Memorial Service vs Funeral: What’s the Difference?

Deciding between a memorial service vs funeral after losing a loved one? This guide explains the key differences and helps you choose the most fitting tribute.

Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience. In the midst of grief, navigating the logistics of how to say goodbye can feel overwhelming. But you don’t have to do it alone.

This guide will help you decide between a memorial service vs a funeral, so you can choose the most fitting tribute. 

Memorial service vs funeral: A quick comparison


Memorial Service


Body present

No casket, but urn can be present

Yes, typically in a casket or urn


Flexible — can be conducted any time after burial or cremation

Soon after death


Can be formal or informal

Often more formal

Religious significance

Can be religious or secular

Often follows religious traditions


Generally less expensive

Can vary depending on complexity


Funeral services: A traditional farewell

A funeral service is a traditional ceremony held shortly after a death.

The deceased's body is present, usually in a casket, allowing for a physical farewell. Funerals often have religious elements, following specific rites and traditions depending on the faith.

Here are some key elements of a funeral service:

Funeral costs can vary significantly depending on your location, the funeral home you choose, and the specific services and amenities you select.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the median cost of a funeral service with a viewing and burial in the US is around $7,848. This does not include the cost of a cemetery plot, burial vault, or headstone.

Funeral homes typically offer a variety of packages at different price points, allowing you to find one that fits your budget. 

Memorial services: A more flexible tribute

A memorial service is a gathering to honor the life of a loved one after the final disposition of their remains (burial or cremation). Unlike funerals, the body is not present. This allows for more flexibility in timing and location.

Memorial services can be as formal or informal as you want. They can range from elegant ceremonies held in a place of worship to casual gatherings in a park or even at your loved one’s favorite restaurant.

They can be religious or secular. You can incorporate specific religious elements or focus on celebrating the person's life journey without a specific religious affiliation.

The true beauty of a memorial service lies in its personalization. This is an opportunity to create a unique tribute that truly reflects the deceased's personality, interests, and passions.

Memorial service costs tend to be less expensive than funerals because there are no associated costs with burial or embalming. But the overall cost can vary depending on several factors:

Here are a few ideas to spark your creativity when planning a memorial service:

How to make the right choice between a memorial service vs funeral

When it comes to honoring the memory of a loved one, there's no single "right" answer — the most important thing is to create a space that feels healing and respectful for you and your loved ones. 

Before diving into specifics, remember to prioritize your well-being during this difficult time. Allow yourself to grieve, and don't feel pressured to make immediate decisions. Lean on trusted friends and family for support, and don't hesitate to seek professional help if needed.

Understanding your loved one

Considering people’s needs

Factoring in logistics

Memorial vs funeral? You can do both!

Traditional wisdom might present funerals and memorial services as exclusive choices, but that's not always the case.

You can absolutely do both.

Perhaps your family is scattered around the country, making it difficult for everyone to attend a single service.

A private funeral allows for a close-knit gathering shortly after the passing, while a later memorial service provides a space for a wider circle of loved ones to come together and celebrate your loved one’s life.

This approach can also be a thoughtful way to acknowledge the different needs within a family. Some may find comfort in a traditional, religious funeral service, while others might prefer a more informal and celebratory memorial service.

Doing both allows everyone to participate in a way that feels most meaningful to them.

FAQs for a funeral vs memorial service

Is a memorial service the same as a funeral?

No, though they share some similarities. A funeral service traditionally includes the physical body of the deceased, while a memorial service does not.

Funerals often have a religious component, while memorial services can be religious or secular and offer more flexibility in personalization.

Who goes to a memorial service?

Anyone who knew and loved the person who passed away can be invited to a memorial service. This could include family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, or anyone whose life was impacted by the person.

Do you give a eulogy at a memorial service?

Yes, eulogies are common at both funerals and memorial services. A eulogy is a speech that honors the person’s life and legacy, and is usually delivered by a close friend or family member.

Memorial services might have multiple eulogies, or they may be presented in different ways based on the tone and focus of the event.

How long after a death can you hold a memorial service?

There's no set time frame for a memorial service. It can be held shortly after the passing or even weeks, months, or even years later, depending on the family's wishes and circumstances.

Next steps

If you’re considering a cremation before organizing a memorial service, Meadow is here to offer a gentle hand and a streamlined approach to managing one.

While the difference between a memorial and funeral exists, the goal is the same: A thoughtful and dignified goodbye for someone organized by those they leave behind.

Our team at Meadow understands the weight of this moment. We offer a more compassionate and meaningful way to celebrate a life well-lived with customized memorial planning services.

Our team of caring memorial planners partner with you in this tender time to create an occasion as remarkable as the life it honors.

With our team, you can expect:

Our team is available 24/7 to guide you through this process. Explore our personalized memorial services to honor your loved one, on your own terms.