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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.



Another type of grave liner, a burial vault is often required by cemeteries to encase a casket in order to prevent graves from sinking or caving in and to preserve the aesthetic beauty of the cemetery grounds. Vaults are usually made of concrete and offer more protection from the elements than grave liners.

Veterans Cemetery

A national or state cemetery run by the Department of Veterans Affairs specifically for the burial of eligible veterans and their dependents.


A scheduled time for guests to see the deceased body after it has been properly prepared for burial or cremation. Oftentimes, a viewing occurs just before the funeral service begins. One key difference between a viewing and a visitation is that the family of the deceased are not necessarily available to receive condolences at a viewing.


A Catholic religious service held the evening before the funeral.

Virtual Memorial

A virtual memorial is a digital space created to commemorate a deceased loved one. Memorials can be a single HTML webpage with the deceased’s name and a few words of tribute, or may be much more extensive. Multimedia content is common, including music, videos and stories and photos provided by friends and family. A timeline of the deceased loved one’s life, a family tree, a blog or journal may be created. Also see Online Memorial.


This is a time when the family is available to friends and other family members who wish to express their sympathies directly. In some cases, the body of the deceased is also present so mourners may pay their respects to the deceased as well.

Visitation Room

The room where the deceased body lies for guests to view before a funeral service.

Vital Statistics

This term refers to information regarding births, deaths, marriages, divorces, veteran status, and social security number.



The gathering of family and friends before a funeral to mourn and honor the dead. Traditional wakes are held in the home, with the body present, and a meal is usually served. Sometimes, a person, or persons, are designated to sit up with and guard the deceased body through the night. The wake can last the entire night preceding the funeral.

Web Streaming

A technological advance that allows the funeral or memorial service to be streamed over the internet in real time for guests who are unable to attend. They can watch the event on their computer or electronic device.


A will, also called a “Last Will and Testament,” is a legal document in which a person states their final wishes for the transfer of their assets after death.

Whole Life Insurance

Whole Life Insurance is also known as Ordinary, Standard or Permanent life insurance. Unlike term insurance, whole life insurance provides insurance coverage for the lifetime of the insured. Whole life insurance policies also provide tax-deferred buildup of cash value, payable upon surrender or payment default. Generally, permanent insurance has fixed premiums and death benefits. Other types of permanent coverage, such as Graded Premium Life, Universal Life, and Variable Life, offer variable premiums and death benefits.




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