Funeral, Memorial Service, or Celebration of Life: What’s Right for Your Loved One?

choosing the right farewell

Society has long turned to funeral services based on religious or cultural traditions to pay tribute to the departed.

However, as the world becomes less connected to formal religious doctrine, these commemorative events have taken on a more personalized approach. Funerals, memorials, and celebrations of life all honor the departed's life. These ceremonies also support the bereaved and aid in the healing process. If you are trying to plan the perfect final farewell for a loved one, please read on for some important information about funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life to assist you in your decision-making process.


Funerals often emphasize specific religious and cultural rites. 

Traditional funerals range from deeply religious to secular and can be simple or elaborate. The departed's body is usually present, and the tone is quiet, subdued, and reverent. Funerals commonly occur within a few days of the person’s passing and at a house of worship or funeral home. The ceremony follows an order prescribed by faith or custom, although there is room for flexibility. The elements commonly include a visitation period, followed by the funeral service, interment (burial), and the reception or repast.


Memorial services combine traditional and celebratory elements.

A memorial service honors the departed after the body has been cremated or buried. It often takes place weeks or even months after the death has occurred. In many ways, a memorial service is similar to a funeral service as they both follow a similar order of events. Memorial ceremonies typically include religious elements, a eulogy, readings, prayers, songs, and time for quiet reflection. Because they occur after the remains have been cared for, memorial services offer more flexibility and time for planning. 


Celebrations of life are casual gatherings with a festive vibe.

These ceremonies joyfully commemorate the departed's life and all of their special qualities. In most cases, they don’t follow particular religious rites or requirements, and the body is not present. There are no prescribed rules for when or where to hold the event or what elements to include. It may be held in a church or funeral home, but it is often conducted at a meaningful location to the departed, such as a favorite park, beach, or restaurant. It might include lively music, activities, favorite delicacies, special attire, and other festive elements. Celebrations of life are meant to be customized affairs that reflect the preferences and personality of the one who passed away.


No matter what type of event you choose, good manners still apply.

Although memorial services and celebration of life ceremonies tend to be relaxed affairs, you and your guests should still follow the basic rules of funeral etiquette. Even if the vibe is jubilant and upbeat, that doesn’t mean poor taste is acceptable. For example, lateness, disrespectful remarks, ultra-casual attire, and boisterous behavior are never appropriate.


Which type of final farewell is best?

Over time, the lines of distinction among these three types of ceremonies have become blurred. It’s not uncommon to find hybrid services that include elements of the traditional funeral, the middle-of-the-road memorial event, and the carefree celebration of life. When it comes to designing an end-of-life event, there is no right or wrong answer. If you had discussions with the departed about their memorial preferences, you may already know what kind of service to arrange. If not, take time to consider their personality and values. Was your loved one an upbeat, life-of-the-party type? If so, a celebration of life would probably be appropriate.

On the other hand, if they tended to be traditional and religious doctrine was central to their beliefs, perhaps a funeral would be a better choice. It’s also important to note that the celebration of life ceremonies, memorial services, and funerals can be held successfully even if you are on a tight budget. Your funeral director will help you craft a beautiful, loving tribute.


If you are undecided about the final farewell for your loved one, turn to the caring professionals at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services. We will explore your funerary options with you in detail and help you create a memorable and fitting end-of-life ceremony. Please contact us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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