What Does a Funeral Service Typically Look Like?

by Staff

Funerals are tough. Namely, due to the obvious fact that they center around death and feelings of sadness. However, another difficult thing about funerals is the uncertainty. Those unfamiliar with funerals often don’t know what to expect, how to act, or anything else about what a typical funeral service looks like. Fear not: while educating yourself may not assuage your sadness, it will, at least, relieve some of your uncertainty.  Other than reading articles like this to learn more about what you can expect, if you want to make things easier on yourself and your loved ones, consider using an innovative end-of-life planning service like Lantern.

Types of Funeral Services

There are four common types of funeral services. They are:

  1. Traditional Full-Service Burial: A full-service burial is what you generally picture when thinking about a funeral. It involves several movements which are detailed in the next section.
  2. Direct Burial: A direct burial occurs when the deceased does not have any formal ceremony following their death. A direct burial is something that people opt to do to either save money or, in some cases, because it was the wishes of the deceased party not to have much “pomp and circumstance” surrounding their death. Regardless of the reason, direct burials are faster and more affordable options when compared to full-service burials and typically only have one “movement” where mourners show up at the cemetery and say a few words (or listen) before the deceased’s casket is lowered into the ground.
  3. Full-Service Cremation: A full-service cremation usually involves an open or closed casket “viewing” followed by a process where the body is converted into “ash” and deposited into an urn. The urn can either be buried below ground or kept above.
  4. Direct Cremation: Direct cremations occur soon after death and involve no formal ceremony.

Parts of a Traditional Full-Service Burial

The most common, and complex type of funeral service is the “full-service” burial. The typical steps involved in such a service are:

  • The funeral will begin with casual or informal greetings among guests. During this time you may find your seat, and greet the family or friends of the deceased. Read the energy of the room in situations like this. Likely, most people will be subdued and quiet in which case so should you. Greet those you encounter and find your seat. Sit wherever is most convenient and try not to make a fuss about your seating. If there are elderly people at the service, do your best to give them priority seating.
  • Next, the service will begin with readings by clergy members or friends and relatives of the deceased.
  • During this time there will likely be words and memories shared about the deceased
  • Songs or hymns between portions of the ceremony
  • Conclusion by the officiant or funeral director
  • Finally, pallbearers (casket bearers) or funeral home staff carry the casket from the ceremony to the hearse, which will carry the deceased to the cemetery or burial site. Guests traditionally follow the hearse containing the casket to the burial site for interment.
  • Following some services, there will be a casual social gathering.


There you have it, some of the most common types of funerals and their steps. Knowing what to expect, hopefully, will reduce any anxiety you have related to the uncertainty of a new experience. Good luck and condolences.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

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