Memorial Service vs Funeral: What Is The Difference?

Funerals and memorial services have a common goal - to honor and pay respects to loved ones.
Joanne Lumsden
2 min

One of the most common questions we see people asking is - what is the difference between a memorial service vs funeral? While these two services are sometimes used interchangeably, they have striking differences. How can you tell which is the right approach for your loved one?

Funerals and memorial services have a common goal - to honor and pay respects to loved ones. They are similar in some ways, but they also have distinct differences you need to know about. The service you choose will come down to how you think the person in question would want to have been remembered - along with how you and your loved ones feel the best approach to grieving them is. Don't worry - in this article, we will break down the differences between a funeral and a memorial service.

While there are minor differences here and there, the main difference is that the body is present in a funeral service. In a memorial service, on the other hand, the body is already laid to rest. This means there is more room for creativity in how you celebrate the life of your loved one. To truly help you understand the differences between these two services and ultimately make the right pick, we're going to uncover the main elements of both funeral service and a memorial service. Let's not waste any more time.

Memorial Service vs Funeral Service: What Is The Difference?

The end goal of a traditional funeral service and a memorial service is the same thing. Each service seeks to help family and friends grieve the passing of their loved one and publically acknowledge their passing. Coming together with the support of other family and friends helps ease the transition to life without them.

However, it's not just about the family and friends - a funeral or memorial service also represents an important transition for the person who has passed. After the funeral service or memorial service, the soul can finally achieve peace and transition into its next journey.

So, ultimately you can choose either service. But to help you determine whether one of these, in particular, is a better choice, we'll explain the main elements of each service below.

What Is a Funeral?

A traditional funeral service is conducted to honor and pay respect to the deceased. The proceedings of a funeral vary among cultures and religions. Traditionally, the funeral service is done with the body present.  Order of proceedings is followed, and religious rites are performed. It involves laying the body to rest. Sometimes, family members choose to cremate the body of the deceased.

The main takeaway we want you to have is that a funeral service is far more structured with three important parts: the beginning, middle, and end. This service seeks to symbolize change for all parties. The deceased person transitions from a living, contributing member of society to a person who is to be remembered fondly for their contributions. This social status change is important. But, the funeral also seeks to help those left behind navigate this change. Life without the deceased will be different - and a funeral has the goal of helping a grieving group set off on the right foot with this new reality.

What Is a Memorial Service?

A memorial service is held at a later time after a funeral or cremation has been done. This means the body is not present - unless, of course, you decide to bring an urn with the deceased's remains.

Memorial services are usually done to honor and remember the deceased. Family and friends gather together to remember the life they lived and the impacts they made. A memorial service helps people pay their final respects to the dead.  And as you may already know, a memorial service is far less structured. In fact, it shares many elements of a celebration of life service. To really help you understand the differences between a funeral vs memorial service, let's break them down below:

Major Differences Between a Memorial Service and Funeral

  1. There is usually room for other activities in a memorial service because this is done after the body has been laid to rest.
  2. A wake-keep proceeding is part of a funeral event, whereas this is not common during a memorial service. The wake-keep is conducted as part of the funeral service. It is often done a day before the funeral.  At a wake-keep service, family and friends gather to see and mourn the deceased's body before it is laid to final rest.
  3. Memorial services can be held at a time suitable for family members. This could be weeks or months after a funeral has been conducted. This is different from a memorial service that occurs shortly after the death of the loved one.
  4. Usually, a funeral is done at a  funeral home or a religious place of gathering. A memorial service is not limited to these options; it can be conducted in any environment of choice. This can be a park, an events center, or a family home.
  5. Ideally, a funeral can only be done once. A memorial service can be done multiple times. Family members can choose a date in a year to conduct a memorial service for their beloved. This is done to continuously remember and honor them.

Final Thoughts On Memorial Service vs Funeral

Well, there you have it - the main differences between memorial services vs funerals. You now know that both are great ways to honor a lost loved one and help you and others navigate the first few steps of the grieving process. They just differ a bit in how they are conducted. While funerals are more structured and traditional, memorial services allow for more creativity in celebrating the life of your loved one. They also differ in where the body is during the process - a traditional funeral service is done with the body present, while memorial services occur once the body has been laid to rest.

It is important to always honor your loved one. Whichever way you choose to do, both are great choices. Consider factors and circumstances when choosing which works best for you and your loved one. You can even consider planning a virtual funeral or memorial service in these uncertain times. Or, consider a virtual memorial website.

By creating a profile for your loved one, you can spread their memory far and wide - remembering them as they would have wanted. At Forevory, we help you build your loved one's profile complete with:

  • Family tree
  • Guest book
  • Videos and photos
  • Stories
  • Voice notes
  • QR code added to headstone to pull up profile

Want to see how it works? You can get a 14-day free trial and see just how special remembering your loved one with Forevory is.

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