In the US and Canada, most funeral rituals are divided into three parts: visitation, funeral and burial. At the visitation ceremony, the embalmed body of the deceased is placed in a casket for friends and family to view the body. Usually, visitation takes place one or two evenings before the funeral, and most attendees sign a book kept by the deceased’s survivors to record the feelings of the friends and family members. Sometimes, a family might also display photographs taken of the deceased during his lifetime, or some prized possession at the visitation. The ceremony usually ends with a prayer service, and in a Catholic funeral the ceremony might include a rosary.
The visitation ceremony follows a memorial service or funeral service, and generally take place at either a funeral home or church. The funeral service is often officiated by a clergyman and includes prayers, reading from the Bible, the singing of hymns and words of comfort by the clergy. Sometimes a relative or close friend also gives a eulogy detailing happy memories and achievements. Finally, the coffin is closed after the attendees view the deceased’s body for the last time. The funeral service is concluded with a burial service, conducted at the side of the grave, tomb or crematorium, where the body is being buried or cremated at the conclusion. Sometimes, pallbearers or close relatives and friends of the deceased carry the casket from the chapel to the hearse and from the hearse to the site of the burial service. In some traditions, a meal or other gathering at the deceased’s church or another off-site location follows the burial service.
Funerals are somber occasions, and etiquette demands that one should attend a funeral of a friend or acquaintance to pay his last homage to the deceased.