What's a Necrological Service for the Deceased?


Necrology refers to anything related to records or statistics of death. A necrological service is a type of memorial service that is more facts-based than emotions-based. In some cultures, a necrological service is simply another word for a memorial in honor of someone’s life.

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The body is also likely to be present at a necrological service for the deceased. Understanding the difference between a memorial, funeral, celebration of life, and a necrological service is confusing for many. In this guide, we’ll dive deeper into this specific type of service to determine how it applies to honoring loved ones. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Necrological Service Explained

What does necrology mean?

The word necrology is synonymous with an obituary, death statistics, or death announcement. It’s a way to announce the death of someone to the local community, and it’s also a way to commemorate this life in local history, records, and so on. 

Similarly, a necrological service is a way to honor someone’s life. Not only does holding a necrological service ensure that a person is remembered by his or her friends and family, but it gives shape to the grief in a historical sense. 

Most people are not noteworthy enough to be remembered by thousands or even hundreds. A necrological service proves that this is not necessary. As long as there is a service in honor of someone’s life, they will be remembered by those they’re closest to as well as within local records. 

A necrological service, in many cultures, is another name for a funeral or memorial service. This means the body is likely to be present at the service, but this isn’t always the case. There might be religious, cultural, or spiritual elements of remembrance, but the most important theme is to honor and record someone’s life. 

There is also a formality to necrological services. They’re an event that’s publicized, usually online or in local newspapers. These records are an important part of local history, informing the death statistics of a specific area. In general, you can think of a necrological service as a formal, recorded memorial service.  

Difference between necrological service, funeral service, celebration of life, and memorial service

It’s not always easy to understand the differences in the ways we honor the dead. While these definitions vary by culture, you’re likely to hear many different terms. Because these terms have a lot of overlap in how they’re used, it’s important to understand what sets them apart. 

  • Necrological service: This is simply another word for a funeral or memorial service, though there is an emphasis on recordkeeping and formally announcing someone’s death. 
  • Funeral: A funeral is a service for memorializing a deceased person. Their body is present for the service. 
  • Memorial: Similar to a funeral, this is a service for memorializing the dead. The only difference is the body is not present or has been cremated prior to the service. 
  • Celebration of life: A celebration of life focuses on the life and legacy of the deceased, not on the death. It usually is a happy, joyous occasion, and there is no body present. 
  • Living funeral: Lastly, a living funeral is one held before someone dies. It’s a way for them to take part in their final goodbye. 

The definitions above have many similarities, but they usually differ in whether or not the body is present at the service. Each family is entitled to its own form of remembrance, and many have strong beliefs based on culture, religion, and spirituality. Like with all things end-of-life, there are no right or wrong answers. 

If you’re wondering how to plan a funeral service for someone else, knowing the definitions above is the first step. This helps you understand how to proceed with the service, events, and remembrance traditions. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

What Typically Happens During a Necrological Service?

What happens during a necrological service? While this varies greatly depending on the family’s wishes, there are a lot of parts of the service that generally stay the same. Here are the elements you can expect to find at a necrological service in honor of a loved one:

  • Obituary or eulogy: Because this is a way to announce the death, there is typically an obituary or eulogy reading by a religious leader, community leader, or close family member. 
  • Viewing of the body: The body is usually present at a necrological service, and there is often a viewing by the guests to say their goodbyes. 
  • Prayers or hymns: It’s common for the guests to join in prayers, hymns, or other religious sendoffs. 
  • Readings: Religious or secular passages are often read to bring peace to the family or honor someone’s memory.
  • Graveside service: A formal memorial might be followed by a graveside service in which the body is lowered into the final resting place. 
  • Music: There might be live or pre-recorded music in honor of the deceased. 
  • After-funeral reception: Last but not least, the family might host a repast or post-funeral reception. This is an informal chance to share memories, honor the family, and express grief.

What exactly takes place at a necrological service depends on one’s culture, family, and personal wishes. Saying goodbye to a loved one is a highly personal thing, so having the opportunity to create a customized, unique service is key to this final sendoff. 

Sample Necrological Service

Sample Necrological Service

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all for a necrological service or funeral service. This is up to the family, and a funeral director or religious leader can be of assistance in creating a personalized program. 

However, it’s helpful to see an example to understand what’s expected during a necrological service. Here’s a sample service outline to see the typical order of service. 

  • Processional: This is the opening ceremony where the body of the deceased is brought to the ceremony space, typically a church or religious hall. 
  • Opening prayer or welcome: The officiant or celebrant welcomes guests to the service with an opening prayer, reading, or general welcome. 
  • Scripture, songs, or hymns: This is where there is a lot of room for flexibility. The family may choose readings, prayers, hymns, or music to honor their loved one’s memory. 
  • Obituary: The family or officiant will read the obituary of the deceased, remarking on his or her life and legacy. 
  • Remarks: The family and close friends will be invited to say a few words about the deceased if they choose to do so. This is typically optional. 
  • Viewing: The officiant welcomes guests to view the body and say their final goodbyes. 
  • Recessional: The last part of the necrological service is to hold a recessional. The body is usually carried back into the hearse, where it will be transported to its final resting place. 
  • Reception: Last but not least, there is a reception, feast, or gathering after the service. This is optional, or it might only be open to close family and friends. It’s entirely up to the family. They might also gather for another service at the grave. 

Ultimately, there is a lot of flexibility in how you choose to hold a necrological service for a loved one. As long as you’re honoring his or her memory and keeping clear records of this event, you’re on the right track. 

Everyone wants to be remembered, so make sure your own voice is heard when it comes to your final wishes. Creating an end-of-life plan is as simple as making your own free Cake profile and sharing your wishes with those you trust the most. There’s no time like the present to plan for tomorrow. 

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Honor and Remember Those You Love

Necrology is the practice of remembering those who have passed on. Though not everyone is well-known enough to warrant a huge, lively funeral, everyone deserves to be remembered. A necrological service is a form of remembrance, like a funeral service, where you make sure your loved one isn’t forgotten in years to come. 

How do you honor the ones you’ve loved and lost? There’s no right way to grieve, and there’s no wrong way to grieve. What we can all agree on is that everyone’s life and legacy should be a part of history. 

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