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“Funeral” or “Memorial” – How to Decide

Although the gap between the two terms has slowly been closing, there is still a difference between funerals and memorials. Most notably, a funeral will have the body of the deceased present while a memorial service will not. While this is, in essence, the only major difference, over the years each tribute has developed its own distinct feel. When thinking what might be the more appropriate plan for you and your loved ones, take these factors into consideration.

1. Cost

While your first thought when planning a funeral or a memorial might be your loved one’s wishes, cost is also a significant deciding factor for most people. Funerals tend to be quite a bit more expensive since they will usually involve embalming, a casket and a variety of other costs. A memorial can be significantly cheaper, especially if you decide to go with cremation.

2. Timing

Since the body is present at a funeral, there is a time constraint involved. Most funerals have to happen within a few days of the death. For some families, this is not an issue and may even facilitate the feeling of closure. However, in other cases, those close to the deceased feel that they need more time to say goodbye or alternately, they may want to organize a ceremony that requires a bit more planning—in these cases a memorial may be best, since it can happen a week, a month or even a year later.

3. Tradition Vs. Simplicity

Perhaps the most obvious difference that has arisen between funerals and memorials is in the style of the service. Funerals are seen as the more traditional way to go; they frequently feature all the rituals and ceremonies associated with death, including the viewing of the body and pall bearers carrying the casket to its final resting place. On the other hand, memorial services have become something of a juxtaposition, offering a simpler and more direct way to say goodbye and avoiding much of the pomp of a funeral. That said, there is no strict ruling here; there are funerals that embrace the less-traditional and memorial services that spare no expense when it comes to extravagance.

As with every aspect of funeral planning, think deeply on what kind of funeral you or your loved one may want; consider personality, lifestyle and general preferences around family gatherings. Oftentimes, these considerations will be enough to help you discern whether a funeral or a memorial service is right for you.

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