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Can you have a funeral without a body?

Often, people wonder what the difference is between a memorial service and a funeral. The key difference is that:

  • A funeral is a service which aims to honour the deceased with the body present, and are generally conducted immediately prior to either a burial or cremation
  • A memorial service is used to commemorate the deceased without the body present and can happen at any time after the person has died

This guide aims to explain in more detail the main differences between these types of services, and when you should expect to arrange or attend each one.

What is a memorial service?

Although often very similar to funerals, memorial services are primarily organised when the body is not present. This is often when the body has already been buried or cremated so, due to not having to adhere to time restrictions regarding a body, this type of service offers a lot more flexibility for planners.

In terms of where you would expect a memorial service to take place, this could be anywhere from your home or a park, to a community centre and event centre.

Other types of commemoration services

Celebration of life

This can be in any capacity, at any time of year – whenever you feel is suitable. This type of commemoration service happens after the loved one has passed away, and could be used as a reflection for the first year without them – or could be used to celebrate a birthday or particular milestone that they would not be present to experience.


This is a ceremony which takes place at the burial site, and is also known as a graveside ceremony or burial service. Typically, an officiant will likely say a few words about the person, reading hymns, texts, passages, or whatever has been prearranged, and provide the opportunity to say a final goodbye. Often, family members and close friends are encouraged to place items on top of the coffin, or throwing a handful or dirt onto the coffin – which symbolises that as man came from earth, so much he return to earth.


A wake is a common commemorative service which typically follows on from a funeral. This is often in the form of a type of party or celebration which can be held anywhere – often serving food, drinks and inviting everyone who has attended the funeral previously.

Now you know the difference between funerals and memorial services, ensure your funeral is pre-planned to alleviate emotional and financial burdens on your family. Find out more about pre-paid funeral plans now, as well as how funeral plans work.

  • Posted 1st November 2021
  • Tags: Funerals

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