10 Funeral Terms You Need to Know When Preplanning


Here at Krause Funeral Homes, we realize most Milwaukeeans aren’t aware of how much goes into planning a funeral until the task is thrust upon them. This is why we’re here – to walk you through every step towards creating the most memorable final farewell possible.

It’s also why we encourage everyone to preplan their own arrangements. Our many decades of experience working with families in Milwaukee, New Berlin, and Brookfield have shown us how much stress is alleviated by preplanning. When you preplan, you’re in charge of the details – there are over 100 decisions involved! – rather than leaving the decision-making up to your family who will have to guess at what you would have wanted. Trust us – we’ve seen families really struggle as they plan a funeral while mired in grief. Why put the people closest to you in this position when you can make plans yourself?

You can choose to preplan in person, but many like to get started or plan everything online. As you take a look at our planning checklist, and decide whether you’d prefer to meet with us in person or begin preplanning online, here is a list of terms that will help familiarize you with the process.

Funeral celebrant: A certified, non-clergy professional who prepares and conducts a funeral which is not necessarily religious in nature. If you choose to also use a member of the clergy, or you want to represent more than one faith or form of spirituality, a celebrant can tie all of the elements together. Celebrants are specifically trained to incorporate unique stories, songs, and experiences that defined a person into the funeral or memorial service.

Green burial: Natural burial alternatives that aim to avoid chemical preservatives or traditional metal and wood caskets. Your remains may be put directly into the ground, either shrouded in cloth or buried in containers made of easily biodegradable materials, such as cardboard, wicker, or pine.

Authorizing agent: A person you appointed to ensure your wishes are carried out at the time of death.

Pre-funded funeral contract: A written contract guaranteeing there will be no hidden or additional costs for the funeral arrangements you choose.

Hearse v. family car: A hearse is used to transport the casket to the cemetery or burial site, while a family car transports loved ones from the funeral home to the cemetery.

Cemetery plot: An in-ground spot for burial. This location is where future generations will visit to learn about you and where loved ones will come on holidays to honor your memory.

Burial vault: A container made of wood, brick, or concrete that encloses a casket to help prevent a grave from sinking. Wisconsin state laws do not require a vault for burial. However, most cemeteries do require an outside container for the casket.

Mausoleum: A building housing a tomb or tombs.

Visitation/Viewing: A visitation is a time when loved ones can express their sympathy to the family. The casket may be present, but it is closed. At a viewing, there will typically be an open casket. It’s an opportunity for family and friends to “view” the person who died and pay their final respects. Some say this is an important part of the “acceptance” stage of grief.

Memorial keepsake: An item to remember and celebrate your loved one long after the funeral has ended. Families can give funeral guests keepsakes, such as a favorite candy or seeds to a favorite flower.

We hope this list of terms helps you feel more confident about preplanning your own arrangements. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out the experienced Krause Funeral Homes team by phone or on our Facebook page. We always enjoy hearing from our Milwaukee neighbors and are always here to help.

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