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The funeral service fills many needs. It serves as a special tribute to the life of one who has died. It helps family and friends come to terms with the reality of the death of a loved one, and it brings people together for support and comfort. The Funeral service is a way of saying good bye and letting the healing process begin.

A typical funeral service has three parts:

  • The viewing, which usually takes place at the funeral home either the evening before or right before the funeral service.
  • The funeral service itself.
  • The committal service and interment, which takes place at the cemetery.

The viewing, also known as the wake, is a period of visitation in which friends and relatives gather with the family to extend their sympathy and comfort. Typically, the viewing is held the evening before the funeral service, although recently many families prefer to hold the viewing right before the funeral service.

The funeral service itself is usually held in a chapel room at the funeral home or in a church chosen by the family. The service typically consists of scripture readings, prayers, a eulogy, possibly a sermon, and hymns, poems, and any other music or script that holds meaning for the family.

Following the funeral service, family and friends usually proceed to the cemetery for the committal service. The committal service is a brief ceremony at the gravesite. It may be private or public, depending on the wishes of the family. At the committal service, final good byes are said and flowers are placed on the casket.

Some families choose the committal service as the only service, with no funeral service prior to the committal. This type of service, called a graveside service, is often more lengthy and closer in style to the funeral service.

Following the committal service a reception is usually held either at a church hall or at the home of family.

Although the traditional funeral can be very formal and scripted, there are many ways to personalize the service to meet the needs of family members and pay a unique tribute to the deceased. Choice of music, flowers, and readings all serve to personalize the service. In addition, photo and memory displays can be included in the service, either at the viewing or at the funeral service itself. Choice of the casket and clothing for the deceased tailor the service specifically to the individual who died. Even the choice of pall bearers serve as a reflection on the life of the individual - pall bearers may be friends, relatives, representatives of the military or fraternal organizations or any group that played a significant part of the individual's life.