A Visitation: This is often called a viewing or a wake. Guests come to pay their respects to the deceased by viewing their casketed body and spending time with the grieving family. A visitation can occur at any time before the funeral service.
Funeral Service: This event commonly takes place at the funeral home, a church, or at the graveside. It can include music, the reading of literary or religious passages, a eulogy, prayer, and the singing of hymns.
Committal Service: If the family plans to bury the deceased, this stage involves the vehicle procession to the cemetery.
Funeral Reception: Many choose to host this post-service gathering (or repast) at a reception hall. This is considered a time to share memories, laughter, and support.
A funeral service, whether traditional or more modern (memorial service or celebration-of-life), has two functions: to acknowledge the death and lifetime achievements of an individual and to bring grieving family members and friends together in support of one another during this difficult time.
Each component of a funeral service is intended to engage the attendees in activities which will transform their status within the community, provide mourners with a collective grieving experience, and celebrate a life lived. Anthropologists label a funeral as a rite of passage, which affects everyone involved–including the deceased. His or her social status changes dramatically, from a living contributing member of the community to one whose contributions are in the past, and relegated to memory. But the status of each of the survivors– the immediate family most especially– has also changed. In fact, the traditional funeral service can be the start of a defined period of mourning for bereaved family members, marking this transition in a uniquely identifiable way.