Funeral or Memorial?

Technically, funerals and memorials are not the same.  A funeral is a service where the deceased’s body is present and a memorial is any service held without the body. A ceremony after cremation (is therefore considered a memorial service (regardless of whether or not the cremated remains are present).  Many people, however, use the two terms interchangeably.


Alternative Ceremonies



Funerals frequently include several steps or locations.  Even those who have chosen a religious funeral may still request a celebrant-designed tribute at another time:

  • Prior to church service   Services can be held during the visitation, at the funeral home before traveling to the church, or another location of your choosing
  • Graveside ceremony   Services may be performed in addition to or without clergy
  • Cemetery placement of cremated remains    A ceremony to inter or entomb the ashes is held at the family’s convenience
  • Scattering cremated remains   Location (land, sea, or air) and timing are left completely up to the wishes of the family
  • Second funeral service   Appropriate when family members were hospitalized or otherwise unable to attend the first ceremony



Funerals are but one opportunity to honor the life and death of someone you love.  In fact, many cultures note anniversaries or milestones in the grieving process, especially during the first year.  Adaptation to life without the deceased doesn’t happen overnight, and people experiencing loss often find additional ceremonies – whether public or private – helpful in marking their journey.  These memorial occasions include:

  • Gravestone placement   Often held several months after the funeral
  • Anniversary of death (or birth date)    Conducted at cemetery or another location
  • Tree planting, bench dedication, etc.   Any gathering designed to honor the deceased and his/her legacy.
  • Ceremony acknowledging the mourner’s progress   Requested by individuals to mark time or well-being  (six months, one year, two years, etc.)



  • Planning your own funeral    More people are now clarifying their final wishes, right down to their funeral celebration.  Some even write their own obituaries.  I can assist in designing the ceremony, identifying readings, or write a personal statement that accurately reflects your values and legacy.
  • End-of-life farewell ceremony   Another ceremony gaining acceptance is an end-of-life service, or “living wake”.  People nearing the end of life (through age or illness) hold gatherings to ritualize the moment, clarify their legacy, and say goodbye to friends and family.  These events are often joyful and life-affirming, even as death approaches.  As a celebrant, I can help structure a meaningful gathering.