Role of the Graveside Service, the Graveside Eulogy

Role of the graveside service, the graveside eulogy

A graveside eulogy service can be a standalone event in place of a traditional funeral or it can be held after the funeral. Regardless, the function of the graveside service is to allow mourners to be present as the coffin is lowered into the ground for burial, or placed in a crypt for internment. As such, even if it serves as the standalone event, attendees should treat the graveside service with the same level of reverence and respect as they would a traditional funeral service. Here is some insight into the role of a graveside service, as well as the etiquette surrounding the service itself.


The Graveside Eulogy Service

Just as in a traditional funeral service, the funeral director, or religious leader, generally quotes scripture or recites prayer as part of the committal at the graveside service. He does this prior to, and/or while, the casket is being lowered or interred. Typically, there is no eulogy given at the graveside service, though, if there is not going to be a traditional funeral service, the family may opt for a short eulogy. In the case of a graveside-only service, family and friends may also get an opportunity to speak briefly.

If a graveside service is being held after a funeral service, it will be much shorter because the eulogy was already given and mourners were previously given an opportunity to speak. A graveside service can be a bit longer if it is scheduled as the standalone event but, when compared to a funeral, it still requires significantly less time and money.

Once the scripture or prayer has been recited and the coffin is being lowered into the ground, it is common for family to shovel dirt onto the grave. There is often a pile of dirt next to the opening, and it’s appropriate for anyone who wishes to participate in the ritual. However, immediate family should always be allowed to go first.


Graveside Seating

Graveside services tend to be very brief and, in many cases, attendees will stand, rather than sit. However, in situations where the graveside service will not follow a funeral service, it’s common that the presentation will run a bit longer.  In that scenario, there will be chairs set up for mourners. Those chairs are reserved for immediate family, the elderly, and those with young children. If, after everyone is seated, there are still available seats, then feel free to sit down.


Should You Attend?

Graveside services are not always open to the public. Many families consider it to be a very private experience and request that it be closed to everyone except the immediate family. If there is a funeral service that is scheduled to be followed by a graveside service, and announcement will usually be made at the end. If the funeral officiant indicates that the graveside service will be open, then, of course, attend if you’re inclined. However, if it’s indicated that the service will be closed to nonfamily, then obviously don’t attend. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask either the funeral director or an immediate member of the decedent’s family.


As funeral services get more and more expensive, people are opting to pare down the costs associated with burial. One of the ways they’re doing that is to forgo the expense of a traditional funeral service and consolidate it into a graveside-only service. Just because it’s not held in a house of worship or funeral home, however, doesn’t mean that a graveside service should be treated with any less dignity or respect. The final act of burying a person is deeply significant to the family, and should be treated accordingly.


See Funeral Planning

photo by: US-National-Archives