Funeral Customs and Cultures

Funeral Customs and Cultures

Whether you have religious or cutural funeral customs or none at all, Bliley's has been serving all cultures and religions for almost 150 years. We pride ourselves on being experts to help families be authentic to their beliefs and cultures.

Catholic Customs


When the time of death is approaching, families will usually ask a priest to come and administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, a practice that includes Holy Oils, the reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. Parish Bereavement Coordinator often help a family plan the funeral arrangements.

The Vigil, held on the night prior to the funeral mass, is an opportunity for personalization.

The Funeral Mass must be held at a Catholic Church and is a more structured service of prayers, blessings and liturgies.

Rite of Committal is done at the final resting place where there are prayers for the deceased and a blessing of the resting place.

Roman Catholic Customs

Traditionally, there are three different Ceremonies:

  • Vigil (Wake) Prayer Service
  • Mass of Christian Burial
  • Burial/Inurment

Cremation is allowed, however, the Church recommends the body to be present for the Mass and then Cremation to follow.

Cremated Remains must be Buried/Inurned

  • Scattering is not allowed
  • Many Parishes are building a Columbarium

Orthodox Christian Customs


Rituals are similar to a Catholic Ceremony

  • Trisagion Prayer Service (night before Funeral)
  • Funeral Service (always conducted in Church)
  • Burial

Cremation is not allowed.

  • Some Priests will make exceptions, but body has to be present for the Funeral Service.

Priest will be the person making final decisions.

Liturgy is full of Symbols.

  • Icons, Earth, Candles, Incense, etc.

Remembrances/Tributes take place after Trisagion (the night before the Funeral Service).

  • Are not a part of the Funeral Service (Priest is the only person to speak at the Funeral)

The Casket is usually Opened for the Service

  • At end of Ceremony, people are invited up for the Ceremony of Last Kissing (last respects given); This is very emotional, but powerful for family as well

After the Burial, the Traditional Meal is offered (usually at the Church) for the Departed.

Other Christian Customs

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

  • Simplicity is the word to describe a Mormon Service
  • If person has been through the Temple, they will be dressed in according Temple Clothes
    Members of the Community come to the Funeral Home to do this
  • Burial or Cremation is acceptable
  • Dedication of the Grave at Cemetery

Jewish Customs


  • A rabbi is often called by the family to come and pray over the dying person.
  • It is very important that the dying person never be left alone even after the death has occurred.
  • Eating and drinking are not done near the body as a sign of respect.
  • Flowers are not sent, they are seen as taking away from the solemnity of the mourning period and as unwanted adornment.
  • Expressions of mourning are important in Judaism. Mourners may tear their clothes and show their anguish in tears.
  • Burial takes place within 24 hours or as soon as possible. Shiva is the mourning period observed by lighting a candle that will burn for 7 days.
  • A Day of Remembrance is observed each year on the anniversary of the death.

Disposition: Body is wrapped in a white shroud for Burial. A family member will throw a hand-full of "earth" (not dirt) on the casket. Emabalming and cremation are generally not practiced.

Jewish Funeral Customs

Reform Funeral Customs

  • Ceremony can be similar to a Protestant Service
  • Usually held at Graveside, Funeral Home, or sometimes at the Synagogue
  • Burial is preferred
  • Taharah (ritual purification) is not required
    Unless Cemetery requires it
  • Rabbi or Cantor will preside at the Funeral Service

Conservative/Orthodox Customs

  • Cremation is forbidden
  • Ceremony usually at Cemetery (sometimes at Funeral Home and rarely at Synagogue)
  • Taharah is performed by Chevra Kaddisha (burial society)
  • Funeral Rituals
    • Kriah (rending of the garments)
    • Eulogies (Hesped)
    • Prayers (Kaddish)
    • Covering of the Grave

Jewish Mourning Rituals

  • Three Periods of Mourning
    • SHIVA - first seven days
      Customary for Prayer Services to be led at House by Family
    • SHLOSHIM - first thirty days
    • SHNEIM ASAR CHODESH - first year
  • Unveiling of the Headstone
  • Yahrtzeit Remembrance

Muslim Customs


  • Dying person may wish to be facing east towards Mecca, the Muslim Holy City.
  • Family (or other Muslims) pray with the dying and recite the Koran (Qu’ran).
  • When the death occurs, the eyes are closed, arms crossed over the chest and head placed facing Mecca.
  • Body will be ceremonially washed by family or friends and wrapped in a white shroud.
  • Non Muslims should not have contact with a Muslim body, if the must, they should wear gloves.
  • Burial takes place within 24 hours (if possible) with the person’s head turned to the right to face Mecca.
  • 3 days of mourning follow where special meals are prepared and visitors are welcomed. Mourners refrain from wearing decorative jewelry or clothing.
  • On the one year anniversary there is a large prayer gathering of friends and family.

Islamic Funeral Customs

  • Cremation is Strictly Forbidden
  • Funerals are Very Serious for Muslims
    Obligation of all Muslims
  • 5 Main Stages for Burial
    • Body-Washing (Ghusl)
    • Wrapping (Kafan)
    • Funeral Prayer (Salat al-Janazah)
    • Procession
    • Burial

Buddhist Customs


*There are lots of different types of Buddhism and many variances in traditions, practices and beliefs.

  • Buddhists are very concerned with the state of mind of the dying because they believe it determines the location and happiness of their next life.
  • Chanting from the Buddhist scriptures usually goes on before, at the moment of and after the death.
  • Spirit is believed to linger around the body after the death so it is important to treat the body with respect and help the spirit have a happy journey.
  • Services generally consist of prayers and chants followed by cremation.
  • Objects representing the persons life are often brought and placed around the casket.
  • Monks are often present at funerals to chant scriptures.
  • The importance of the gravesite will depend upon the particular tradition.

Buddhist Funeral Customs

  • Death marks the moment when the transition begins to a new mode of existence within the round of rebirths
  • Altar set up in front of Casket with deceased’s picture (another one with image of the Buddha)
  • Ceremony consists of Monks coming to do chanting, Eulogies, etc.
  • Some customs have eldest son to start Cremation process
  • Cremation is preferred, but Burial is allowed

Disposition: Burial or Cremation depending on the tradition.

Greek Orthodox Customs


  • Practices are highly ritualistic and symbolic.
  • After the death the priest says the first prayer and lights a candle. This is repeated for 40 days because it is believed that is how long the soul roams the earth (Jesus in the desert).
  • Each attendee to the service lights a candle in memory of the deceased.
  • Last funeral rite is said at the cemetery where the body is buried facing east, in the direction of the guiding star above Bethlehem.
  • Liturgies are conducted as memorials, at 3 days, 9 days, 40 days, 6 months, 12 months and 3 years. After each liturgy, food is eaten in honor of the deceased’s soul.

Disposition: Burial only because of the belief that we are made from earth and shall return to the earth.

Hindu Customs

A priest may be invited in to read from the holy texts, sing songs and perform the last rites. Other traditions include a thread being tied around the dying person’s head or wrist, a sprinkling of water from the Ganges, or placing a leaf from the sacred Basil bush on their tongue.

  • Family will gather around the body soon after death to pray but not touch the body. A dead body is considered unclean.
  • The body is bathed and dressed in traditional white Indian clothing (if a wife dies before her husband she is dressed in red).
  • The procession sometimes passes by places of importance to the deceased and ends at the crematorium where prayers are said and the body is decorated with sandalwood and flowers. The head mourner, usually a male, will pray for the body’s soul.
  • Home is purified after the death. All clothing must be changed after the funeral before going inside.
  • Shradh occurs one year after the death and is a period of 30 days where food is given to the poor in memory of the deceased.

Disposition: Cremation is practiced because it is believed that the spirit is freed from the body by the burning process. The flames represent Brahma (the creator).


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