22 Different Types of Funerals and Funeral Customs

Honoring someone who has passed away is an important task for families around the world. How we do that, though, differs, depending on who we are, where we live, what religions we belong to, and what other beliefs and principles we may have.

A funeral in Midwest America, then, is likely to look much different than a funeral in Taiwan or France. Yet despite the differences, funeral services often have several things in common. They consist of a structured ceremony with a beginning, middle, and end. They provide mourners with a collective grieving experience, give support to close friends and family, and celebrate the life of the person who passed.

Ultimately, funerals mark a dramatic change in the lives of those involved. They acknowledge the tear in the social fabric and shift in social status while granting loved ones a ceremonial start to the rest of their lives.

Funeral services and customs often include flowers, whether to express condolences to loved ones or as a touching gesture at a gravesite. Share your sympathy with a FruitFlowers® gift bundle featuring a stunning bouquet of flowers paired with decadent chocolate covered fruits. Choose one of our top-selling FruitFlowers® combinations, such as the Condolences Bouquet Gift Set that includes a breathtaking flower bouquet in a blend of green and white paired with our Ultimate Chocolate-Dipped Fruit Gift Box. Our Thinking of You Flowers & Chocolate Covered Strawberries is also a comforting choice, featuring a beautiful Rose & Alstroemeria Bouquet along with a box of delectable chocolate dipped strawberries.

You can even build your own FruitFlowers®. Choose from the FruitFlower® of the Month, Natural FruitFlower® of the Month, and a Rose & Alstroemeria Bouquet and pair it with a box of decadent chocolate dipped fruits. Add an extra-special touch by including a comforting plush teddy bear or a Godiva® Chocolate Box. There’s no better way to express your sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one.

Of course, when choosing sympathy flowers, you want to ensure that your choice is in line with the family’s religious and cultural funeral customs. Below, we share a variety of different ways that people conduct funerals, including different customs from various religions and locations around the world.

Basic Funeral Types

1. The Traditional Funeral

the traditional funeral is the standard type of funeral in the US

This is the type of funeral that most people in America are familiar with. It often occurs within days of death and is led by a religious leader or funeral home director. The mood is formal, and the event typically includes traditional songs, hymns, and readings of poems, religious passages, and favorite quotes. Flowers are placed about the casket and at key locations within the funeral home or church.

A traditional funeral may be held at a funeral home, a church, or a temple. It may include an open or closed casket, or an urn if cremation was chosen. Attendees may move to the cemetery or crematorium afterward to finalize the ceremony and pay last respects. The most traditional funeral flowers center around the lily, which offers hope and encouragement to the grieving family. Carnations are also popular as sympathy flowers.

2. Graveside Service

Also known as a “committal service,” this can be part of a traditional funeral, where the attendees move from the funeral to the graveside to finish the ceremony. In that case, the flowers at the funeral location are usually transported to the graveside service, such as casket sprays and standing sprays. But some families choose to have only the graveside service.

With this option, the entire ceremony takes place at the cemetery or the crematorium with either a funeral director or a religious leader. Friends and family may also share their eulogies. Attendees may present flowers or other memorabilia at the deceased’s grave and may read verses or poems.

3. Viewing

a funeral viewing is a common custom

A viewing occurs before a traditional service at the church, funeral home, crematorium, or the home of the deceased. It is usually reserved for close friends and family members. The casket is often open and available for mourners to visit. It’s a more intimate ceremony and provides loved ones with an opportunity to express their last words and goodbyes. It lasts only a few hours and may include flowers, gifts, photos, and videos, with flowers chosen by the family typically placed closest to the casket. Family and friends may send flowers ahead to the viewing with a personal message.

4. Wake

wakes are a common funeral custom

A wake is similar to a visitation or viewing, except it has its roots in the Catholic religion. It tends to be a more solemn service occurring right before the funeral either in the funeral home, church, or at the family’s home. The body may or may not be present.

Sometimes, other guests may be invited. In that case, it’s polite for them to introduce themselves to the family when they arrive and share their connection to the deceased person. They may share their stories with one another as well. This is a good option for someone who was important to a certain community. Mourners may choose to send flowers to the funeral home or place of worship, or send sympathy flowers or a planter to the family’s home.

5. Visitation

Similar to a viewing or a wake, a visitation takes place at the funeral home, the church, or the family’s home, but instead of visiting the body or the remains, the emphasis is placed on visiting the family and grieving loved ones. It is less formal than the other two and may involve a meal, appetizers, drinks, or desserts. It provides the time and space for people to come together and visit in a more casual setting before the funeral.

6. Memorial Service

If the funeral is held without the casket or urn, it’s often called a memorial service. It is similar to the traditional funeral but can take place months or even a year after someone has passed away. It may occur in a church, a funeral home, in someone’s home, or another venue. Common flowers at a memorial service include chrysanthemums, carnations, and gladiolas.

7. Direct Burial

direct burials are a common funeral custom

Sometimes a family plans to bury their loved one, but they don’t want a funeral or other formal ceremony. In that case, they may hold a direct burial, which simply involves the funeral home burying the casket or urn.

The family is typically present, and a religious leader or one of the family may say a few words. But there is no traditional ceremony anywhere else. It is similar to a graveside service but is simpler with fewer requirements. Sometimes families will make this choice when they don’t live near the decedent, or when they are planning a memorial service at a later date.

8. Direct Cremation

cremations are a common funeral custom

Similar to a direct burial, a direct cremation is a simple cremation of the body without a formal visitation, funeral, or another ceremony. It is an economical choice for many families, or for those who want more privacy. The funeral home may either bury the remains or return them to the family if the members want to hold a scattering of ashes ceremony later on. Keep the deceased person’s and their family’s wishes in mind when choosing flowers for a direct cremation. They may prefer that you donate to a charity that was important to their loved one rather than flowers. Alternatively, you could send a planter or flower arrangement to the family’s home when formal services aren’t being held.

9. Scattering of Ashes

The scattering ceremony occurs when a family chooses to scatter the remains of a loved one rather than keep or bury them. Members typically choose a location that was important to the deceased and allows ashes to be scattered, then gather there to scatter the ashes into the wind or water. Some scatterings involve a ceremony similar to one that may be performed at a graveside service, or friends and loved ones may read favorite quotes or scriptures, say prayers, or sing hymns. Rose petals or other flower petals may be scattered with the ashes.

10. Celebration of Life

In a celebration of life, attendees remember and celebrate the life of the deceased, often in a more cheerful, informal fashion than at a traditional funeral. The ceremony can be as traditional or non-traditional as the family desires. Often it includes special photos of the loved one and other unique personal touches. Common flowers at a celebration of life include roses, tulips, and snapdragons, as well as hydrangeas.

The location may also be different, at a home, event venue, park, or other location that is special to the family or was special to the deceased. Often a celebration includes a meal, drinks, and the sharing of stories about the departed’s life. The remains are usually not present, but that can vary depending on the family’s preferences.

11. Burial at Sea

burial at sea marks a unique funeral custom

If the deceased person served in the Navy, Coast Guard, or Merchant Marines, or had a particular affinity to the ocean, a burial at sea may be appropriate. The Department of the Navy offers free burial at sea services for veterans and their families, subject to certain restrictions. The person who has passed is released into the ocean, usually from a boat but sometimes from an aircraft.

Often these ceremonies involve scattering the deceased’s ashes into the water, but sometimes full-body burials are available. It’s important to hire a company that specializes in the service, as it is highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A flower wreath is a nice addition to a burial at sea, as it provides a focal point for the viewing in the ocean.

12. Non-religious Humanist Service

A humanist service omits any reference to God or religion. It offers a ceremony that works for those who aren’t affiliated with any particular religion, or who want to avoid referring to any particular religion so that everyone feels welcome. The focus is on celebrating the life of the deceased while offering loved ones a chance to share stories, quotes, and songs. The service may include a moment of silence so that all of the attendees can reflect on their time with the deceased person.

13. Green/Natural Funeral Service

Those who are concerned about the environment may choose this type of funeral. It avoids embalming chemicals and non-biodegradable materials and lacks the carbon footprint of a cremation. Instead, the body is buried in only a biodegradable shroud or an eco-coffin made of cardboard, bamboo, pine, or another type of easily degradable wood.

A green funeral intends to leave nothing behind that may harm the environment. It is believed to protect worker health, reduce carbon emissions, and conserve natural resources. The funeral ceremony may be like that of a traditional funeral or celebration of life, or the service may include no ceremony at all. When families use flowers, they are usually from the garden or locally grown. You might also consider a plant that can be planted outdoors in remembrance of the loved one who has passed.

14. Woodland Service

woodland services present a personal funeral custom

This is similar to a green funeral or natural burial but occurs within acres of woodland surrounded by countryside. It may involve a burial plot or the scattering of ashes. It also uses biodegradable coffins and prohibits embalming, and the burial site is designed to preserve the existing woodland and the species that live there. Gravesites are typically marked with natural memorials like plants or trees, though some include memorials made from natural materials, like a wooden cross.

15. Colorful Funeral

A colorful funeral encourages attendees to opt against wearing black and instead, choose vibrant colors to reflect and celebrate the life of the deceased. It typically includes a colorful coffin and brighter flowers than those used at traditional funerals. Some families also give family and friends bright-colored balloons that they later release together.

16. Military Funeral

military funerals are a special funeral custom

Families of those who served in the armed forces have the option of holding a military funeral for their loved one. These are common for those who die in active service but may also occur for veterans and heads of state. The ceremony typically includes a military bearer party and a firing party. Ceremonial traditions such as dressing the coffin, the procession, and the Last Post and Reveille usually take place.

Red, white, and blue flowers are time-honored colors that work well at a military funeral. Good choices for flowers that come in these colors include carnations, gladiolas, snapdragons, roses, lilies, and chrysanthemums.

Religious Funerals

17. Christian Funerals

christian funerals are common for people of faith

A traditional Christian service is tailored to meet the needs of the Christian faith. Families gather to mourn and celebrate the life of the person who has passed away. Each Christian denomination will have different customs and rituals, but most services occur at a church, cemetery, or crematorium.

The event follows a general structure that includes readings, a sermon, prayers, and hymns. It may also include a eulogy written and delivered by a family member or friend. Funeral flowers are customary, traditionally in white (lilies are popular), as are post-funeral receptions.

Christian funeral rites are performed at the grave site or cemetery chapel. These may include throwing dirt on the coffin, placing material possessions on the casket, praying, singing songs, and reading scripture.

18. Muslim Funerals

A Muslim funeral typically occurs within 24 hours of the deceased passing. The body is washed and the deceased is covered in a white sheet. Before being transported to the mosque, the body is wrapped in sheets and secured with ropes. There is no viewing before the service, and because of religious beliefs, cremation is not allowed. Photography and video recordings are also usually prohibited.

The ceremony itself lasts from 30 minutes to an hour and consists of prayers, chants, readings from the Quran, and Muslim funeral rituals. Flowers are not appropriate at the funeral or as gifts to the mourning family, but a small planter or simple flower vase with fresh flowers may be accepted.

Following the service, the deceased is taken to the cemetery. Only men are allowed to attend the burial, though some Muslim communities may allow women to attend. The deceased is placed on the right side facing the Islamic holy city of Mecca. Sometimes, after the ceremony, the family will gather in the deceased’s home for a meal.

19. Jewish Funerals

Though Jewish funerals may vary, most are conducted by a Rabbi and take place within one day following the date of death unless mourners need to travel. The funeral cannot occur on Shabbat (the day of rest) or during other Jewish holidays.

The service is traditionally held in a Synagogue or funeral home. There is no public viewing allowed. The deceased is washed but not embalmed and placed in a simple wooden coffin. Funeral flowers usually are not appropriate, as they are not part of the Jewish funeral tradition.

The casket is closed during the service, which includes prayers, eulogies, and readings. Following the service, more prayers are read at the cemetery before the burial. It is common for mourners to place shovels of soil onto the casket. After the service, the family observes seven days of mourning.

20. Hindu Funerals

Hindus believe in the reincarnation of souls. When Hindus perform a funeral, they are mourning the passing of their loved one, but also celebrating the onward journey of the soul. They avoid any unnecessary touching of the deceased, which is seen as impure, though family members usually wash and purify the body before placing it in the casket.

Viewings are common, with flowers placed at the foot of the casket. Hindus perform funeral chants or prayers, while a priest will talk about what happens to the soul after death. No gifts or flowers are brought to the funeral, though flowers can be sent to the family ahead of time. Before the deceased is cremated (most Hindus are cremated), Hindus may place “pinda” (rice balls) close to their loved ones, or place a lamp shade near the head.

The ceremony usually lasts about 30 minutes, after which cremation takes place. After cremation, the ashes are immersed in the Ganges River, though other rivers are also accepted. Mourning lasts for 13 days, during which time the family receives visitors and displays a photo of the deceased person with a garland of flowers.

21. Buddhist Funerals

Buddhists also believe in reincarnation, but they also feel that the soul does not leave the body immediately after the person is considered dead. Thus, they resist moving or touching the body for at least four hours to give the soul time to depart. Then the body is typically prepared for cremation (most Buddhists are cremated), before which the person is dressed in everyday clothes.

Buddhist ceremonies are diverse but usually held at a Buddhist monastery or in the family’s home. It is appropriate to send flowers, usually in white or yellow. White is the color for mourning, while yellow is a sacred color in Buddhism, representing the human’s ongoing journey towards enlightenment.

A Buddhist teacher leads the service and will give funeral readings appropriate for the tradition of the deceased (Theravada, Tibetan, or Zen Buddhist traditions). Monks and other members of the community may read sermons or eulogies, and the monks may lead a period of chanting. Mourners may sing or read Buddhist funeral prayers. Flowers are usually displayed modestly and are typically white.

Cremation usually takes place at the local crematorium, with the ashes scattered, buried, or kept in the home afterward.

22. Sikh Funerals

Sikhs believe in transmigration (karma) of the soul and also believe in reincarnation, though they hope to break the cycle of reincarnation and return to their God. Their funerals, therefore, are celebrated as the last right of passage, assuming that the deceased is re-joining God (Waheguru). Sikh funerals are typically held three days after the person’s passing.

The cremation service includes prayers and chants and religious readings. As death is a celebration of the soul’s reunion with God, Sikhs usually don’t show signs of grief and sadness at the funeral. Cremation is preferred, with the ashes submerged in a river, though burial is accepted if circumstances don’t allow for cremation.

The Sikh color of mourning is white, so white clothing is usually worn, though guests can also wear subdued neutral colors. Friends and family surround the body of the deceased with Sikh funeral flowers, typically orange and white chrysanthemums, which are considered mourning blooms in the culture. After the ceremony, loved ones gather to read the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Whether you’re sending sympathy flowers to a funeral home or resting place or to the family of the departed, a FruitFlowers® gift bundle is a thoughtful and touching gesture. Choose a top-selling FruitFlowers® combinations, such as our Thinking of You Flowers & Chocolate Covered Strawberries combination or our Condolences Bouquet Gift Set. Or, you can create a customized sympathy gift bundle by building your own FruitFlowers®. Choose a breathtaking flower bouquet such as the FruitFlower® of the Month, Natural FruitFlower® of the Month, or Rose & Alstroemeria Bouquet along with a box of decadent chocolate dipped fruits. Add a touch of comfort with a cuddly teddy bear or a Godiva® Chocolate Box. It’s a touching and thoughtful way to express your condolences to the bereaved.

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