A traditional religious church funeral service is often held at the church of the deceased with a public viewing of the deceased a few hours before the church service and a private graveside internment service following the church service.
These funeral services are often very structured and somber in mood and are generally an all day event as they include a public viewing, a funeral service, a graveside service, and sometimes a family dinner or reception.
The first thing to do is to contact the church of the deceased and arrange for a service through their offices. The funeral home will often contact the church on your behalf and make the appropriate arrangements, including transportation, music, and other assistance with officiating the service.
Decisions regarding location of the cemetery, whether to embalm and bury or cremate, date of the funeral service, who to notify, the writing of an obituary, and the creation of a funeral program all need to be completed within a few of days of the death and prior to the funeral service.
If the deceased is not to be embalmed, refrigeration or a burial/cremation within 24 hours is generally required. The funeral home or the leader of the church can assist in these manners and generally have templates for obituaries and funeral programs.
Often flowers are ordered as soon as these other details are arranged. Florists generally require at least two days in order to accommodate funeral services. Traditionally a casket spray floral arrangement is ordered; this arrangement is specifically intended to be placed on the casket during the funeral and the viewing.
Other floral arrangements are often ordered by the family and placed around the room or the casket during the funeral service. It should be noted that friends and family members may also order flowers or plants for the deceased and the funeral home or church usually places these around the casket during the service and then at the graveside after burial. Flowers can be very expensive and many individuals choose to ask for donations to a charity, hospital, hospice, scholarship fund, or bank account in lieu of flowers.
Calling family members to invite them to the funeral should also be done as soon as possible. While talking to them ask if they would like to participate in the funeral service by being a pallbearer, (assuming there is a casket, offering a reading of poem, singing a song, playing an instrument, offering a prayer, reading or offering a tribute video, and a eulogy about the deceased.
Sometimes the deceased may have specifically requested someone to sing or otherwise participate and this desire should be communicated to the family members. In the traditional church funeral service often an organist is used.
Once a suitable number of participants have agreed, arrange these talks and presentations in an order that makes sense; generally, an opening and closing prayer as well as an opening and closing song or musical performance with talks and stories in between works very well. This schedule will be outlined in the funeral program.
On the day of the funeral, a public viewing is common (but is optional) for church services and is performed just prior to the funeral service. This time allows people to offer their condolences to the surviving family of the deceased and for long-distance relatives and friends to reconnect with one another.
Immediately following the viewing is the funeral service and it generally strictly follows the predetermined program. After the funeral service, the funeral home will transport the deceased in a hearse to the place of final disposition, a burial plot in a cemetery or a crypt in a mausoleum. This graveside service is generally reserved for family and close friends. A religious blessing to dedicate the gravesite is sometimes performed with a few words from religious clergy or family members.
The cemetery staff will lower the casket into the ground or into the crypt but will not complete the internment until after the family leaves the cemetery. The flowers from the funeral service will be placed on top of the grave or at the crypt.
A family luncheon, dinner or reception is often served after the funeral. These can take place back at the church or can be at a family home. Menu options may include a potluck dinner, light appetizers, or even a traditional funeral meal (these vary by geographic location and religion).