When it comes to planning a funeral, there are certain words and phrases that many people are unsure of, and the language can be confusing even to those who have been through it before. This glossary of terms will hopefully give you a better understanding of funeral service and its many options!
Advance Planning, Pre-Planning or Pre-Need Planning
The act of arranging for final disposition, including a funeral, cremation, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. This can involve simply recording one’s wishes and/or making financial arrangements.
Aftercare or Grief Care
Terms used to refer to the various services that are available from a funeral home or crematory following the death of a loved one.
Alkaline hydrolysis, Bio-Cremation, Resomation, Flameless or Water Cremation
A process for the disposal of human remains using lye and heat. The process is being touted as an alternative to the traditional options of burial or cremation.
When cremated remains are divided for separate disposition (separating some cremated remains in an urn to be scattered or dividing smaller portions into keepsake urns).
A meeting between the funeral director and the family or representative of the deceased for the purpose of planning a funeral or final disposition of a deceased person.
Someone who is suffering the death of a loved one; this could be immediate family or friends.
Bier, Church Truck or Catafalque
The stand on which the casket rests during a ceremony or viewing. The Church Truck is a collapsible version of this stand.
A legal document used to authorize burial, cremation, scattering or disinterment. The funeral director usually obtains the burial permit on behalf of the family.
A structure that is used to house urns with the cremated remains of the deceased. It may be either freestanding, or part of a chapel or mausoleum.
Committal Service or Graveside Service
The portion of a ceremony that may involve speaking last words just prior to burial or the placement of cremated remains.
To prepare the deceased body for viewing or visitation by using cosmetic products.
A method used to reduce the body of a deceased human or animal down to its basic elements. The most common method of cremation involves incineration at high temperatures.
Cremation Jewelry, Memorial Jewelry or Keepsake Jewelry
A special type of memorial jewelry which may include a small amount of the cremated remains or several strands of hair of the deceased, or dried floral particles from the funeral of the deceased. Keepsake jewelry can also be created by using a fingerprint or DNA of the deceased.
Crematory or Crematorium
The facility where cremation of a human or animal body takes place.
The legal document that certifies the death of the deceased. This is required by law after a person dies and must be completed by two parties — a medical professional (either a physician, coroner, or medical examiner), who will certify the death by noting the cause of death, time of death and the identity of the deceased, and a licensed funeral director, who will confirm that the body was properly handled and that final disposition occurred.
Direct Burial or Immediate Burial
A simple burial with no viewing or visitation, usually involving only the transportation, care, and burial of the remains.
Direct Cremation or Immediate Cremation
A simple cremation with no ceremony, viewing or visitation, usually involving only the transportation, care and cremation of the remains.
The placement of whole remains in their final resting place or the completion of the cremation process. Burial is a form of disposition, as is cremation.
The process of temporarily preserving a body by using chemical injections and/or topical applications to maintain a static condition through the time required for viewing and funeral ceremonies.
A speech delivered at a funeral or memorial service in honor of the deceased. The person delivering the eulogy is usually a close friend, member of the clergy, family member or other person of significance to the deceased.
Funeral, Memorial Service or Celebration of Life
A ceremony that honors, celebrates, and remembers the life of a person who has died.
Funeral Director, Mortician or Undertaker
At a funeral home, the staff member who works with a family to arrange burial, cremation or other funeral services. A funeral director is generally licensed through state health departments, although not every state requires licensure.
Law enforcement or other contracted individuals who escort a funeral procession to the cemetery.
After the funeral service is finished, the remains of the deceased are transported to the final resting place as part of a funeral procession made up of two or more vehicles.
General Price List
The General Price List (GPL) is a written, itemized price list that every funeral home is required by Federal Trade Commission law to provide to consumers upon request or at any time in which a price discussion occurs. It lists all the items and services that the funeral home offers, along with the cost of each item or service.
Green Funeral or Natural Funeral (aka Green Burial or Natural Burial)
A funeral designed around concepts, practices, and options that are considered eco-friendly. For example, the use of bio-degradable materials for burial containers, embalming, etc.
Hearse or Casket Coach
A vehicle designed to transport the deceased as part of the funeral ceremony and/or procession.
The act of placing a body in a grave or tomb.
The act of placing cremated remains in an urn and/or columbarium.
An irrevocable contract must be used solely for the purpose of paying for funeral expenses. Most people choose to make their pre-funded funeral dollars irrevocable because they want to ensure that the money will be available to pay for their funeral at the time of their death.
A building that is used to house the casketed remains of a person above ground, instead of burial in a grave.
Next of Kin
The deceased person’s closest living relative.
A written notice placed in newspapers, online, etc. which announces a person’s death. The obituary may contain biographical information about the deceased, surviving relatives, funeral arrangements, and other information requested by the family.
Officiant or Celebrant
The person who leads the funeral or memorial service.
Outer Burial Container
Also known as a “vault” or “grave liner,” this is a structure made of concrete, metal, or wood that supports the casket in the ground and helps to keep the grave from collapsing.
Pall Bearer, Casket Bearer or Urn Bearer
A person who helps to carry or escort the casket or urn during a funeral or memorial service.
A specific piece of ground that is owned by a family or an individual and located in a cemetery. It is used to bury the casketed body or urn containing cremated remains.
The act of distributing the cremated remains of the deceased.
A specific area or plot of land set aside for scattering the cremated remains of humans or pets. The scattering garden is usually owned by a cemetery or crematory. Permission to scatter must be obtained and recorded with the cemetery or crematory staff.
A container designed to hold the cremated remains or ashes of the deceased, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
A small reinforced container used to house a cremation urn that is buried in the ground.
Viewing or Visitation
The viewing or visitation offers relatives and friends of the deceased an opportunity to view the deceased or the closed casket or urn before the funeral or memorial ceremony.
Vigil or Prayer Service
A vigil refers specifically to a Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral. A prayer service refers to the similar type of religious service without the Roman Catholic tenets.
A watch kept over the deceased that is held the night before the funeral and sometimes lasting the entire night.