Funeral Directors will often use terminology designed by the funeral industry to describe a type of service. These terms can be specific to your local funeral home but are often used by most Directors. 

To start we will define what a Funeral is. A “Funeral” is a time of gathering for a community and or family after the passing of a loved one. The term “Funeral Service” can be used as a generalization for many types of Funerals. Depending on your loved one’s religion the funeral may be referred to as a Funeral Mass, Celebration of Life, Memorial Service and so on. 

A “Traditional Funeral” or “Traditional Cremation” are terms you may hear or see when visiting a Funeral Home. A “Traditional Funeral” can be defined as a Funeral where one’s casket is present, either at your loved one’s Place of Worship, Community Center/Hall, or Funeral Home for a formal service. The Funeral Service can be followed by Earth Burial, Cremation (when the term Traditional Cremation is used), Final Respects, and or a Luncheon Reception.

A “Funeral Mass” or “Memorial Mass” is a formal Funeral that typically takes place in a Catholic Church. Traditionally during a “Funeral Mass” or “Memorial Mass” Communion will be offered to those in attendance, incense will be used and a Funeral Pall, a white ceremonial garment, will be placed on the casket prior to the procession into the church sanctuary. If an urn is present a Pall may be placed over the urn once it is resting at the front of the Church. The service is quite structured and will take place over the course of 1 hour. 

Depending on the culture or community a “Graveside Service” can take place before or after the Funeral Service, or as a standalone service. During the “Graveside Service” a Clergy Member or Celebrant may be present to bless the grave and casket/urn as well as to read scripture. Music can be played; songs can be sung. Sometimes Poems or eulogies are read. 

If a casket is present, it can be lowered to ground level or completely into the grave. Depending on the cemetery, they may complete the burial process once all the family has left the cemetery, this is for safety purposes, or the community may assist the family in the completion of the burial. The completion of the burial means to place the lid on the vault or niche, if one was used, and to bury the casket or urn. If an Urn is Present, it is placed into the grave or niche by the Funeral Director, Family or Cemetery Staff. 

When cremation has taken place a “Memorial Service” may be held. A “Memorial Service” may take place at a Church, a Funeral Home, Hall, Community Center, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, and so on. 

The Urn or a Photograph will be the focal point during the service. The Urn or photo may be resting on a “Memorial Table”. Flowers, additional photos, and personal effects may also be placed on or next to this table. These personal effects can be as small as their favourite fishing hat, to military uniform or as large as their motorcycle or canoe, as long as the venue allows. 

 A “Memorial Service” does not need to have any religious elements. The service has some structure, a Celebrant, who may or may not have religious affiliations, will typically preside over the service. A Reception and or graveside may follow the service. 

The term “Celebration of Life” refers to a service where a casket or urn is present. A “Celebration of Life” can also be held without our loved one present. It can be a time of gathering for the community if burial has already taken place, or if they have traveled to a different province/country.  A “Celebration of Life” also does not need to have religious elements. Having a Celebrant will help to provide structure to the service. 

Prior to a structured Funeral Service, a “Prayer Service” or “Wake” may be held. A “Prayer Service” is a service that takes place the evening before the Funeral Service or Funeral Mass. A “Prayer Service” often takes place at the funeral home but can also take place at the church where the service will be held the following day. The formal portion of the service is usually about 30 minutes long. During the “Prayer Service” a Father of the Parish will recite scripture and pray with the friends and family of the one who has passed. Following this a visitation time may be held, and or a reception.

A “Wake” is a time where friends and family can gather to pay their respects to their loved one.  The “Wake” can take place over several days. It is often held at the family’s home, a community center, church, or the funeral home with them resting in their casket. The “Wake” usually takes place prior to the Funeral Service but can occur after. Traditionally a “Wake” is a time where friends and family keep watch over their loved one. Memorial tables may be set up and food and drinks may be served.

If no formal Funeral Service is planned a “Visitation” may be held. A “Viewing or Visitation” is similar to a Wake. It is a period of time where friends and family can gather to pay their respects and be together as a community. A “Viewing or Visitation” will usually be held at the funeral home or Location of the service for a few hours with the casket open. Food can be served; music can be played and a memorial table and or a video tribute may be set up as well. If a formal Funeral Service is planned the “Viewing or Visitation” can occur the hour before the service, this is common before a Funeral Mass, or it can take place following the service.

When no service is requested an “Immediate Cremation” may take place.  An “Immediate Cremation” service is requested when a family does not want a formal visitation or public ceremony prior to cremation taking place. Memorialization may or may not take place after such a service. 

The family would meet with the funeral home to discuss vital statistics required to register their loved one’s death and to select a cremation casket and urn. The funeral home may offer options such as, but not limited to, keepsake options, fingerprint jewelry, blown glass art (which can contain a portion of cremated remains) and cremation diamonds.