There are a few important choices to be made when preparing for a funeral. To help clarify, we have summarised some of these choices below.
A funeral service is the most common form of funeral arrangement in Australia. This is where the coffin or casket is present during the service. Depending on the needs of the family, the loved one may be buried or cremated before a funeral can be held. In which case, a memorial service (casket not present) can be held. The structure of the memorial service will be quite similar to that of a funeral, however ashes or a collection of items owned by the loved one may be displayed in place of the casket.
A full traditional funeral service is generally inclusive of a viewing, a funeral service with the casket present, hearse transport of the casket to the cemetery or crematorium, followed by a procession for the final farewell. While this service is the most common, it is also the most costly and involved of choices. Some families choose to tailor the traditional service to better suit their needs and budget. Often, what the families end up creating is what is known as a contemporary funeral service.
A contemporary funeral service is usually offered by funeral directors as a mid-tier funeral package. It may not be inclusive of a viewing or procession. It is often an intimate or simplified service, with little or no religious involvement. Contemporary funeral services are often held at parks, beaches, sports clubs or gardens.
No choice here is better or more appropriate than the other. Deciding on a burial or cremation is deeply personal and should be a discussion had with the whole family. A burial is typically performed at a cemetery or church yard. A burial plot (the allotment of land in which the loved one is buried) is purchased beforehand or with the assistance of your funeral director. Burials are usually performed after the funeral service, or as a part of the funeral service should it be graveside.
A cremation is performed at a crematorium. Some cemeteries have crematory facilities, as do some chapels. Your funeral director will be able to suggest the best facility for your loved one. Once the casket has been cremated, the ashes are placed in an urn or commemorative container of the families choice. A cremation is usually performed during the service, as a part of the funeral service (if the funeral venue has crematory facilities). The cremation may take place shortly after the service, if the venue does not have a crematorium.
There is a difference between a coffin and a casket. A coffin is widest at the shoulders, and tapered above and below. A casket is rectangular in shape and more often decorated with patterns and detailed finishes. Coffins and caskets in Australia are primarily constructed of wood or metal. Other constructions include fibreglass, plastic and cardboard.
If cremation is chosen, deciding what to do with the ashes is important. If the ashes are going to be kept, you will need to decide on a vessel to store the ashes. Your funeral director will be able to present a selection of cremation urns for you to choose from. You can also purchase a cremation urn independently. If the ashes are to be scattered, you might opt for a temporary vessel, of which your funeral director will be able to provide.