What’s the Difference Between a Memorial Gathering and Traditional Visitation?

By: Erie County Cremation Service
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Celebrating the life of your loved one is an important part of coming to terms with your loss. They may have specific wishes that you’re charged with carrying out, or you may have to make arrangements. Either way, you can honor your loved one while personalizing a service they’d be happy with.

The two most common services are Memorial Gatherings and Traditional Visitations. We’re going to explain the difference between the two, since it can be confusing.

What is a Memorial Gathering?

A Memorial Gathering is a time that’s set aside for friends and family to pay respects to the person who has passed away. Many families host the Memorial Gathering before or even instead of a funeral service. The Gathering can be as religious or non-denominational as you want. At the end of the gathering, if the family elects to have a service, a hospice chaplain, priest, or speaker  will say a few words.

The body itself isn’t present during a Memorial Gathering. Instead, the cremation urn, some photographs, and meaningful personal items are displayed for friends and family. There’s usually a guestbook or registry that guests can sign, if that’s something the family wants.

Even though the body isn’t present, a Memorial Gathering provides a sense of closure to friends and family. This can provide much needed comfort to survivors, who are then able to begin grieving knowing that the person they care about is at rest.

It’s a great option for those who don’t want to display a body. These services can be as public or private as you’d like.

What is a Traditional Visitation?

A Traditional Visitation, often called a viewing, is a pre-arranged time where friends and family can pay their respects with the body of their loved one present. These are called calling hours.

If it’s an open casket viewing, we’ll prepare the body for display. If you opt for a closed casket viewing, the body will still be present during the visitation but will not be visible. Either way, friends and family will be able to gather with the body present.

Much like a Memorial Gathering, there are often personal items and photos on display. Most people opt for a guestbook, as well. While a Traditional Visitation isn’t in and of itself a religious ceremony, a prayer or words of memoriam are usually delivered toward the end of the visitation.

How Do You Decide Between the Two?

Choosing what kind of ceremony to have is a personal decision. You should choose the ceremony that’s most in line with your beliefs and wishes.

Both options allow you to celebrate the life of your loved one while bringing closure to those affected by their loss. Do what feels right!

We can walk you through your options and help you personalize a meaningful display that honors your loved one.


Leave a comment
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.


Please wait

Previous Posts

Finding Peace in Your Grief

Even if you’ve never experienced a loss, you may have heard about the five stages of grief. This idea that people experience grief in stages was pioneered by psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who...

Why Choose Permanent Memorialization?

With cremation rates on the rise, many families consider keeping their loved one’s cremated remains at home. Like the choice to be cremated, the final disposition for those remains is a personal ch...

Who Makes Funeral or Cremation Planning Decisions When You Can’t?

When it comes to handling your funeral or cremation planning, the best way to ensure that your wishes are respected is to pre-plan while you’re still alive. Following death, things can become much ...

Serving Those Who’ve Served: The Patriot Guard Riders of New York

Over the years, we’ve been privileged to provide services to many of our region’s fallen Military Heroes, First Responders, and Veterans. We take pride in being able to serve those who’ve served ou...

Why Are Personalized Services So Important?

When it comes time for funeral and cremation planning, so many decisions need to be made about disposition and the arrangements themselves that personalization can end up being an afterthought. We ...

The Healing Effect of An Ash Scattering Journey

Scattering your loved one’s ashes is one of the most personal ways that you can honor their life. People choose scattering for any number of reasons, but it’s often tied to a desire to be put to re...

The Importance of Honoring Your Loved One's Final Wishes

If you’re charged with taking care of final arrangements for your loved one, you may feel that they’ve provided a wishlist that conflicts with who you’ve known them to be. Consider that fulfilling ...

How Do I Convince My Parents to Pre-Plan?

Many of us have been fortunate to have loving, supportive parents growing up. They’ve loved and supported us through our ups and downs, offering their advice along the way. It’s hard to imagine lif...

Why Is Cremation Becoming So Popular?

For those outside of the funeral profession, it may come as a surprise that cremation has outpaced traditional burial. As the needs of our families change, so do our services. More than ever, we’re...