What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?

Cremation network

These days with the term “memorial service” more common, we are often asked just what the difference is between a funeral and a memorial service. A funeral service and a memorial service both serve the same purpose – they are the ritual through which we formerly say goodbye to our departed loved one. Both can be as long or short as required and focus on being a tribute and celebration of the life of the person who departed.

A Funeral Service

A funeral service typically takes place with the body of the departed present, whereas a memorial service takes place without the actual body present.

A funeral service can refer to a traditional graveside burial service, or it can refer to a funeral service conducted in a chapel when cremation is later performed. A funeral service is most often conducted within a week of the death occurring.

A Memorial Service

A memorial service generally takes place sometime after the death and disposition have occurred.

It is usually a service specifically to memorialize the life of the deceased. If cremation has been performed, often a memorial service is conducted to inter or scatter the cremated remains at the same time as the celebration of the deceased’s life.

A memorial service can also be held following a private family funeral service to enable extended attendance for the purpose of memorialization of the deceased.

Sometimes the family will arrange a private family funeral service and then hold a memorial service at a later date when the family and friends who could not attend the funeral can gather.

A memorial service is often held when someone had particular ties to a community as a ritual to help people pay their last respects.

How to choose whether to have a funeral or memorial service

How you decide to memorialize your loved one should be an entirely personal choice, and observing the wishes of the deceased. We often hear the quote that “funerals are for the living,” which, of course, they are. But too often, families are swayed into a funeral service that can become overwhelming, driven by our social concerns with what other people will think.

The funeral industry today has evolved to such a scale as to make the whole ‘service’ aspect of a funeral largely an aspect that is in their domain.

At US Funerals Online, we have encountered families who will state that they largely arranged what the funeral director recommended, sometimes feeling that they lost control of the ritual. This is why it is very important to choose the right funeral provider.

Cremation Funeral

Do I need a funeral home to hold a memorial service?

The simple answer is no. You do not have to employ the services of a funeral director to conduct a memorial service. A memorial service is more of an event, often referred to now as a ‘life event,’ and many memorial services are hosted as a Life Celebration.

You can employ the services of someone experienced in hosting such an event, and these days there are a growing number of Celebrants.

However, you can also host your own memorial service, and it is probably the most personalized and least expensive manner in which you can pay tribute to your dearly departed.

The ability to now arrange a simple, direct cremation to manage the disposition, and then be at liberty to perform your own memorialization is changing our whole attitudes to death care rituals in modern society.

A simple direct cremation can be arranged for between $695 and $1,495 (in most areas), which can make death care much more affordable for those families with financial limitations on funeral expenses. Once a low-cost direct cremation is conducted, the family can make their own memorial arrangements, and this can significantly reduce the funeral expenditure.

Visit DFS Memorials to find out the cost of a direct cremation near you.

Our experience has been that many in the funeral industry are still resistant to this change, largely because it makes many of their services redundant. Yet there are a growing number of funeral professionals who recognize that a cultural shift is occurring, and they are changing with the times.

If simplicity is what you require from a funeral director make sure you opt for a funeral home that understands and delivers this. How you want to memorialize your loved one is your choice, and you should never be coerced into thinking that you have made the wrong choice.

If you opt to hold a memorial service at a later date, this can give you time to truly reflect on how you can best memorialize your loved one.

How to Host Family-directed Memorial Services

More families are deciding that they would prefer to arrange and conduct a memorial tribute for their lost loved one than opt for a funeral home service. Not only does this put family and friends more in control of the structure and content of a memorial service, but it can also save significantly on funeral expense costs.

Money can be saved by using a community location, a family home, or an outdoor space. Creative memorial tributes can be made (or purchased) at a fraction of the costs that some funeral homes will charge for these ancillary products.

Check out our Guide to Creating Your Own Memorial Tributes to learn more.

What is a Living Funeral? A Service Before Death

This is a fairly rare and new phenomenon. But times are changing, and I can appreciate why some individuals may opt to hold a ‘life celebration’ prior to their death. This seems to be predominantly individuals who have led a long life and wish to share a reflection and celebration with their extended family and associates. Or individuals with a terminal condition that may opt for a gathering with family before passing.

Visit this article, Living Funerals – A Life Celebration Before Death, to learn more.

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.