Understanding your Ceremony Options

There is no "single" way—it's your choice

A funeral represents an opportunity to reflect on the life of a loved one, and to honor the memory of that life for family and friends. There is no single proper funeral service. Funerals provide a time for human sharing in its deepest sense. You and your loved ones are at the very center of this process, and the choices you make will determine a funeral's significance for you. By participating in the planning of the service, you will help create a meaningful experience for everyone.

Choosing Whether Or Not To Have The Body Present

A gathering with the body present is a funeral service. If the body is not present, the gathering is referred to as a memorial service. Your funeral director can talk you through the best choice for you. Whatever method of disposition you choose, you may arrange either a memorial or funeral service.


The place you choose to hold the ceremony will depend on many factors including the number of people expected, the weather, and what will happen in the service. For many people, their own church or temple is the most appropriate place, and many faith communities prefer this choice for the formal part of the funeral service. Funeral homes also have different sized rooms and chapels available, often with the necessary equipment available for music and video projection. Memorial gatherings have been held at places as diverse as parks, theaters, hotel ballrooms, sports arenas and museums.


Many options exist for personalizing the visitation, funeral, or memorial service. A video, photo collage, meaningful music, memorabilia (like pieces from a doll or book collection), and favorite scripture are just a few of the many ways to make the ceremony more meaningful. You can depend on your funeral director to help you make choices that honor your loved one's life and provide support for family and friends.


It often is customary to have a period of visitation or a reception at the funeral home or mortuary. Called "calling hours" or "a viewing" in some communities, the visitation provides a dedicated time for the family to receive visitors at the funeral home. People want to offer their condolences and provide support to the family as well as pay their respects to your loved one. One benefit to holding a visitation is that it gives friends a specific time period in which to call, allowing the bereaved family time to rest at home, an option especially important after a long illness or a lengthy hospital vigil.

During the visitation the casket may be present and either open or closed, according to the family's preferences. Some families opt to receive friends at their home or other location.


As many guests attending the funeral may not be of the same religious affiliation, be prepared to respond to questions regarding the funeral, remembrances and mourning period. Use the following link to learn more about a variety of cultural and religious funeral customs.

Planning the Ceremony

Your funeral director can guide you through the wide range of decisions that have to be made. Those decisions include choosing a casket, vault or urn; the type of service; who will preside and a method for people to express their sympathy, such as flowers or donations to a favorite charity.

Your Right to Personal Choices

Members of Selected Independent Funeral Homes have a firm commitment, through the Code of Good Practice, to support your freedom of choice in funeral services. Your choices, which are as personal as you wish to make them, can be made with confidence and without undue stress, especially if they are approached with awareness and understanding. If you would like to locate your local Selected member firm to discuss your options, you may visit our Member Locator.