both types of services — a viewing and a service with the body present, as well as one or more memorial services without the body present — can be arranged to commemorate one life. For example, memorial services can be held for mourners living in other places and are unable to attend the funeral service.

4. Graveside Services

Sometimes commemorative services are held at the cemetery, either in a chapel or beside the grave, immediately prior to burial.

5. Unattended Funerals

Also known as "direct" or “unattended” cremation or burials and is when the deceased is buried, cremated, or donated to medical science without any formal funeral service. Some people who have an unattended funeral then have a memorial service later. This is the most cost effective funeral alternative available.


Viewings (also known as “visitation”) have their roots in ancient times when it was customary to watch over the deceased for varying lengths of time before burial. The custom of continuously watching arose because there was hope that the deceased might regain consciousness, as well as concern about someone being buried alive. The practice also fulfilled a psychological need by gradually conditioning family and friends to the reality of the death.

Today, viewings are typically held at a funeral home that provides the facilities, seating and staff to accommodate a viewing and a gathering of people. During visiting hours, mourners come to offer their condolences to the family and pay their respects to the deceased. The coffin or casket may be open or closed and is usually displayed with floral arrangements that have been received and memorial presentations, if any.

The number and length of the viewing periods varies depending upon religious or cultural customs and personal preference. A typical visitation of 2 to 4 hours can be held prior to the funeral on the same day or the day before. Some cultures have the deceased returned to a family home for one or more days preceding the funeral.

There are differing views on the role of an open coffin/casket. Many feel it is an unbecoming and uncomfortable practice, preferring to remember the deceased as he or she was in life, not in death. However, many experts on grief and mourning believe that viewing the body is an important step in beginning to heal because it causes mourners to confront the reality of death. Of course, religious customs also dictate whether or not there should be a viewing.

Where Services are Held

Funeral and memorial services can be conducted at a variety of locations, however, with the coffin present, options are limited. The facility must have room to display the coffin and provide access to move it in and out. The location must also accommodate the mourners with seating, parking and toilets. There should be access for disabled attendees.

Common choices for funeral and memorial services include:

1. Funeral home chapels

2. Religious place of worship, (e.g., church, synagogue, temple)

3. Cemetery or crematorium chapel

4. Graveside

5. Home

Contact us today for a FREE information pack which can include the options available and our costs. We also have included some venues available and our costs.