What’s The Difference Between a Visitation and a Funeral?

When a loved one passes, it is customary to plan a service that will bring friends and family together to celebrate their life. However, there are several key differences between the services, especially between a visitation and a funeral. While both are beautiful ways for loved ones to gather in remembrance of the person they have lost, it’s important to specify which service is which. Read on to find out: what’s the difference between a visitation and a funeral?

Whats The Difference Between a Wake and a Funeral


First of all, it’s important to specify between the two services. What is a visitation ? A visitation is often a less formal gathering of loved ones, usually taking place before a funeral. Visitations can be held several days before the funeral service, the night before, or even the day of. Funerals are typically more formal ceremonies, with set structures and time limits. Funerals’ lengths are usually reliant on the availability of the funeral home, whereas a visitation can last an entire evening. The timing and length of both visitations and funerals are often dependent on the location of each.


Funerals are typically held at a funeral home. Depending on your preferences, a funeral can take place in a religious space like a chapel or cathedral, or outside near the grave, crypt, or cremation niche that has been chosen as the final resting place. Hollywood Forever Cemetery also offers funerals by our reflecting pool, masonic lodge, and for those of Jewish faith, Beth Olam, our Jewish cemetery.  Visitations, however, can take place anywhere. Typically they are held at the house of someone close to the deceased, usually a close friend or family member. They can also take place at a bar, a park — anywhere that people can gather to spend time with one another in a less formal setting.

Traditions and Rituals

Funeral services are usually a structured affair, presided over by a member of the clergy or, if the service is non-religious, an officiant. It is often common for there to be printed pamphlets that contain the order of the service, what songs will be sung, and what readings will be given. Religious funerals often include prayers for the congregants to recite in unison. After the funeral concludes, mourners will either be asked to leave or, if the family requests, to remain for the burial, cremation, or interment ceremony. Visitations are typically considered to be more casual gatherings for friends and family. Often, people will share stories and anecdotes. To celebrate the life of the person who has passed on, attendees might sing their favorite songs, dance to their favorite music, or even watch their favorite movie. However, there can be religious rituals included. As visitations originally were a Catholic tradition, it’s fairly common for a Catholic visitation to observe the rosary or be presided over by a more official presence. However, it’s not a requirement.


Because a visitation is a less formal affair, it makes sense that people attending would be more casual and relaxed. Visitations can also present an opportunity for people who haven’t seen each other in a long time to reconnect and celebrate. They’re also a way for people to ‘blow off steam’ in an environment that is supportive of them. Funerals are often a more formal way to say goodbye to a loved one. There’s not often space for relaxed conversation, and typically are a more quiet or somber affair. That doesn’t mean funerals can’t be joyful or celebratory, however. Quiet reflection and structured services are simply a different kind of celebration of life. For many, the more formal nature of a funeral service provides a more definite closure to the living.

Remember: There’s No Wrong Choice

Losing someone close to you is difficult, and there can be a lot of pressure involving attendance to one or both services. Be kind to yourself and others. Don’t judge yourself if you would rather have a more casual and relaxed celebration with friends and skip out on the more formal proceedings. Alternately, don’t pressure yourself to be social. It’s okay to find more solace in the rituals and structures of a planned funeral service. You may want to mourn your loved one, but not be in a place to communicate in a relaxed setting with others.

At Hollywood Forever Cemetery, your peace of mind and spirit is our priority. Whether you need assistance planning a visitation or a funeral, we are here to help you along the way.

We want to help you make the best decisions for you and your family to celebrate the memory of a life lived. If you have any questions about our cemetery, funeral home or cremation services, please contact us.


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(323) 469-1181

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