As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Calling Hours

Another name for the viewing. Loved ones come to pay their respects to the deceased. The body is typically prepared by the funeral home and available for viewing at a specified time.

Canopy

The portable tent that covers the gravesite during the burial ceremony.

Cash Advance Items

For some funeral items, you must pay the funeral home in advance. The funeral home purchases cash advance items on your behalf from third-party vendors. Typically, the items include: death certificates, floral arrangements, obituary/death notice fees, cemetery charges, crematory fee, reception and specialty music fees, to name a few.

Casket

A container used to hold the deceased for burial, normally made from wood, metal, plastic, or stone. A casket has four sides, while a coffin has six.

Casketing

The term used for the act of placing the body in the casket after it has been prepared for burial.

Catafalque

The decorated platform where the casket rests during the funeral.

Celebrant

A certified individual who helps loved ones organize and perform a ceremony that aligns with the deceased’s beliefs and values. The celebrant may or may not be affiliated with a specific religion or denomination. Sometimes, they can also officiate other life events, like weddings, coming-of-age rituals, vow renewals, etc.

Celebration of Life

A type of funeral service, customized to the wishes of the deceased and their family. This type of ceremony does not follow any type of traditional guidelines or rules.

Cemetery

A spatially defined area of land or property specifically designated for the final interment of human remains.

Cemetery Deed

A legal document identifying ownership of a specific piece of land for the purpose of burial.

Cemetery Plot

A specific parcel of land set aside for the burial of the person who has died. Cemetery plot and burial plot are synonyms.

Cenotaph

A monument or structure built in remembrance of a deceased person; however, the body is buried somewhere else. Oftentimes, a cenotaph is used to honor those who died in war.

Ceremony

A ceremony is an event that marks an important milestone in life, such as a graduation, wedding, or baptism, and often includes rituals, traditions, and symbolic actions. Similarly, a funeral ceremony marks the death of a loved one, helps others understand the reality of the death through rituals, symbols, and traditions, and offers hope to grieving family and friends. Ceremonies may include religious or spiritual elements or may be secular in nature.

Closed Casket

A closed-casket visitation or funeral means that the body is not available for viewing.

Coffin

A container used to hold the deceased for burial, normally made from wood, metal, plastic, or stone. A coffin has six sides, while a casket has four.

Columbarium

A wall with alcoves or niches designed for the interment of urns containing cremated remains.

Committal Service

A funeral service held at a gravesite, mausoleum, or columbarium in a cemetery. Like a traditional service, it provides a final opportunity for mourners to honor and say goodbye to their deceased loved one. Graveside Service is a synonym.

Cosmetology

The application of makeup to the deceased. The makeup gives the deceased a more lifelike appearance during the visitation, viewing, or funeral service.

Cortège

The solemn, formal funeral procession that often contains a line of slowly moving people or cars.

Cremains

A common term for the remains of the deceased after the cremation process. It is a portmanteau of the words “cremation” and “remains.”

Cremated Remains

See Cremains.

Cremation

Using high-temperature burning, vaporization, and oxidation to reduce a deceased person’s body to its basic chemical compounds. Only authorized crematoriums perform this service.

Cremation Jewelry

A special type of jewelry specifically designed to carry a small amount of cremated remains inside. Cremation jewelry is often worn in remembrance of a loved one. Keepsake Jewelry and Memorial Jewelry are similar terms.

Cremation Permit

An official document issued by the local government, giving legal consent for cremation to occur.

Crematory/Crematorium

A facility authorized by law to cremate a deceased person.

Crypt

A burial chamber often located in the wall or beneath a church, chapel or cathedral that accommodates a casket. After internment, the crypt is sealed. Typically, family members place an inscription on the outside of the crypt. In a Double Crypt, two caskets lie side by side.