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Common Funeral Home Terms & Their Meanings

Published: October 3, 2022

Planning a funeral can be challenging — especially when those doing the planning aren’t familiar with the language being used. This is why we’ve made a list of a few most common funeral home terms that are the most confused with one another describing the differences and similarities between them.


VIEWING - A time that usually precedes funeral services. It is an opportunity for survivors and friends to view the open casket of the deceased in public, usually in a special room within the funeral home.

VISITATION - A time that usually precedes funeral or memorial services before cremations or burials. Its purpose is to allow mourners to pay their final respects to the deceased and to comfort, support, and encourage the deceased’s family. The casket is closed or an urn is present during a visitation.


FUNERAL: A ceremony where the casket of a deceased is present, and can be followed by burial or cremation. Whether the casket is opened or closed for the funeral service depends on family preference or church requirements. Funerals are typically lead by a clergy.

MEMORIAL: A ceremony where an urn or no remains are present, and can be followed by the burial of the urn. Memorials are typically lead by a clergy, but can also be lead by family or friends.

CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Similar to a memorial, a celebration of life is a ceremony where there are numerous speakers, who tell memories and stories of the deceased’s life and memory. The urn may or may not be present for this service type. Celebrations of life are typically not lead by a clergy, but can be.


CREMATION - The process of reduction of the body to ashes by fire.

CREMAINS – Another term for “ashes” after the body has been cremated.


VAULT - A receptacle made of concrete, metal, or wood into which the casket is placed. Normally this item has four sides and both a top and bottom. The main purpose of this item is to prevent the ground from sinking down around the grave site as the earth settles. By keeping the grass above the grave level with the rest of the cemetery, it is easier to mow. This item is more expensive than a grave liner – but it serves the same purpose. A graveliner meets most cemeteries' minimum requirements for ground support. A small vault may also be required for an urn burial in certain cemeteries.

CASKET - A 4-sided receptacle of wood, metal, or plastic into which the deceased is placed for burial. Sometimes referred to as a "coffin". A coffin is a 6-sided receptacle, typically seen in other countries, or around Halloween.


MASS/PRAYER CARDS - A card indicating that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged with a small prayer on the back of the card. (Catholic religion)

MEMORIAL FOLDERS - Also known as funeral programs or printed documents that are handed out at a funeral or memorial service. It provides information on the funeral’s timeline, the names of the pallbearers, and more information about the deceased.


DEATH NOTICE - A paragraph in the obituary section of a newspaper, or on the Internet, publicizes the death of a person and gives those details of the funeral service the survivors wish to have published. Sometimes referred to as an obituary, but a death notice is usually shorter and sticks to the most important information.

OBITUARY - A notice of the death of a person is usually placed in a newspaper, or on the Internet, containing a biographical sketch of the deceased person. An obituary is typically longer than a death notice and is sometimes written as a story of the person's life, listing their schooling, hobbies, occupation, and family members that are surviving and have passed away, along with service details.


FUNERAL HOME - Funeral homes take care of all the necessary procedures for the burial or cremation of a deceased individual. This would include filing all the relevant paperwork with the appropriate county or state, holding funerals and other services, and meeting with families. Funeral homes also offer services centered on helping the bereaved family members cope with the loss of their loved one.

MORTUARY - Similar to a funeral home, a mortuary also offers services to prepare the deceased for either burial or cremation. It also handles all the paperwork relevant to the procedure. Unlike funeral homes, however, mortuaries do not offer services that center on helping survivors cope with their loss. As such, grief counseling, tributes, funerals, and other similar services, are not offered in mortuaries.

To read more about funeral homes vs mortuaries, click here to learn which is right for you.

Each year we help families throughout Union County honor their loved ones with quality funeral services. When it comes to honoring a loved one, there are many options to consider. Our caring and considerate staff will gladly meet with you to discuss the different funeral services we offer while providing you with the help and support you need when it comes to deciphering how to plan a funeral.

Whether it’s a more traditional funeral service that you desire or a less formal and more personalized funeral ceremony, Roupp Funeral Home can accommodate your needs. Give us a call today: 570-966-2402

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