4 Key Traditions of Protestant Funerals

funeral concept

As different cultural groups have evolved, their funeral traditions have changed as well. Burying the individual’s body immediately and celebrating their life afterward is a common burial custom in the Jewish faith. For Catholics, performing the last rites before somebody dies is important. But, even within the realm of Christianity, a related faith like Protestantism has different traditions than Catholics. As a Long Island headstone company that specializes in creating upright monuments, we understand and respect these traditions. Read on to learn about the funeral traditions in the Protestant faith.

What Are The Differences Between Protestants and Catholics?

Before delving into Protestant funeral traditions, it’s important to understand the difference between the two religions.

In 1517, Martin Luther sought a way to reform the Catholic Church, and eliminate the materialism from within. He did this by posting his 95 Theses about ways that the Catholic Church could improve itself with further devotion to God. Instead of reform, though, the Church split into two different sects.

Now, Protestants have a few key different beliefs. First, Protestants do not believe that the Pope is a figure of power. They also do not emphasize the significance of Mary through prayer or art. Finally, Protestants believe that grace may be achieved only through worshipping God, and not through good deeds.

martin luther

Key Protestant Funeral Traditions

Because the Protestant faith is oriented toward the significance of faith and worship than the ritualistic practices of the Catholic Church, this is reflected in the funeral traditions.

1. Visitation Wake Service

Like Catholic funeral customs, the wake or visitation period is an important part of Protestant funeral traditions. During these visitation periods, family and friends of the deceased come to pay their respects. Based on the preference of the deceased and family, the casket may be either open or closed. While family members are generally expected to stay throughout the viewing period, friends are not. The time and duration of viewings vary, but they are generally held the afternoon-evening before the funeral.


man and woman at wake

2. Funeral Service

Within approximately three days of the death of an individual, the funeral service is held. In some sects of Protestantism, families elect to have a closed funeral. Other services, though, are also open to friends, and sometimes, the public.

While Catholic traditions only permit eulogies as part of the prayer vigil or wake service, Protestant tradition allows for them during the funeral. Often, a minister or pastor carries out the service, rather than a priest. In modern times, participation from audience members like family and friends is a growing trend.

3. Cremation is Accepted (But Not Mandatory)

Historically, the Catholic Church was fairly strict about burying the deceased in a blessed plot with an upright monument. Cremation was not allowed. This notion has become more lax in recent years, but it remains a key difference between Protestants and Catholics.

In the Protestant Faith, though, cremation became a common choice after WWI. After cremation, it’s common for the ashes to be buried in the ground with an upright monument, or in a mausoleum or columbarium.

4. Burying the Body

After the funeral service, the body will be brought to the site of burial. Upon arriving, the priest will say a few prayers, and a committal. This is less extensive than the elaborate prayer structure present in Catholic burial traditions.

Then, after these prayers, the body will be placed in the burial plot. The upright monuments are generally installed after the burial, unless they are already in place with a previously buried body.

upright monuments

Upright Monuments

At St. Charles Monuments, we specialize in creating upright monuments for followers of all faiths. Our talented craftsmen carry an excellent attention to detail, and can create beautiful, individualized monuments. Contact us to learn more about how we can memorialize your loved ones with a lasting monument.