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The Memorial Service: Organization, Schedule, and Duration

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Funeral ceremonies are one of the most crucial moments in bidding farewell to a loved one. It is during this time that you and the invited mourners can pay your last respects to the deceased and offer your condolences to the grieving family.


What is a Funeral Ceremony?

The funeral ceremony allows the bereaved family, relatives, and friends to say goodbye to the deceased. It provides an opportunity to commemorate the departed and honor their memory.

Depending on local traditions, the memorial service, where collective mourning occurs, typically takes place either in a cemetery chapel or a church.

Following the funeral planning by the bereaved, the service also aids in the grieving process. This day enables mourners to focus deeply on their sorrow and the farewell process.

The funeral ceremony and burial can be held separately. For instance, if you'd prefer a very private burial, you can invite guests to a memorial service without the interment.

Often, due to scheduling reasons, the funeral ceremony is held even though the urn burial happens at a later time.


Invitation to the Funeral Ceremony

To ensure that individuals who were important to the deceased learn about the funeral ceremony, they can be invited in various ways. Invitations to the memorial service can be sent out either through personal invitations or traditional obituary notices in the newspaper.

Additionally, personal mourning cards and funeral letters, informing about the death, can be mailed out to the concerned individuals.

What is a memorial service?

The memorial service allows bereaved family members, relatives, and friends to say their final goodbyes to the deceased. It provides an opportunity to remember the deceased and pay them their last respects. Depending on local customs, the ceremony, where loved ones gather to bid farewell, is held either at the cemetery chapel or the church.

How do I invite people to a memorial service?

An invitation to the memorial ceremony can be issued either through a personal invitation or the traditional obituary in the newspaper. Additionally, personal grief cards and letters informing about the death can be sent to the affected individuals.

Organizing a Memorial Service

Typically, the organization of the memorial service is managed by the funeral home you have contracted. However, as a mourner, you are certainly welcome to take on certain tasks for the ceremony. It is important to coordinate with the funeral director to ensure they are aware of your wishes and preferences.

You have the option to personalize the chapel or memorial hall according to your desires. For instance, you might decorate it with flowers or pictures. Additionally, you have the freedom to choose the music that will be played during the service.

  • Möglichkeit an den Sarg heranzutreten, um sich vom Verstorbenen zu verabschieden | © Möglichkeit an den Sarg heranzutreten, um sich vom Verstorbenen zu verabschieden
    Saying Goodbye to the Deceased at an Open Casket

    Diese Variante ist weit verbreitet. Allerdings kommt es immer auf die jeweilige Situtation an, ob diese Form der Verabschiedung gewünscht wird.

  • Sargträger tragen den Sarg/die Urne an die vorgesehene Grabstätte | © Sargträger tragen den Sarg/die Urne an die vorgesehene Grabstätte
    Hire Pallbearers

    Eine schöne und traditionsreiche Geste für den Verstorbenen ist die Beauftragung von Sargträgern. Diese bringen den Sarg oder die Urne zur Grabstätte.

  • Trauergemeinde folgt dem Sargträger | © Trauergemeinde folgt dem Sargträger
    The bereaved community accompanies the pallbearers

    Eine schöne und traditionsreiche Geste für den Verstorbenen ist das Folgen der Sargträger zur Grabstätte

  • Jeder Trauergast darf sich nochmal vom Verstorbenen verabschieden | © Jeder Trauergast darf sich nochmal vom Verstorbenen verabschieden
    Each mourner is given the opportunity to say their final goodbye to the departed.

    Traditionell geht jeder der Trauergemeinde zum Grab und verabschiedet sich. Das Einwerfen einer Blume oder eine Schippe mit Erde wird dazu genommen.

  • Den Hinterbliebenen kann nun ihr Beileid ausgesprochen werden | © Den Hinterbliebenen kann nun ihr Beileid ausgesprochen werden
    Expressing Condolences to the Bereaved

    Nach der persönlichen Verabschiedung vom Verstorbene, spricht man am Grab den Hinterbliebenden das Beileid aus.

Order of the Memorial Service

The order of the memorial service typically follows several steps. The first row inside the chapel, hall, or church is always reserved for close family members. Before or during the ceremony, depending on the schedule, all mourners have the opportunity to approach the casket and bid farewell to the deceased in silent remembrance. 

After the memorial service, the congregation follows the pallbearers and the casket or urn to the designated burial site. Here, each mourner has a few more minutes to say their final goodbyes to the deceased and to offer their condolences to the bereaved. If you do not wish to receive condolences at the graveside, please inform your guests in advance. 

Where can a memorial service take place?

If the deceased is being laid to rest as part of an earth burial or urn interment at the grave and thus in the cemetery, the memorial service usually takes place in the local cemetery chapel or church. However, it also depends on the type of burial and the final resting place of the deceased. 

These days, funeral homes often offer their own facilities where memorial services can be held. 


Eulogies and organization of the memorial service

Memorial services can be customized depending on the deceased's religious affiliation. For example, a religious service can be led by a pastor or a non-religious service might feature a secular officiant. 

The focus of the eulogy is to celebrate the life of the deceased and give those in attendance the opportunity to remember the departed fondly. Relatives or friends may also have the opportunity to share their poems or personal messages. 


Music during the memorial service

As previously mentioned, music can also be a part of the memorial service if desired. Typically, the favorite music of the deceased is chosen to provide comfort and evoke memories of the person. 

Musical accompaniment can come from a choir, a solo singer, an organist, or simply from a music system. 


Attire for the memorial service

Attire for a memorial service should always be selected to show respect to the deceased. The traditional color is black, though other dark colors like navy blue or dark brown are also appropriate for such a ceremony. 

The general style should be conservative. Men should wear a dark suit, a dark tie, and dark shoes. Women should wear a dark dress or suit. Additionally, flashy jewelry and makeup should be avoided on this occasion. 


What happens after the memorial service? 

What happens after the memorial service is entirely up to the needs and wishes of the bereaved. Some may wish to be alone, while others prefer to spend time with family over coffee and cake. 


This time can be spent sharing anecdotes about the deceased or reading condolence cards to help cope with the grief. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Funerals

This topic understandably raises many more questions. We try to answer the most important ones briefly below.

How long does a funeral service last?

Generally, funeral services last between 30 minutes and an hour. The subsequent burial can take an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

What should you bring to a funeral service?

It is customary for mourners to bring flowers. These can be arranged into a wreath or floral arrangement beforehand. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, you should definitely adhere to this tradition.

What is the difference between a burial and a funeral service?

The burial is a part of the overall funeral process. It involves transferring the loved one's remains to their final resting place, which could be a grave, a columbarium, or scattering ashes at sea. The funeral service, on the other hand, is the ceremonial farewell to the deceased person, where mourners come together for refreshments or a meal.


The funeral service is the last memorial ceremony for the deceased, providing family, friends, and loved ones with a final opportunity to say goodbye in a dignified manner.

As a bereaved person, you always have the opportunity to shape the ceremony according to your wishes and needs, tailoring it uniquely to the loved one.

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