Plan a Graveside Service: Useful Tips

Photo by Sandra Seitamaa via Unsplash

Planning a graveside service can be an important and deeply meaningful part of the grieving process. A graveside service is often a way to honor your loved one’s life and say goodbye. But planning one can be overwhelming, there are so many details to consider! In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to plan a graveside service. From location choices for each step of the ceremony to readings, we help you find meaning in this special day.

Do your research but don't get overwhelmed

Planning a graveside service requires a bit more research than other types of ceremonies but doesn’t have to be overwhelming

Graveside services are less common than other types of ceremonies. However, they’re still a good option if you want to have your loved one’s body during the funeral. A graveside service usually takes place on the day of burial. This is almost always at a cemetery where the deceased person was buried.

Graveside services are often held after other types of services take place. On average, they can last 5-15 minutes. The service may include readings from scripture or poetry as well as music by family members or friends. You may even choose songs that remind you of your loved one!

Let’s dive into all the different options!

Where can a graveside service take place?

Before planning a graveside service, ensure that the cemetery or crematorium will allow one. Many cemeteries allow them, but some do not. Contact them beforehand and ask if you can conduct your service at the grave site. And if so, what type of equipment is required (e.g., microphone).

Avoid scheduling issues with other funerals

Graveside services are generally less formal than traditional services. They are often held at the cemetery or crematorium, rather than a church. Additionally, they are also usually less expensive and are most often held in the morning or early afternoon.

Many people choose to host a graveside service because it’s more intimate and personal. However, you should consider how much time you want to spend with family members when planning your ceremony. This way there won’t be any conflicts with other scheduled funerals for the same time.

Consider how you want the graveside service to be conducted

If you don’t know what’s appropriate, talk with people who have experienced this before. Good examples of these are funeral directors and clergymen. Topics that may interest you include how long it will last and how many people will be there (family and friends). Finally, another good question is whether or not there will be speakers present at all.

How do you want to handle all of this? The service should reflect the wishes of your loved one as well as their family’s preferences. For example, you (and the attendees of the service) should honor the deceased wishes. That may include requests regarding music or readings during their lifetime that are important to them now in death. It’s also important for those who intend on speaking about the deceased to practice their speech beforehand. After all, the closest friend or family member may stumble over words during an emotional service. And you don’t want that while everyone else is watching from inside grief-stricken silence!

Determine how much time you want the graveside service to last

The amount of time you spend at the graveside service should be short. It should not last longer than 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour.

If you’re having a cremation, consider ways to make your ceremony more personal and meaningful. You can do this by including religious symbols like crosses and bibles. Or placing mementos in the casket before it’s sealed for burial. Even though you won’t have a traditional funeral with a casket open, many families still choose to include these elements in their own way.

Consider how you want guests to dress for the graveside service

You may have heard that people should wear “appropriate” clothing to a graveside service. But what exactly constitutes appropriate? It depends on the location, time of year and what you’re planning for after the service.

For instance, let’s say you’re having an afternoon service in the summer and everyone is going out to lunch afterward. In this case you might be able to get away with shorts and flip-flops. Or maybe it’s a formal occasion such as a daytime wintertime funeral at a cemetery far from town. Then you’ll want your guests to dress up  accordingly: a suit for men for women and a pantsuit or nice blouse/skirt outfit for the women.

Decide if attendees should bring flowers

You may want to include the option of flowers at the reception. If you do, consider these two points:

  • Attendees can bring flowers to the graveside service and/or reception. Moreover, people can leave flowers at the grave site after the ceremony.

  • More flowers may arrive at both locations. These are often from people who wish to but cannot attend either one in person.

Pick readings that are meaningful to you and your loved one

There are many ways to incorporate readings into a graveside service:

  • Readings can be from religious texts, such as the Bible or Quran.

  • Readings can be from secular texts, such as poems or songs by Bob Dylan or Maya Angelou. Other people may prefer stories by Kurt Vonnegut (or even children’s books like Charlotte’s Web).

  • Readings can be from someone famous who has passed away. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy. Alternatively, readings may come from friends and family members who have passed away previously.

Consider the music of the graveside service

When it comes to music, your loved one’s graveside service may be the perfect opportunity to let loose and enjoy some tunes. Music can set the tone for a funeral service, be it light and upbeat or somber and sad. Music can also help make people feel more comfortable during a difficult time.

You might want to consider playing instrumental music during your loved one’s graveside service. That’s great especially if you’re going for a more traditional vibe or having an intimate gathering with just family. You could even opt for live music like bagpipes or trumpet players instead of recorded tracks. Keep in mind that these sounds are often associated with such gatherings. This is so because they symbolize celebration rather than mourning or sadness in Ireland (where this tradition originated).

Maybe you’re planning on having other events leading up to what will ultimately serve as your loved one’s final resting place. For example, visitation hours at their home before moving them into their grave site (or other location). In this case consider choosing songs that are uplifting but not too happy sounding. This way they won’t disrupt any solemnity that may already exist within those areas.

Consider the right venue for the reception

If you plan on having a reception after your graveside service, consider an indoor or outdoor venue if weather is a concern.

Outdoor venues can be beautiful, but they are also unpredictable. Weather is always changing especially depending on the time of year and location. Therefore, there is potential for rain or extreme heat.

Indoor venues offer more predictability and flexibility due to their private and sheltered nature. They also allow people who may not be able to attend at all to join in celebration. This is particularly true for people missing the graveside service due to scheduling conflicts or other travel considerations. With an indoors reception they  can join without worrying about weather affecting transportation.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning a graveside service, make sure that it’s not a direct conflict with an already scheduled funeral. This will ensure the peace and comfort of everyone involved in both events. You should also consider how much time you want the graveside service to last, as well as other details like music or readings for attendees.

One of the best ways to plan a graveside service – or any type of funeral service – is Myend’s Funeral Plan. You can experience this and the rest of Myend’s revolutionary end-of-life planning services today for free here.

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Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.