The 4 Types of Funeral Services

“One size fits all” does not apply to funeral services, in fact there is a variety of funeral options to choose from.

Funeral services have evolved over the years due to changing religious and cultural traditions as well as shifts in social norms. Trends have also influenced funerals – green burials and crowdfunded funerals have recently grown in popularity. Yet despite the various options for funeral arrangements that abound, the tried and true basic funeral services still remain.

The 4 Basic Types of Funeral Services

  1. Traditional Full Service Burial
  2. Direct Burial
  3. Full Service Cremation
  4. Direct Cremation

We’ll break down these basic types of funerals, and how you can tailor them to fit your needs. And to get a better understanding of the price of each of these burials, Funeralocity provides average funeral prices by state, and by what type of funeral you are considering. With this information at hand, you and your family can get a good understanding of what general costs to expect, and shield yourself from funeral homes who are charging too much.

1. Traditional Full Service Burial

A traditional funeral service includes a viewing or visitation, a funeral ceremony, and burial service at the gravesite. Also known as a “full service” funeral, traditional funerals tend to be the main package offered by most funeral homes. It starts off with a viewing/visitation, where attendees can view the body and pay their respects to the family. Embalming is usually recommended for viewings, although the casket can remain closed per the family’s wishes.

A funeral service follows the viewing/visitation and is held at a funeral home, church, or other event space. Traditional funerals usually include elements such as:

  • Prayers
  • Eulogies
  • Readings
  • Music

Afterward a traditional funeral service, the body is transported by procession to the cemetery/burial location and interred in the grave. There may also be a funeral reception or repast for family and friends of the deceased to come together after the burial, and celebrate the life of their loved one.

2. Direct Burial

A direct burial, sometimes called an affordable burial or immediate burial, happens when the deceased is buried shortly after death without any funeral service or other formal ceremony. Essentially, this type of funeral consists mainly of the burial service completed by your chosen funeral home. The funeral home obtains the death certificate and required permits, prepares the body, and arranges transportation to the cemetery for burial.

Direct burial tends to be an affordable funeral option as embalming of the body isn’t necessary and a simple box can be used for burial instead of an expensive casket. The lack of ceremonial services also cuts down on overall funeral costs, but the cost of the cemetery plot should be taken into account when figuring total expenses. Cemetery grave plots can be pricey depending on the location.

3. Full Service Cremation

A full service cremation includes a viewing or visitation, a funeral service and basic cremation services.  Because there is a viewing, typically the body will be embalmed. The cremated ashes are placed in an urn which can be buried below or above ground, scattered, or kept by the family.

For a comprehensive understanding of cremation pricing, check out our guide to the costs and services associated with cremation services.

4. Direct Cremation

A direct cremation happens when the deceased is cremated shortly after death without any funeral service or other formal ceremony. Embalming is unnecessary as there is no viewing/visitation, and a cardboard container can be used for the cremation process. Direct cremation is an inexpensive funeral option and is rapidly growing in popularity with price-conscious consumers.

Graveside Services vs Memorial Services

If you choose to have a traditional funeral service or a full service cremation, you also have the option to choose between hosting your service at the graveside or having a memorial service at a different location. Below, we’ll break down what each of these different funeral services entail:

What is a Graveside Service?

A graveside service (also known as committal service) can be held for individuals that are either buried or cremated and occurs when the funeral service takes place at the cemetery or burial site. Funeral attendees gather at the gravesite for a ceremony led by a chosen officiant and as with traditional funeral services, there may be eulogy readings, prayers, and music (although a graveside service tends to be a shorter affair).

After the service the body is lowered into the grave or placed in a mausoleum or crypt. If the deceased was cremated, the urn holding the ashes can either be buried, scattered, or placed in a columbarium niche.

What is a Memorial Service?

A memorial service differs from a funeral service in that the body is not present. A memorial service is usually held after the deceased is buried and there is no viewing or visitation. However if cremation was the method of disposition, the urn containing the cremated ashes can be present during the memorial service.

Some families hold memorial services as a way to memorialize their loved ones, while others view memorial services as celebration of life events where family and friends of the deceased can gather in remembrance, share memories, and support each other in grief.

Types of Funeral Services in Review

There are numerous possibilities when it comes to choosing a funeral service. Understanding the four basic types of funerals available is a good place to start, and from there, you and your family can tailor almost any aspect of the funeral service to your needs. Funeralocity is here to help you find and compare funeral homes in your area, all from the comfort of your home. With our comprehensive listings across the country, and dozens of resources all in one convenient place, choosing a funeral service type can be made simple, so you can focus on celebrating the life of your loved one.

Back to Knowledge Center
Use zip code for more precise search results