Planning a Graveside Service: How It's Different Than a Funeral

Why should you consider a graveside service

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Liz Eddy

There are many different ways to honor a person after they have passed and to celebrate their legacy with family and members of their community. A graveside service is one of the options, and there are several reasons it might be the best choice, either as a companion to a funeral service or on its own. For many, it is a way to give a final farewell to the deceased, as they are laid to rest. 

A graveside service varies in some ways from a funeral service, and understanding the distinctions can be helpful when it comes to preparing for the event. Here at Lantern, we can help you find the tools and resources you need to create a personalized, peaceful memorial service, so you can focus on the important matters. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider about preparing for a graveside service and what separates it from a funeral service.  

What Is a Graveside Service?

A graveside service is a type of memorial service that is set at the graveside or beside the mausoleum where cremated remains will be interred. It may follow a traditional funeral service, which can take place at a different location, or it may stand on its own. If you want to have a private ceremony with just a few close friends and family members, the graveside service may be closed off, but you can also open it to the community to pay their respects if you decide you want it in addition to or instead of a funeral service. 

Traditionally, graveside services are relatively short and may have religious or non-religious elements, like poems, hymns, or prayers, and a person may give a eulogy, as well. Some graveside services may provide dirt or flowers for people to toss over the casket, and others may leave the casket to be buried after the service is over. 

The type of graveside service you plan can be personal and reflect the religious and spiritual beliefs of the person being laid to rest. It can be paired with other types of ceremonies or stand on its own as a way of honoring a person and saying final goodbyes. 

How Is a Graveside Service Different Than a Funeral?

A graveside service can actually follow a funeral if you wish to plan a longer memorial, or it can stand on its own. A graveside service may also be followed by a memorial service, so you have many options to consider when planning an end-of-life ceremony. Here are a few ways that a graveside service differs from a funeral service

It Is Held Outside 

The graveside service will be held outside, either at the burial site or by the mausoleum where the cremated remains will be interred. By contrast, a funeral is most often held inside, in a religious organization, at a funeral home, or in a community center or gathering location. This can become a large expense, and graveside services can be much less costly. That said, the weather can impact the day’s service significantly. 

It Is Much Shorter

A funeral service can last for several hours or all day, which gives those who knew the deceased an opportunity to pay their respects to the friends and family. There are often speeches or eulogies given, and musicians may play, as well. At a graveside service, there may be a religious or non-religious service of short hymns or poems, and a eulogy may be given, but there are few other speeches or shared stories. 

A common element of funeral services is a tribute video, which shows photos or videos of the deceased person’s life. Because a graveside service is located outside, it is not usual to have video or photographic elements. 

If you want to have a graveside service but also want the opportunity to share stories and celebrate a person’s life, you may wish to have a memorial service afterward. Memorial services can be less formal and give people more of an opportunity to talk and remember together. 

There Is No Visitation 

One of the most common elements of a funeral service is the visitation. You may stand in line to share words of condolences with the family or friends of the deceased, and there is usually a social element with food and drinks. Community gathering and spending time with those who remember the person you have all collectively lost can be a great way to celebrate their life and to find some peace in the early days after loss. 

Because graveside services are much shorter, there is usually little to no time to speak with friends or family members or to share stories of the deceased. That is one reason it is common to pair a graveside service with a funeral service or a memorial celebration afterward. 

What to Know About Planning a Graveside Service 

There are many reasons you’ll want to consider planning a graveside service in addition to or instead of a funeral service. One of the important things to consider is the cost of the service. Graveside services don’t require any type of presentation equipment, flowers, food, or décor. If you are planning a memorial service on a budget, it can be a wonderful choice for honoring a person at a reasonable cost. 

They are also less complex to plan. When a person dies, there are many emotional and logistical challenges that must be navigated, and a simple service is often a better answer for your needs. Here are a few things to consider about planning a graveside memorial service. 

Decide Upon the Location 

There may already be a family plot or mausoleum, or the deceased may have requested a specific burial location. Do your research to find a location that best represents the person you are honoring. A graveside service can be both for casket burial and for the interment of cremated remains. 

Speak With the Cemetery Team 

The director of the cemetery and their support team will take care of many of the details of the day, so it’s important to establish your wishes and ask any questions about how the service will unfold. The team is accustomed to navigating grief and helping you through the process to the best of their ability, so open a line of communication for their support. 

Decide on a Casket or Urn 

Cremation has become the most widely used form of interment in the United States, and there are many beautiful options for urns, as well as caskets. A funeral director will help you to pick out a casket or urn that represents the deceased within your budget for the graveside service. 

Plan the Day

A graveside service will have fewer details than a funeral service, so you won’t have to decide on décor, flowers, or food. That said, you will still want to make note of how many people will be attending the service and when it will take place. If the service is after a funeral or before a memorial service, make certain the cemetery director is aware, so they can ensure everything takes place on time.  

Find a Ceremony Leader 

It is not uncommon to have a religious graveside service, so you may ask the leader of your religious organization to hold the ceremony, if it feels appropriate. But it’s not required for a graveside ceremony to be religious. The funeral director may also take on a non-religious ceremony or recommend a service leader in their stead. 

Write a Eulogy 

A eulogy is a common element at a graveside service. If you are close to the family or planning the service, you may be the one to deliver the eulogy, which is a small speech honoring a person’s legacy. It can be helpful to write and practice the eulogy in advance to take away some of the pressure from the day. 

In Summary 

There are many different types of memorial services, and a graveside service is one option for honoring a person after they have passed away. It can be private or open to the community and may stand as a singular event, follow a funeral service, or precipitate a memorial. Graveside services are usually shorter than funeral services, with a simple service that can either be religious or non-religious in nature, and a eulogy. A graveside service is often a good choice if you’re hosting a service on a budget. 

Categories: Funeral Planning, Managing a Death, First Things to Do After a Death

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