What To Expect at a Funeral or Memorial Service

Shirley Bell
May 6, 2022
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Losing someone close to you is never easy. In fact, to many, the death of a loved one is among the most difficult challenges they will ever face. However hard it may be, it’s imperative to honor and remember your dearly departed in a cathartic and meaningful way.

For this reason, arranging ceremonies like funerals or memorial services is of the utmost importance. But what exactly should you expect from services like these? That’s a great question, and we’re here to help you answer it in this guide on what to expect at a funeral or memorial service. 


In their most basic definition, funerals are formal ceremonies that take place shortly after the deceased’s passing. Everyone’s idea of the perfect funeral for their loved one will look slightly different. But if we take a closer look, we can break down funerals into a well-defined structure.

#1. Visitation- The visitation, or wake, is the first part of a traditional funeral. It allows guests to say goodbye and spend time with the deceased’s family. Visitation usually happens a day before the committal.

#2. Ceremony – The funeral service, or ceremony, is widely considered the heart of traditional funerary customs. This part of the funeral usually takes place in a church or other significant venue. This is also where attendees will hear:

  • Music or hymns
  • Sermons or readings
  • Prayers or poetry

The family of the dearly departed may also hand out remembrance items such as prayer cards and other keepsakes to keep the memory of their loved one alive.

#3. Committal – The committal, or burial service, is the part of the funeral in which a few of the deceased’s closest family and friends proceed to a cemetery. Then, the casket is brought out and gently put into a burial plot to be buried.

#4. ReceptionThe final step of a funeral is the reception. After the committal, funeral guests are invited to a family member’s home or other venues like a restaurant or café. There, they partake in refreshments and conversations with the other attendees.

Memorial Services

Of course, funerals aren’t the only way we honor our lost loved ones. Memorial services are also a popular choice. But they’re not quite the same as funerals. That said, both can still have a structure. Memorial services tend to go as follows:

#1. Service – While memorial services have a looser system than funerals, a service of some kind is typically a part of the proceedings. With a memorial service, the deceased’s family may choose to celebrate with readings or music.

They may also have attendees go around the room and tell their favorite stories about the deceased. It’s solely up to the family to decide how a memorial service will unfold.

#2. Reception – Like a funeral, memorial services include a reception. But unlike a funeral, there’s a lot less formality involved. These receptions usually include refreshments and conversations. But they can be considerably less formal than a funeral reception.

The family might still pass out keepsakes such as memorial prayer cards or set up a display to honor their loved one. But for the most part, a memorial service is whatever the family decides it will be.

In any case, having an outlet to honor and celebrate the passing of a loved one is of the utmost importance. Hopefully, we provided valuable information on what to expect at a funeral or memorial service so that you’re prepared to say your goodbyes.  

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