When a person passes away, the family usually plans a ceremony that celebrates the deceased's life and achievements. Cemetery services can take many forms, with the most popular being a traditional funeral held indoors. Another option is the graveside service, which involves reminiscing about the person while standing at their final resting place. This kind of tribute can either be open to the public, or it can be reserved for close friends and family members.

If you believe that a graveside service could be right for your loved one, you should speak to the funeral director at Sunset Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary. We can help you plan and coordinate the elements of the service and set up the space in a way that invites mourners to take part.

What Should a Graveside Service Include?

A graveside service is usually shorter and more to-the-point than a funeral, but that doesn't mean it can't be customized to the individual's tastes and preferences. Your event can either be open to everyone in the community, or you can choose to invite only the people closest to the deceased. What's more, you can invite a religious leader to participate, or you can hold a non-religious service.

Often, a graveside service includes a eulogy, but there won't be as many speeches as during a traditional funeral. There could also be physical objects like flowers and mementos, which can be tossed over the casket or placed inside the space where the urn will rest. Although graveside services are often the main event, they can also be held in addition to the indoor funeral.

Religious Elements 

People frequently include religious elements in their graveside service. If your deceased loved one belonged to a church or another religious organization, you can invite the leader to speak. The service will be short, but it might include hymns, quotes from a religious text, and prayers. During the planning phase, you can involve both your funeral director and the religious leader to make sure the service will work well.

What's more, you can let people know on the invitation what to expect. If attendees are invited to sing along or pray out loud, you should consider printing the texts on paper and handing them out at the start of the service. You should also let people know whether you would like them to dress in a certain way.

Non-Religious Elements 

Non-religious elements can either be added to the religious service, or they can replace it entirely. Some options include songs the deceased person used to enjoy or poems and short stories that fit the occasion. When planning a non-religious ceremony, there are usually more options because there are no traditions that have to be adhered to.

For instance, you could use a celebrant, who leads you through the service, but you could also have the family lead it or split up the responsibility between several people. Additionally, your dress code might not be as rigid, and you could invite people to wear brighter colors. Non-religious services are often celebrations of life instead of funerals, and they can include elements related to the deceased's achievements or passions.

A Eulogy 

The eulogy is the most important speech at a funeral because it recounts the life of the deceased. The points addressed might include their key milestones, their successes, details about their personal relationships with their friends and family, their interests and hobbies, and the speaker's favorite personal memories. A close friend or family member typically gives the eulogy, but it can also be given by the minister or religious leader.

While there aren't a great deal of speeches during a graveside service, the eulogy is almost always a feature. You should speak to your funeral director about how to best incorporate this element into the service. Because you'll be outside, it might be best to keep the speech shorter than it normally would be.

Physical Objects 

Sometimes, physical objects are included in a graveside service. For example, attendees might be given a flower such as a rose or some dirt to throw on top of the casket after it is lowered into the ground. However, this isn't always the case because the casket is sometimes left uncovered during the service and buried after the mourners have left.

During the planning phase, you should speak to the funeral director about the kinds of objects and decorations that will enhance the service. Will people be encouraged to bring personal items and letters to leave by the graveside? And will the flowers, wreaths, and banners be planned ahead of time? At Sunset Hills, we can provide you with everything you need for a moving, memorable service, including flowers, personal mementos, and garden memorials.

Closed Off or Open Service 

One of the decisions you'll have to make is whether you would like the graveside service to be open to the public or reserved for close family members and friends. If you choose the former option, you can let people know via a public announcement or a website you create for the deceased. If you'd prefer to celebrate your loved one in private, we can reserve a section of the memorial park for you and make sure you are not disturbed during your service.

Can You Have a Graveside Service for a Cremated Person? 

Nowadays, more than half of Americans are cremated instead of buried. The cemetery services available for people who are cremated are just as extensive and varied as those for people who are buried traditionally.

If you choose a graveside service, you can hold your ceremony at the mausoleum where your loved one's remains will be left. Alternatively, you can scatter your relative's ashes in a place where they spent a lot of time, or you can take the urn home with you.

How Is a Graveside Service Different From a Regular Funeral?

As you can see, the elements of a graveside service are similar to those of a regular funeral. So, what exactly are the differences, and which one should you select? A funeral is usually held indoors, either in a religious institution such as a church or in a hall. In contrast, the graveside service is held at the deceased's final resting place, and it is much shorter because some elements aren't possible in this setting.

Sometimes, people aren't sure which one to choose because both ceremonies appeal to them. In this case, we often suggest incorporating them both. You can first have a traditional funeral and then have some or all of the mourners walk to the graveside together.

It Is Held Outside and Less Expensive 

During a traditional funeral, people are seated inside a religious institution or at a funeral home. This can be a better option in the winter because the weather won't impact the service, so no alternate arrangements have to be made. However, it can also amount to a significant expense. If you prefer a budget-friendly option, you could select a graveside service, which is always held outside and therefore doesn't involve booking a large space.

Depending on the season, you'll have to consider what you'll do if it rains or if there is a storm. You can discuss this with your funeral director, who can show you some covered spaces within the memorial park.

It Includes Fewer Elements

The graveside service is much shorter because many of the elements of a traditional funeral simply aren't possible outside. For example, an indoor service often involves showing a video compilation or a slideshow with photographs. What's more, there might be a lot of music and several speeches in addition to the eulogy.

Luckily, you don't have to do without all these elements when you choose a graveside celebration. There are options, like providing attendees with books that contain photos of the deceased or inviting them to watch videos individually.

How to Plan Cemetery Services for Yourself 

Having to plan a funeral a few days after a relative has passed away can be extremely challenging. To protect their loved ones from this stressful experience, many people have started planning their own end-of-life ceremony, sometimes years or even decades ahead of time. This not only takes the immediate pressure off the family but also allows people to choose how they want the service to go.

If you're ready to get started, you can contact Sunset Hills and ask to speak to a funeral director. We will help you consider all aspects, including whether you'd like to be buried or cremated, what kind of event you'd like to plan for the bereaved, and where your final resting place should be.

Just like a traditional funeral, a graveside service can be tailored to the deceased individual's preferences. It might include religious and non-religious elements, a eulogy, and physical elements like flowers and ribbons. Get in touch with us at Sunset Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary to find out more about our cemetery services. We will be pleased to plan your loved one's celebration of life, no matter if they are buried traditionally or cremated.