July 14, 2023

Funeral Home Terminology

Death often happens unexpectedly, and those who remain behind find their attention split between consoling family and friends and arranging a funeral. They will be given what feels like an overload of information by a funeral director and may come across funeral home terms they are unfamiliar with.

The terminology used within the funeral industry describes the arrangement and process of a funeral. While funeral homes provide helpful services to the bereaved, grieving families may not fully comprehend these terms while they’re making arrangements for putting a loved one to rest. If you need to plan a funeral for a loved one, the following guide will provide insight into funeral home technology.


Visitation refers to a gathering of friends and family during which they pay their last respects to a loved one. During this gathering, bereaved individuals exchange condolences. Many funeral homes have a dedicated space for visitations, with funeral directors creating private areas for groups to support one another and share memories. A visitation area is also called an arrangement room.


A wake is another type of gathering that typically takes place the night before a funeral or memorial service. Historically, a family would stay awake with the deceased overnight. In modern times, a wake is a social meeting where people carry out traditions and hand out small tokens to honor the deceased. Some families release balloons, doves, or butterflies, while others prefer to have the wake at a meaningful location. Those of the Roman Catholic faith refer to a wake as a vigil. Family and friends hold vigils the night before a funeral and recite the Rosary as part of the proceedings.

Memorial Service

A memorial service commemorates the life of the deceased person. It differs from a traditional funeral because it does not necessarily involve the remains. Families hold memorial services at funeral homes, places of worship, or locations dear to the person.


Embalming refers to preserving and preparing the deceased’s body for viewing and burial. Embalming is required when a family requests an open casket viewing during the funeral. The casket is a container used for burial or cremation. A specially made stand called a bier allows the correct placement of a casket for viewing.

Graveside Service

Traditional funerals usually include a church service and a funeral procession to the cemetery. Many families choose a graveside service as a final committal before burial. Graveside services take place at the burial site and include prayers and tributes. Pallbearers Pallbearers are the family members or friends selected to carry or escort the casket during a funeral service or graveside ceremony. This procession forms part of honoring the deceased’s memory.


Cremation is an alternative to burial and involves reducing the remains of the deceased to ashes. Many families follow a cremation with a memorial service at the crematorium. A cremation service held at a crematorium is also called a committal service.


An urn is a container that holds ashes and comes in various materials, sizes, and designs. Funeral urns can reflect the interest or personality of a deceased loved one. A columbarium, or memorial structure, acts as an urn holder. These structures can be freestanding units located outdoors or form part of the interior of a mausoleum. Urns are usually placed in niches and are marked with plaques.

The Bottom Line

Understanding funeral home terminology can help ease the process of funeral planning. It will allow you to navigate conversations with funeral home professionals and make informed decisions during times of loss.

For more information, contact Wyuka Cemetery at (402) 474-3600.


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