What are the different types of funeral service?

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One of the few things we all have in common is that one day we will no longer be here. But that doesn’t mean your funeral has to be commonplace. You may be surprised at the many ways you can personalise your final journey.


After you have decided whether you want to be cremated or buried, the next big question is: what kind of funeral service do you want? In this guide we explore your options for a funeral with and without a ceremony.


Who is this article for?

  • Anyone who isn’t sure about the different types of funeral service and ceremonies available
  • Anyone who wants to ensure their funeral service reflects their values and preferences

Reading time:

 5 mins


Three types of funerals

Broadly speaking, when planning the type of funeral you want you have three options:

  • a funeral with a ceremony
  • a committal-only service
  • a cremation or burial with no ceremony

What is a ‘funeral with a ceremony’?

A funeral with a ceremony typically lasts between 45 and 60 minutes (including the time it takes for people to enter and leave the venue). It can sometimes be extended by the same amount of time again and for an additional fee.

The ceremony is usually led by a minister or celebrant and may include readings, poetry, prayer, carefully chosen music or hymns, and eulogies from family and friends.

The funeral ceremony may be held at the graveside in the case of a burial, in the crematorium chapel, or at some other religious or non-religious venue, and away from the actual place of cremation or burial.

If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director

  • The number of family and friends who can attend will be unlimited
  • The funeral director and staff will be present for the duration of the ceremony


What is a ‘committal-only service?

A committal-only service generally lasts around 20 minutes. (The ‘committal’ is where the final words or a prayer is said before your body is committed for cremation or burial). The time allowed is just enough to include a reading, prayer, or simply a few words. Depending on the location, one or two pieces of music can be included too.

The committal-only service may be held at the graveside in the case of a burial, in the crematorium chapel, or at some other religious or non-religious venue, and away from the actual place of cremation or burial.

If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director

  • The number of family and friends who can attend will be limited to usually 12 people
  • The funeral staff may not be present during this service. In this instance, your coffin will be placed on the catafalque before family and friends arrive, leaving them to have their last moments with you in private.

Funeral directors often refer to this type of service as an ‘Intimate’ funeral. And because the service is pared down, so are the funeral director’s fees.

What is a ‘service without ceremony’?

A funeral without a ceremony is most commonly known as a ‘direct cremation’ or ‘direct burial’. The cremation or burial takes place with no family or friends present. In the case of cremation, your ashes will either be scattered or interred at the crematorium, or returned to your personal representative (e.g. your executor or next of kin).

Separating the ceremony from the cremation or burial gives those you leave behind the freedom to choose if, when and where they would like to hold a memorial service or private party - such as in a hotel, a community hall, a local pub or picnic on the beach.

Going direct is the least expensive of all the funeral types. If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director.
  • Family and friends will not be allowed to attend
  • The funeral staff will not be present for the cremation

With all due ceremony

Unless you want to follow a particular faith tradition, there are no rules regarding what can and cannot be included during a full or shortened funeral ceremony. It’s your send-off, your way – although we would strongly recommend you discuss and involve loved ones in your funeral planning.

Setting the tone of your funeral

After deciding whether you want to be cremated or buried, and if you want a funeral ceremony, a committal-only service or no service at all, the next big question is to consider whether you would prefer the tone of your funeral to be formal or informal.

The good news is that if you’ve been struggling with any of the decision-making up to now, once you’ve made your mind up on those three elements, deciding on the remaining detail for your funeral becomes much easier.

About the Author

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Sophie can usually be found reading a book. Writing a novel has always been on her bucket list. When not absorbed in the latest page-turner, Sophie likes to explore and gain a deeper understanding of peoples' attitudes towards end-of-life planning and how it impacts their lives. She hopes that in some small way her writing around these topics can make a positive difference to her readers.


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