Traditional Funeral Services
Within the United States and Canada, in most cultural groups and regions, the funeral rituals can be divided into three parts:
At the visitation (also called a "viewing" or "wake") the deceased person (or decedent) is placed on display in the casket. The viewing often takes place on one or two evenings before the funeral.
The only prescribed aspects of this gathering are that frequently the attendees sign a book kept by the deceased's survivors to record who attended and that the attendees are expected to view the deceased's body in the coffin. In addition, a family may choose to display photographs taken of the deceased person during his/her life (often, formal portraits with other family members and candid pictures to show "happy times"), prized possessions and other items representing his/her hobbies and/or accomplishments.
The viewing is either "open casket", in which the the deceased has been clothed and treated with cosmetics for display; or "closed casket", in which the coffin is closed.
The decedent's closest friends and relatives who are unable to attend frequently send flowers to the viewing, with the exception of a Jewish Funeral, where flowers would not be appropriate. The viewing typically takes place at a funeral home, which is equipped with gathering rooms where the viewing can be conducted, although the viewing may also take place at a church. The viewing may end with a prayer service.
A visitation is often held the evening before the day of the funeral. However, when the deceased person is elderly the visitation may be held immediately preceeding the funeral. This allows elderly friends of the deceased a chance to view the body and attend the funeral in one trip, since travel arrangements may be more difficult.
A Traditional Fire Department funeral consists of two raised aerial ladders. The deceased firefighter(s) travel under the aerials on the ride on the fire apparatus to the cemetery.
A memorial service, often called a funeral and often officiated by clergy from the decedent's or bereaved's church or religion. A funeral may take place at either a funeral home or church. A funeral is usually held three to five days after the death of the deceased.
Funeral services include prayers; readings from the Bible or other sacred texts; hymns (sung either by the attendees or a hired vocalist); and words of comfort by the clergy. Frequently, a relative or close friend will be asked to give a eulogy, which details happy memories and accomplishments. Sometimes the delivering of the eulogy is done by the clergy.
Tradition also allows the attendees of the memorial service to have one last opportunity to view the decedent's body and say good-bye; the immediate family (siblings (and their spouses); followed by the decedent's spouse, parents and children) are the very last to view their loved one before the coffin is closed. This opportunity can take place immediately before the service begins, or at the very end of the service.
During the funeral and at the burial service, the casket may be covered with a large arrangement of flowers, called a casket spray. If the decedent served in a branch of the Armed forces, the casket may be covered with an American flag. It is considered inappropriate to use both.
Sometimes, the burial service will immediately follow the funeral, in which case a funeral procession (the hearse, followed by the immediate family and then the other attendees) travels from the site of the memorial service to the burial site. Other times, the burial service takes place at a later time, when the final resting place is ready. In our area this is quite common when the decendent passes during the winter months.
If the decedent served in a branch of the Armed forces, military rites are often accorded at the burial service.
In many religious traditions, pallbearers, usually males who are close, but not immediate relatives (such as cousins, nephews or grandchildren) or friends of the decedent, will carry the casket from the chapel (of a funeral home or church) to the hearse, and from the hearse to the site of the burial service. The pallbearers often sit in a special reserved section during the memorial service.
In many traditions, a meal or other gathering following the burial service, either at the decedent's church or another off-site location.
On occasion, the family of the deceased may wish to have only a very small service, with just the decedent's closest family members and friends attending. This type of ceremony means it is closed to the public. One may only go to the funeral if he or she was invited. In this case, a private funeral service is conducted. Reasons vary but often include:
The decedent was an infant or very aged and therefore having few surviving family members or friends. The decedent may be a crime victim or a convicted criminal who was serving a prison sentence. In this case, the service is made private either to avoid unwanted media coverage (especially with a crime victim); or to avoid unwanted intrusion.
The family does not feel able to endure a traditional service due to emotional shock, or simply wants a quiet, simple funeral with only the most important people of the decedent's life in attendance.
In some cases, the family may schedule a public memorial service at a later time.
Increasingly, traditional funerals are being replaced by memorial services. These are often less formal than a traditional funeral, and include such things as eulogies, music and fellowship. A member of the clergy often participates in these services, usually to open and close the proceedings and offer prayers and a brief message of comfort.
We will help you tailor services to meet your religion, culture, needs and preferences. This may be one or a combination of services listed. We want to assist you in creating the services appropriate for you and your family.
In New York State the services of a registered funeral home and licensed funeral director are required before any disposition of the deceased may occur. We employ three NYS Licensed Funeral Directors with over 60 years of combined funeral experience.