Chapter 3: If you are planning a funeral or memorial service

Types of funerals

My husband and I had not practiced in our church regularly, but he made it clear before he died that it was very important to him to have a traditional church funeral. And that is what I did.

Funerals are influenced by cultural and religious traditions, family preferences, and costs. Most funerals in Canada are held between one and four days after death. If a funeral is more than four days after death, the reason is often to accommodate people who are travelling and need more time to arrive. Many funerals were also postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traditional funerals

The traditional funeral offered by funeral homes usually includes:

  • The funeral service, burial, entombment, or cremation
  • An optional “visitation” or viewing of the body in advance of the funeral service

Funeral homes are almost always involved in making these arrangements; although, families can make their own arrangements if they wish.

Funeral services

Funeral services are often held in a funeral home or a religious building, but they can be held anywhere the family chooses. After the funeral service, the remains of the deceased are often transported by hearse to a public cemetery or mausoleum. In the case of cremation, some families may choose not to bury the ashes, but to keep them in an urn or scatter them on private property.

Other options

A traditional funeral is not the only option. Some families choose to bury or cremate the body soon after death, without holding a viewing or funeral service. These families may choose to hold a memorial service later. A memorial service, sometimes called a “Celebration of Life,” can be held anywhere, in a hall or home, or by a gravesite if the family wishes.

Helpful resources
For a listing of provincial funeral boards and associations, see the resources at the end of this module.