Planning a Memorial Service

Pre-Planning Your Funeral Services

by Wade Watkins

Making your own funeral arrangements ahead of time takes the burden off of your family. After your passing, they will be grieving your loss. Trying to determine your funeral wishes will just add to their stress. Here are the main elements of the various services that you'll want to include in your planning to help your family when you reach the end of your life.

The Viewing and Visitation

The traditional viewing is where people come to pay their respects to you and your family and offer prayers. It is an informal service where there may be no speakers. It is usually held in the funeral home where people are free to come and go as they please. Some specific points to consider when planning this service include:

  • If you wish to have your body at the viewing, you'll need to be embalmed prior. Your body can be displayed in a casket that you rent, or in the one that you purchased for burial.
  • If you choose to be cremated and want your body displayed at the viewing, you'll still need to be embalmed. The cremation will happen after the viewing or funeral service. You'll need to rent a casket for the viewing.
  • You can choose to have a visitation, which is structured just like a viewing, but there is no body. This negates the need for embalming, and you can be cremated at any time before the services.

The Funeral Service

This is the formal service, held in the funeral home, a church, temple or other religious facility. You'll want to specify most of the details included in the funeral such as:

  • the music you would like to have played
  • the flowers you would like to have on display
  • any speakers and singers you would like to participate
  • specific items you would like read during the service

If this is to be a religious service, indicate which representative you would like at your service from the desired denomination.

These are all important choices that could challenge your family if they had to make them after your passing.

Additional Services

There are a couple of additional types of services to consider when doing your planning. They are optional but may help your family have closure.

  • Burial service - A graveside service for immediate family and close friends can help with closure. A short service is held at your grave before your casket is lowered into the vault. The burial service can stop before the casket is lowered, or your family can be present as it is lowered so they can throw a traditional handful of dirt into the grave, symbolizing their participation in returning you to the earth.
  • Cremation service - Some crematoriums have a chapel in which a short service is held prior to your cremation. Much like the burial service, this allows family and close friends to be a part of laying you to rest.