A familiar service at a stressful time
The majority of funerals in the USA still follow this traditional pattern:
- a viewing or wake
- a formal service in a funeral home or church
- use of a hearse to transfer the body to a cemetery
- burial or entombment of the remains
The advantage of choosing a traditional funeral is that it's easiest to arrange, as it follows a pattern so families know what to expect. There are a lot of organizations and retailers who are able to help the bereaved through the planning of such an event. A traditional funeral makes many of your choices easier because there's established etiquette for the different stages of the ceremony. However, a traditional funeral is generally one of the most expensive kinds of funeral. Funeral homes benefit greatly when people follow tradition.
Early Americans didn't include a lot of ceremony in funerals. Their Puritan frugality inspired them to keep the process simple, so the dead were quickly moved from home to grave. Some of the practices found in today's traditional ceremonies are actually remnants of pagan rituals. For example:
- Covering the deceased's face at the time of death comes from the belief that the spirit can escape through the mouth.
- The use of specific clothing for periods of mourning comes from the pagan belief that spirits could return to the land of the living. People dressed in special clothes thinking that the spirits wouldn't recognize them.
- Wakes are similar to the custom of watching over the body in the hopes that the deceased would return to life.
- Funeral flowers were first used as offerings to gain the favor of the spirit of the deceased.
What You'll Pay For
Some of the costs of a traditional funeral will include:
- embalming and dressing of the body
- rental of the funeral home for visitations and the funeral service
- rental of hearse and other funeral vehicles
- the costs of a casket, a cemetery plot and other goods
Many people find a traditional funeral comforting and reliable. There are other choices though, and it's possible to have a meaningful ceremony for less money - even if you're following the tenets of the traditional funeral.