Cremation has grown in popularity in the U.S. over the last several decades. Families are discovering that there are many benefits to this method of disposition.

One of the benefits is that cremation is less expensive than a traditional burial. This especially appeals to those who are pre-planning their own cremation.

Another benefit that is sometimes overlooked is that cremation opens up a wide variety of funeral options. Some still have a traditional funeral for their loved ones (including an open-casket visitation followed by the cremation). Still, others use the opportunity to say goodbye differently. Families may choose to have their loved one’s services months after the death, or they may select a venue that would not have been appropriate or feasible for a traditional funeral.

Here are some service options to consider following your loved one’s cremation:

Memorial Service

Some communities use the term “funeral” to describe a service where the body will be present in a casket. The term “memorial service” may describe a service where the body is NOT present or has been cremated. Other than those distinctions, the services may be similar, even though memorial services may have a more casual feel.

You may have your loved one’s memorial service in a church or house of worship if they were cremated. While some faith groups may prefer other methods of disposition, most religious institutions are happy to accommodate this option. If you are unsure about the cremation religious views of a particular faith group, talk with the leadership before making the end-of-life plan for your loved one.

You may or may not choose to have the cremated remains present during the memorial service. Most families place a large photograph of the deceased at the chapel’s front as a focal point for the attendees.

The order of service itself may not vary at all between a funeral and a memorial service. Besides the absence of a body in a casket, you may not be able to tell any difference between these two types of services.

Celebration of Life

Some families are choosing to title their loved one’s end-of-life service as a “Celebration of Life.” Such services can be religious or secular. In some cases, there is more of a focus on the individual’s life instead of the afterlife.

At a Celebration of Life, attendees may be encouraged to share memories of the deceased. Sometimes displays highlight the deceased’s interests or talents, and commemorative items may be distributed. Expect a Celebration of Life service to be less formal than a funeral or memorial service.

A Celebration of Life may be held at a funeral home, house of worship, private residence, outdoor gathering place, or another event venue.

Burial, Graveside, or Entombment Service

You may decide to bury your loved one’s cremated remains in a cemetery plot or place the remains in a mausoleum. Some families choose to incorporate this as part of a more extensive memorial service, while others may have one service at the cemetery or mausoleum.

Burial or entombment services may require additional planning. Ensure you understand the urn requirements if you plan to use it as a permanent resting place for your loved one’s remains.

scattering ashes funeral

Scattering Service

Similar to a burial or entombment service, a scattering service can be a stand-alone event or one that follows another type of service. The cremated remains are dispersed in an outdoor area during a scattering service, perhaps from a plane or boat. Make sure you understand the local, state, and national cremation laws before scattering your loved one’s remains anywhere else besides your private property.

Planting a Memorial Tree

Tree cremations are ideal for those who wish to have their ashes rest with nature without actually scattering them. Choosing to have a cremation tree service involves planting a tree with ashes to honor the deceased in a lasting way. There are also biodegradable tree urns that allow you to place cremated remains inside of an urn, along with a special soil mixture, that can be planted in the ground during a memorial tree service.

Contact the Experts About Cremation

If you are planning ahead and wish to talk with someone about the cremation process, fill out this information request form from the Philadelphia Cremation Society.