site image

Cultural/Traditions and Norms

Types Of Funeral Services and Ceremonies

Common Elements of the Roman Catholic Funeral Rite
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian religion, with 55 million members in the United States.

Notification of Clergy
• No specific requirements
• Priests often wish to participate in the funeral planning process.

Removal of Remains
• No specific religious restrictions

Preparation of Remains
• No specific religious mandates
• Religious articles worn by the deceased must be removed, recorded and replaced after the preparation of the body.
• The family should ultimately decide if religious articles will be worn or removed for the service.
• For clergy or a member of religious order, certain embalming procedures may be needed. 

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Choices are left up to the deceased’s family.
• Members of clergy are dressed in robes appropriate for position.
• In some communities, the dressing responsibility is left to designated church members.
• Religious objects, such as rosary beads, may be placed in hands if requested by family members. 

The Wake
• A rosary service or wake is usually held the evening before the funeral Mass.

Pre-Mass Considerations
• Mass is usually held in the church.
• Family and friends sometimes meet at the funeral home to give a final, private farewell before proceeding to the church Mass.

Mass
• Begins when the casket is moved into the narthex or vestibule
• The procession to meet the body is led by the crucifer and two altar attendants, one who carries holy water and one who carries incense. The celebrant is last in the procession.
• Following the greeting and invocation, the celebrant conducts the blessing of the casket with holy water.
• The casket is usually covered with a pall for the procession down the church aisle, followed by the family.
•The casket is placed at right angles with the altar.
• After the funeral directors exit the church, the celebrant conducts several Bible readings and the homily, and offers communion. The celebrant descends from the chancel to say the Final Commendation and bless the casket with holy water. After the blessing, the funeral directors return to the front for the recessional.

Recessional
• At the narthex, the white pall is removed from the casket and placed at the back of the church.
• As the casket exits, the priest makes the sign of the cross.

The Committal Service
• Committal services vary according to method of final disposition.
• If disposition is interment, the sexton or cemetery employee leads the procession to the gravesite and gathers around the casket for the committal service that includes a Psalm, scripture reading, invocation and prayer. Emphasis is placed upon the true joy that death brings to the deceased.
• If the deceased is cremated, cremation takes place following final Mass and commendation. The remains (ashes) are to be buried or entombed. Under no circumstances, should they be left with the funeral home or crematory, taken home or scattered. Cremation is an exception to the normal practice of Christian burial. Post cremation memorial Masses are an exception to the rule.

Common Elements of the Liturgical Protestant Funeral Rite
 The term “Protestant” describes many different denominations. They are Christian churches that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church during Reformation.Liturgical churches follow a prescribed order of worship, which is consistent around the country and world. They also have prescribed architectural elements for places of worship. The Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church are two examples of liturgical churches.

Notification of Clergy
• No specific requirements.
• Considered an important duty of the funeral director.

Removal of Remains
• No specific religious restrictions.

Preparation of Remains
• No specific religious mandates.
Dressing and Casketing of the Remains.
• Choices are left up to the deceased’s family.

Pre-Service Considerations
• Services are usually held in the funeral home or the church.
• Seating locations for family, casket bearers and honorary participants should be predetermined.
• Flowers are carefully placed to avoid obstructing the view of the casket and altar area.

The Funeral Service
• If held in church, services follow the sequence of liturgical worship.
• Many churches drape a pall over the casket for the processional into the church.
• Many also use a crucifer who leads the procession down the aisle carrying a crucifix.
• Casket bearers walk in front or along side the casket.
• While the crucifer and clergy move into their positions around the altar, the funeral director positions the casket and seats the casket bearers and family members.
• Order and activities of the service vary by each liturgical religion.
• Following the benediction, the crucifer, officiant, casket, casket bearers and family form a recessional to exit the church.
• If a pall is used, it is removed in the narthex of the church and a casket piece or flag is placed on the casket before arriving at the awaiting vehicle.
• The officiate often wears vestments during the service.
• If acolytes are used, they may attend the committal.

The Committal Service
• Committal services vary according to method of final disposition.
• Final disposition may be interment (earth burial), entombment (mausoleum), cremation, burial at sea or donation of body to science.
• The most common disposition is interment, in which case, guests move to the cemetery, in a procession, led by the minister to the grave. The casket is positioned and there is a short graveside service, which concludes with a benediction.

Episcopal Variations
• It is strongly encouraged that funerals are held in an Episcopal Church.
• With the exception of altar flowers, flowers are usually not displayed in the church.
• The order of worship can be found in the “Book of Common Prayer.”
• Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) may be observed as part of the service.
• The focus of the sermon is to teach the church’s beliefs about death.
• No eulogy is usually given as it is considered the “prerogative of God to judge and commend.”
• Hymns are commonly incorporated.
• During the committal service, the priest will often use sand or flower petals to make the sign of the cross on the closed casket.

Lutheran Variations
• The family may determine the location of the service.
• Flowers are permitted in the church.
• If held in the church, acolytes, a cross, a pall, incense and rubrics may all be incorporated during the service.
• The use of the pall dictates a closed casket during the service, so visitors often view the deceased in the narthex prior to the beginning of service.
• A cross-bearer leads the procession into church, followed by the pastor, casket bearers,the casket and the family.
• The funeral director is interspersed in the procession and assists with seating of the family.
• Communion may be offered as part of the service.
• At the conclusion, the family exits in a recessional.
• The use of cremation is sometimes discouraged.
• During the committal service, the pastor will often use sand or flower petals to make the sign of the cross on the closed casket.

Common Elements of the Non-Liturgical Protestant Funeral Rite
The term “Protestant” describes many different denominations. They are Christianchurches that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church during Reformation.Non-Liturgical churches are not required to follow a prescribed order of worship orarchitecture. Non-liturgical churches include Methodist, Church of Christ, Presbyterian,Assembly of God, Church of God and Nazarene, among others.

Notification of Clergy
• No specific requirements
• Considered an important duty of the funeral director

Removal of Remains
• No specific religious restrictions

Preparation of Remains
• No specific religious mandates

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Choices are left up to the deceased’s family.

Pre-Service Considerations
• Services vary widely according to the church preference.
• Funeral directors must work closely with the church since each service is different.
• Clergy usually wear clothing instead of vestments.
• Acolytes and crucifers are not typically used in services.
• Seating locations for family, casket bearers and honorary participants should be predetermined.
• Flowers are carefully placed to avoid obstructing the view of the casket and altar area.

The Funeral Service
• Varies according to the preference of the family and the clergy conducting the service
• Casket bearers walk in front or alongside the casket.
• While the clergy move into position, the funeral director positions the casket and seats the casket bearers and family members.
• Order and activities of the service vary by each religion, but usually include an openingprayer, musical selections, scripture reading, sermon, eulogy and a benediction or closing prayer.
• Often concludes with a final viewing, so may not include a processional

The Committal Service
• Committal services vary according to method of final disposition and preference of clergy.
• Final disposition may be interment (earth burial), entombment (mausoleum), cremation, burial at sea or donation of body to science.
• The most common disposition is interment, in which case, guests move to the cemetery, in a procession, led by the minister to the grave. The casket is positioned and there is a short graveside service, which concludes with a benediction or closing prayer.

Christian Science Variations
• This belief stresses spiritual healing.
• The principle text is “Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures.”
• This church has no clergy or ministers — any member of Mother Church may serve as the officiant.
• Most deaths come under the jurisdiction of the coroner, medical examiner or justice of the peace, often outside of a medical facility (due to belief in spiritual healing).
• Embalming and clothing preferences are left up to the family.
• Services are held anywhere except the church, most often at the funeral home or cemetery.
• Services closely follow those of other Protestant denominations.
• The method of disposition is according to the family’s individual preference.

Mennonite (Amish) Variations
• After embalming, the deceased should be dressed in white underwear and stockings and placed in a casket of the family’s choice.
• If the deceased is male, he may be dressed in a long gown, the top resembling a pleated shirt, instead of buttons.
• Males may also be dressed in a white shirt, white vest and white trousers.
• Females may be dressed in a long white gown and white cape.
• In some areas, the daughters are responsible for dressing their mothers and sons are responsible for dressing their fathers.
• The funeral procession may include a horse-drawn hearse or wagon.
• Services may take place in the church or the family’s home.
• Services may be conducted in German.
• In conservative congregations, men may be seated on one side and women on the other side of the church.

Common Elements of the Orthodox Jewish Funeral Rite
Judaism was the first monotheistic religion and served as the foundation for Christianity and Islam. Judaism is based on the doctrine of one God, Old Testament scriptures and the Talmud (oral teachings of the Torah). There are three Jewish groups in the U.S.: the Orthodox (most conservative), the Reform (most modern) and the Conservative (moderate beliefs).

Notification of Clergy
• Services and arrangements are under the direct supervision of the local rabbi and a funeral director.
• The rabbi must be notified immediately, as well as the group leader of the Chevra Kadisha Society.

Removal of Remains
• No removals are to be made from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, unless death occurs in a public place and leaving the body places public health at risk.
• The entire body (including any blood-stained clothing and materials) must be removed and placed in the casket with the body to ensure that the entire body is returned back to the elements from which it was created.

Preparation of Remains
• Straw is placed on the floor.
• Only observant Jews may handle the body.
• Members of the Chevra Kadisha carefully undress the remains and place the body on the sheet, face-up with the feet facing the door and the windows opened.
• The deceased is addressed by name in Hebrew, prayers are recited, the body is positioned, a candle is lit and mirrors are covered.
• From the time of death until the time of the funeral, a Shomer (watchman) may remain in the room or within visual distance of the body.
• Smoking, eating and unnecessary conversation is forbidden in the presence of the body.

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Embalming is discouraged, however, civil laws regarding embalming supersede the laws of the synagogue.
• Supplies that must be on hand include: broken pottery, Israel earth, wooden instruments, pails, pitchers, sheets torn into strips for washing and the appropriate white linen Tachrichim garments (seven garments for men and eight garments for women).
• Normal preparation begins with the washing of the body by members of the Chevra Kadish — women members shroud the female deceased and male members shroud the male deceased.
• The coffin or casket (called the Aron) is a plain wooden, pegged box with ornamentation, lining, metal parts or animal glue with holes drilled in the bottom so that the deceased can be closer to earth.
• If the body is embalmed, the blood must be stored in containers and placed in the Aron with the body.
• Israel earth is spread on the floor of the casket, and a linen bag filled with straw and Israel earth is placed in the casket as a headrest.

Pre-Service Considerations
• Most funerals are held in the funeral home or cemetery — not the synagogue.
• Flowers are not normally used.
• A menorah is placed near the casket.

The Funeral Service
• Format is determined by the rabbi.
• No funerals may be held on the Sabbath (from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday).
• During the procession, the cortege (levaya) may stop at the synagogue. If so, the funeral director should escort the rabbi to the synagogue door. The rabbi recites a prayer and opens the doors of the funeral coach to provide the deceased with one last contact with the synagogue.  Once the rabbi is escorted back to the vehicle, thecortege proceeds to the cemetery.
• The body is not displayed. There is no wake.
• The Talmud and the codes of law require the tearing or rending of the upper part of the mourner’s outer garment when the deceased is a parent, spouse, child or sibling, which are the traditional relatives one is required to mourn and say Kaddish for. This ancient sign of grief is called Keriah. It is frequently done these days by the symbolic cutting of a piece of black ribbon provided by the funeral director and attached to the mourner’s garment.
• Services start with the Kaddish, a special prayer that is also recited by a parent for 11 months and by other family members for 30 days. Kaddish is usually said by the son. If there are no sons, family members can designate someone else to say Kaddish for the deceased. It is considered a privilege for the deceased soul to have someone say Kaddish for them.

The Committal Service
• Cremation, autopsy and organ donation are not allowed.
• The body is to be buried in a Jewish cemetery as soon as possible, preferably no more than two nights following the death.
• It is customary for family members or those present to assist in the filling in of the grave.

Conservative and Reform Variations
• The family chooses the type of casket used, without restrictions about the type or material used.
• The family and rabbi may choose to allow for an open casket for visitation.
• Flowers are optional.
• Services may be held in the funeral home, the residence of the deceased, the temple or at the gravesite.
• The rabbi, often accompanied by a cantor, will lead the service.
• The cortege will not typically stop at the temple on the way to the cemetery.
• Burial may take place in any cemetery of the family’s choosing.

Common Elements of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Funeral Rite
Although commonly referred to as Mormon, this term is just a nickname associated with the “Book of Mormon,” translated by church founder, Joseph Smith. Latter Day Saints do not belong to Protestant churches and believe their authority was bestowed directly from God. There are no fulltime, professional clergy in Latter Day Saints Churches. Once a boy reaches age 12, he is ordained in the office of priesthood. Bishops, who hold outside, fulltime employment, are called from priesthood to serve without compensation for their services to the church.

Notification of Clergy
• No specific requirements

Removal of Remains
• No specific religious restrictions

Preparation of Remains
• No specific religious mandates

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• If the deceased has not been through the temple, clothing choices are left up to the family.
• If a male deceased has been through the temple, he is to be dressed in white undergarments, socks, shirt, trousers, tie and moccasins. A robe, apron, sash and cap are also used.
• If a female has been through the temple, she is to be dressed in white undergarments, hose, slip, dress and moccasins. A robe, apron, veil and ribbon are also used.
• LDS members typically dress the deceased in the temple clothing. Men dress men and women dress women.

Pre-Service Considerations
• The bishop of the ward will determine the order of service.
• Services may take place at the tabernacle or the funeral home.
• Visitation and viewing of the deceased is usually held the evening before the funeral service, in the funeral home, residence, tabernacle or elsewhere.

The Funeral Service
• May be held in the funeral home, ward chapel or the tabernacle, but not the temple.
• Simplicity is key — the use of flowers, crosses, candles and other items is discouraged.
• A typical service includes: prelude, invocation, eulogy/obituary, musical selection, speaker, benediction and postlude.

The Committal Service
• Committal services vary according to the method of final disposition.
• Interment (earth burial) is preferred, but other methods are permitted.

Common Elements of the Orthodox Funeral Rite
Also known as the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church is a family of independent, flexible, self-governing churches. Each Orthodox Church is governed by an independent council of bishops, called a synod.

Notification of Clergy
• No specific requirements

Removal of Remains
• No specific religious restrictions

Preparation of Remains
• No specific religious mandates

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Clothing and casket choices are made by the family.

Pre-Service Considerations
• The rites usually begin with a trisagion, which is held in the funeral home the evening before the service and again the following day, immediately preceding the funeral service. The trisagion is attended by the family and pallbearers and lasts only 10 minutes. Afterward, attendees move in procession to the church for the funeral service.

The Funeral Service
• The priest will bless the casket with holy water before leading the procession down the aisle of the church. A cantor may also accompany the priest.
• The casket is led feet first down the aisle and placed in the solea with the foot end of the casket nearest the altar. The casket is usually left open during the service.
• The service follows a liturgical order that usually includes readings, prayers and hymns from a booklet entitled, “Parastas” or “Great Panachida.” The service often concludes with a eulogy, after which the casket is turned and the priest anoints the body with earth, sand or olive oil. An icon is placed on the foot end of the casket. Those seated on the right exit kissing the icon on their way out. Then, the icon is moved to the head of the casket for those on the left to kiss on their way out. This is called the Ceremony of the Last Kissing.

The Committal Service
• Interment (earth burial) is preferred. Cremation is considered objectionable.
• The priest leads the casket in the processional to the burial site.
• The committal service includes a litany of reading and prayers followed by a closing prayer.

Burial Procession and Committal
• On the auspicious day prescribed by the bonze, the burial procession moves from the funeral home to the cemetery, led by the bonze.
• The bonze says a prayer and gives a final benediction with holy water and incense. Friends may give a eulogy. The funeral director coordinates these activities.
• Cremation is encouraged.

Post Burial Service
• Post burial services are held at the home or the pagoda. These services last for 49 days with one service per week.
• Post burial services are significant because they are believed to help the deceased’s soul to pass and go through the best reincarnation.

Common Elements of the Japanese Buddhist Funeral Rite
The Japanese Buddhists differ greatly in custom and tradition from the Indian, Chinese and Korean Buddhists. Sects of Buddhism distinct to Japan include: Jodo Shinshu-Nishi, Jodo Shu, Shingon Shu, Soto Shu and Nichiren Shu. Many are predominantly the Jodo Shinshu sect, which has set the standard for the death ritual. They believe that the soul joins and becomes a Buddha in nirvana, the Pure Land. There is no heaven or hell. Everyone becomes enlightened when they die and exists forever in eternal bliss.

Notification
• The family notifies the minister.

Removal of Remains
• The makura-gyo (bedside prayer) is to be performed by the minister before the body is moved from the place of death. This can also be done at the mortuary before or after embalming.

Preparation of Remains
• Embalming is acceptable.
• Families sometimes choose to put rice, gold or coins in the mouth of the deceased to use in their journey to the next life.

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Clothing and casket choices are made by the family.

Pre-Service Considerations
• Flowers and Japanese confectionary are placed on the altar for the funeral.
• Visitations are scheduled before the funeral, often at the mortuary.

The Funeral Service
• There are no time or place restrictions.
• Services are often held at night so that friends and family can attend without missing work.
• The casket is placed parallel to the altar and remains open for the entire service, unless the family prefers otherwise.
• The order of service is always the same: tolling of the temple bell; procession; chanting of sutras before the casket; presentation of Buddhist name; offering of incense; opening remarks by chairman; eulogy; sermon; Gathas; condolence message; words of appreciation; and recessional.

Final Disposition
• The family chooses the method of disposition.
• If burial is chosen, a graveside service is held.
• If cremation is chosen, a cremation service will be held.
• After services are complete, the family returns to the temple for a final service.

Memorial Services
• Memorial services are held at prescribed post-death dates to ensure the deceased safe passage to nirvana.

Common Elements of the Military Funeral Rite
The United States government provides services for members of active and reserve Armed Forces who die while on active duty. Services include the preparation, dressing, casketing and transportation of remains. In many cases, the government makes arrangements with a contracted funeral home, or the family can choose and be reimbursed for making its own arrangements. Families must request a military funeral through the deceased’s branch of service. A military service may include both a chapel and graveside service, although it most commonly includes only the committal service at graveside.

Notification
• Military funerals must be specifically requested by family.

Removal of Remains
• No specific restrictions.

Preparation of Remains
• No specific mandates.

Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Choices are left up to the deceased’s family.

Pre-Service Considerations
• This usually involves a military funeral cortege, which includes: band, escort (including firing party and bugler), color bearers and guard, clergy, caisson and casket bearers, honorary casket bearers (if any), and family and friends.

The Service
• The arrangements may include a chapel and graveside service — most commonly graveside only.
• If graveside, the military chaplain or clergy conducts the service. Following scripture reading and prayers, the firing party fires a 21-gun salute. The bugler plays “Taps” during the folding of the flag, which is then presented to the spouse or next of kin.

Veterans Variations
Veteran rites are nonsectarian and are similar to the military funeral, except with a smaller number of participants.
• The funeral cortege is much smaller and includes: chaplain, bugler, color bearers and guards, commander of the post, 7-person firing squad and casket bearers.
• The flag is held waist-high by members of the veteran’s organization during the committal service, and following the service the members fold it and present it to the spouse or next of kin.
• If fewer than 21 veteran members are present, the funeral home staff may be called upon to perform some of the functions.

Use of the United States Flag
• Closed Casket: Center the flag on the casket so that the blue is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.
• Half Couch Casket: Arrange the flag in three layers (10 inch folds) to cover the closed half of the casket. The blue field should be the top layer and should be positioned on the deceased’s left. Tuck the white margin along the hoist of the flag under, so that only the blue field and the stripes show.
• Full Couch Casket: Fold the flag into a triangle and place it in the casket cap just above the left shoulder of the deceased, with the blue stars facing outward.
• Correct Method for Folding the Flag:

1. Fold the lower striped section of the flag over the blue field. 
2. The folded edge is then folded over to meet the striped edge. 
3. A triangle fold is then started by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.
4. The outer point is then turned inward parallel with the open edge to form a second triangle.

5. Triangle folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in the triangle shape of a cocked hat with only the blue field visible.

Other Flag Guidelines: -Never lower the flag into the grave. –
Never allow the flag to touch the ground.
Never use the flag as a covering or drape for an item to be unveiled. –
Never allow the flag to be torn, soiled or damaged.
Never placed anything on top of the flag (such as flowers).
Never attach anything to the flag.
Never use the flag to hold, carry or deliver anything. –
Do not display a flag if it is badly worn, torn or damaged.
If a flag is transported, it must be either folded and secured in a shipping receptacle or draped over the casket inside the shipping receptacle.

Fraternal Organizations
Many fraternal organizations hold ceremonies, either separately or in conjunction with the primary funeral services of their members. Some of these organizations and their contact persons are listed below:

• Fraternal Order of Eagles (Contact worthy president or worthy chaplain)
• Order of the Eastern Star (Contact officers of the lodge)
• Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (Contact the exalted ruler)
• The National Grange (Contact the master)
• Knights of Pythias (Contact the chancellor commander)
• Knights of Columbus (Contact the grand knight)
• Maccabbes (Contact the commander)
• Masons — Free and Accepted (Contact the master of the lodge)
• Modern Woodmen of America (Contact the consul, master of ceremonies)
• Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Contact noble grand)
• Rebekah’s (Contact noble grand)
• Royal Neighbors of America (Contact the oracle)
• Woodmen of the World (Contact the consul commander)

Additional Planning Resources

© 2019 Resthaven Memorial Gardens. All Rights Reserved. Website by CFS