Memorial Services of Remembrance -
Modern Versus Traditional
By Michael D Johnson, Sr.
The memorial or commemorative service is the most
involved, complicated, and expensive service. One of the
major problems facing today's funeral industry is that,
based on the traditional funeral culture many funeral
providers invested in large and elaborate facilities
complete with chapels and viewing rooms that focused on
having an embalmed body open to public viewing in a
casket. Today, more people are moving in the opposite
direction and prefer a closed casket or a container
designed only for burial or cremation. A service may
include cremated remains in a small urn or no body or
ashes present. It may take the form of a gathering of
friends and family in any location and with a secular
rather than religious remembrance service. These options
reflect the public's change of attitude in dealing with
death. Today's memorial service is more diverse, simple
and, as a result, is less expensive.
Perhaps the best way to show the difference between a
traditional funeral and the modern approach would be to
describe the former and to show the options and choices
now available in the latter.
With a traditional funeral, you paid for all the
services whether or not you used them. The price,
however, was solely determined by your choice of casket.
Today, you may buy a preset package of traditional
services or you may choose services and goods
individually to form your own personally designed
package, which do not include funeral memorial program
or printing prices. Funeral memorial programs can get
into the hundreds, if not thousands, depending on the
The traditional funeral of the past The normal sequence
of arrangements was as follows:
The body was removed from the place of death and
automatically embalmed, unless a rare no embalming order
was given to the funeral director.
The family attended a first conference with the funeral
director, which was held in either the family home or at
the funeral home.
All information was collected to facilitate the
completion of the required documents for a certificate
of death and a burial or cremation permit. Cremation was
usually available only in large centers.
Newspaper notices and obituaries were written by the
funeral home and released To the appropriate newspapers
or radio stations.
Clothes were obtained and the body was dressed,
cosmetics applied, and prepared for placement in a
The person (s) responsible chose a casket and may have
added an outer container to be placed in the grave (a
wooden box, or a concrete or metal vault).
The body. was placed in a viewing room or chapel for
public or private visitation.
The family met with clergy to plan the program of the
Final arrangements were made with the family for such
details as the placement of people in the church or the
funeral cortege, disposition of flowers after the
funeral, return of valuables on the body, and final
check of pallbearers' names.
The funeral register was delivered to the home, if
necessary, along with the acknowledgment cards.
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