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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.



A gathering occurs after the graveside or committal service. It is an opportunity for friends and family to come together and continue to share memories, express condolences, and comfort and support each other. A gathering may be either public and open to anyone or private with only select family or friends in attendance.

General Price List (GPL)

The GPL is a list of all the products and services that a funeral home offers for sale. All funeral homes are required by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule to provide a General Price List to any consumer upon request.


A grave is an excavated portion of ground where a deceased loved one is placed or “interred,” which is later covered with dirt, clay or cement.

Grave Liner

Typically made of concrete, a grave liner is the container that covers the casket in the ground after burial. It keeps the grave from caving or sinking in. Most cemeteries require a grave liner; however, they are not required by the state.

Graveside Service

A graveside service, sometimes called a “committal service,” is a funeral service that is held at the gravesite in a cemetery. The graveside service may take place at a burial plot, mausoleum, columbarium, or other final disposition site chosen. Like a traditional service, it provides a final opportunity for mourners to honor and say goodbye to their deceased loved one. A speaker often leads and concludes the service.


See Headstone.

Green Burial

A burial with minimal environmental impact. Green burials do not typically include embalming but can include natural burial and nontoxic biodegradable casket/urns.

Green Funeral

See Green Burial.


Half Couch Casket

A casket that covers the body of the deceased from the waist up.


A headstone is a stone tablet set at the head of a grave that is typically inscribed with the name, birth and death date of the deceased loved one. A headstone is also called a gravestone, marker, physical memorial, or tombstone.


A vehicle designed to carry the deceased’s body in a casket or coffin from the place of the funeral service to the cemetery.


The minister’s, celebrant’s, and/or musician’s payment for their service at the funeral/memorial ceremony.

Honorary Pallbearers

Family, friends, or members of a religious group specifically asked by the deceased’s loved ones to escort or honor guard the casket. Unlike active pallbearers, honorary pallbearers do not actually carry the casket.



The legal inquiry into a cause of death, especially if it is a violent or unexpected passing.


Engraved words/markings on a tombstone or memorial (closely related to an epitaph).


Interment is the burial of a deceased loved one’s remains (cremated or otherwise) into a grave or tomb, typically in conjunction with funeral services.


The placement of an urn in a resting place, such as a niche or columbarium.

In Lieu of Flowers

A request made by the deceased’s loved ones that mourners show their condolences by contributing to a specific charity or organization instead of sending flowers.

In State

Sometimes, when a public figure dies, their body is laid in a public place to allow mourners to pay their respects before the burial. A longer version of this concept is to Lie in State.

Insurance Assignment

Insurance assignment allows a person to transfer the ownership rights of a policy to a third party, such as a funeral home or an insurance assignment company. The funeral home may accept a life insurance policy in lieu of payment. An insurance assignment company verifies the validity of the policy, advances the family funds within 48 hours, and then works with the insurance company to receive reimbursement.

Irrevocable Contract

A contract that cannot be revoked or cancelled, most often set up as a Medicaid-exempt asset in the case of a prepaid funeral policy or trust. This allows the asset to be excluded from consideration for an individual who is attempting to qualify for assistance from Medicaid to cover nursing home expenses.

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