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What to Expect at a Graveside Burial

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In your lifetime, you’ll likely experience a variety of end-of-life celebrations, each of them important for finding peace and closure.

Religious traditions, customs and personal preferences can play a significant role in an end-of-life celebration, making each service unique to the departed’s life. The term “service” can also be used broadly, referring to a traditional funeral or memorial, a wake or visitation, or even a graveside burial.

In this resource, we dive into what a graveside burial service is and what you’ll likely experience attending.

>>>Related Resource: 4 Types of Burial Options: Which Is Right For You and Your Family?

What is a Graveside Burial Service?

A graveside burial service, also known as a graveside committal service, is held at a burial location, whether it be a grave, mausoleum, crypt or columbarium niche. It can serve as a standalone service, precede or follow a memorial service, or take place following a funeral, visitation or wake, which is often seen during a Catholic funeral service.

Graveside burial services are typically shorter than funeral services, and they can incorporate religious customs or personalized touches. Generally, though, these services are simpler than wakes, funeral services and memorial services, and you likely won’t see any photos, videos or decorative items at the burial location.

Many graveside services include flowers, but you won’t see as many arrangements as you might at a funeral or memorial service. Flowers are often placed on top of the casket prior to it being lowered into the ground. Attendees may be welcomed to take a flower as a memento to remember their lost loved one.

>>>Related Resources: What to Expect at a Hindu or Sikh Funeral Service and What to Expect at a Buddhist Funeral Service

What to Expect at a Graveside Burial

During a graveside burial service, you’ll see the casket or urn at the place of burial. These services typically last about 30 minutes but can last longer depending on speeches, readings or any other incorporations. Guests are expected to dress modestly and in somber colors. Because of the shorter length of these services, many people stand the entire time, though chairs may be set up for immediate family members or those in need of assistance.

A graveside burial service will usually include a eulogy—though it’s not required—and it can also include readings, prayers, a sermon and/or songs, depending on what the departed or their family members decided upon.

Graveside burial services are led by someone chosen by the departed or their family members, which can include a funeral director, religious personnel (priest, minister, etc.), family friend or family member. Once the service ends, guests will say their final goodbyes and may gather afterward for a memorial luncheon, where they can enjoy food and share memories of their loved one with each other. The casket will usually be lowered into the grave once guests leave the site.

Regardless if a graveside burial is a standalone service or follows another celebration of life, it serves as a time for attendees to say goodbye to a lost loved one at their final resting place. You may notice attendees staying longer than the official ceremony—these moments can be very personal. This location will also serve as your loved one’s final resting place, or a physical location to memorialize their unique life.

Keep in mind that some graveside burial services are intended only for family members. In these cases, it’s recommended to respect the family’s wishes. If a funeral or memorial precedes the graveside service, the officiant will often welcome guests to attend the graveside service.

>>>Related Resource: 6 Certified Green Burial Cemeteries in Ohio

A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Final Arrangements

Following the loss of a loved one, there are upwards of 125 decisions to be made, and we understand how this can make a difficult time even more stressful.

As you embark on planning final arrangements, download our Funeral Planning Checklist for the steps you’ll need to take and answers to some of the most common questions we hear.

Download our funeral planning checklist

David Napoli
David Napoli
David has been in funeral service for over 10 years as a second career, leaving behind seminary life and working in the Catholic Church for a decade. He enjoys all things family, especially exploring the greater Cleveland area and Metro Parks with his wife, two children and their white shepherd.

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