Grand Rapids:

Preparing for a Protestant Funeral

The passing of a loved one is a time to remember their life and honor their legacy. For those whose faith was important to them, honoring their Christian beliefs is a gesture of beauty, dignity, and respect. Let this be your go-to guide for preparing for a protestant funeral.

Differences Between Catholic and Protestant Funeral Customs

Christians of all denominations have many observances and customs. Catholic Christians have many beautiful and meaningful rites, ceremonies, and traditions for life events such as funerals and burials. Catholic Christian funeral and burial rites tend to center around the rite of the sacramental Funeral Mass. The deceased is given a public liturgy and special prayers to honor their life and faith and ask God to give them peace and safe passage to Heaven.

There are many Protestant denominations in the world today, and funeral customs can vary. They can be as traditional or unique as the person being celebrated. In the past, many chose a more traditional service led by an ordained minister in a church setting. More recently, many Protestant Christians are choosing a more personalized remembrance of life celebration. The inclusion of personal details allows friends and family to participate in honoring the unique life and faith of their deceased loved one, even amid their grief and mourning.

Protestant Funeral Customs

Protestant funerals celebrate a life of faith and center on rejoicing that their loved on is now in Heaven. Regardless of the specific details, most Protestant funerals tend to have the following three parts:

The Visitation

The Visitation, Viewing, or Wake Service is typically held the afternoon or evening before or immediately preceding the funeral service. It commonly takes place in a funeral home but can also be held in a church or other appropriate location. During the visitation period, family and friends gather to pay their respects, and offer comfort and support. An open casket viewing allows guests a final opportunity to say goodbye. A visitation may also be held with a closed casket, a cremation urn, or simply photographs of the loved one. While Protestants often expect family to stay throughout the entire viewing, this is not required.

The Funeral

The Funeral Service is generally held within about three days of the passing of the loved one. Most funeral services are typically open to friends and the public. The Funeral Service typically takes place within a church but can also be held in a funeral home or outdoor location. The Funeral Service is most often conducted by an ordained minister. Services can also be conducted by another trained celebrant or family member.

Family and friends in attendance sing songs of faith and hope that their loved one is now resting in the peace of Heaven. Families typically choose multiple speakers to deliver a eulogy, and share stories of their loved one. Additional speakers may be chosen to recite special Scripture passages, prayers and other readings. Recent customs include open microphone times in which attendees are invited to share a short memory, story, or reading to honor the deceased. Protestant funerals can conclude with this service or continue at the burial site or other gathering space.

After Funeral Customs

With the Funeral Service completed the attendee’s process to the place of burial, typically a cemetery or mausoleum. The minister or person conducting the service will offer a few short prayers for committal of the loved one and comfort and peace for the attending family and friends. Protestant beliefs allow for cremation, and this has become an increasingly popular choice alongside traditional bodily burial.

Attendees sometimes remain for a short time at the burial site to visit and say goodbye to one another before departing. More commonly, family and close friends will gather to eat a meal together. These gatherings are informal and unstructured, with their main purpose being a time of fellowship and reminiscence. Funeral receptions are held in a variety of places including a church’s meeting hall, funeral home, community center, or personal residence.

Preparing a Protestant Funeral

Christian funerals and burials have many commonalities but they are by no means identical. Some are very somber, and others are very lively and celebratory in tone. Many fall in between and have aspects of both.

If you are planning the funeral of a Protestant Christian loved one, it is important to first consider the desires of the deceased. Along with this, consider adding personal elements to the visitation and funeral service as you celebrate the life and honor the legacy of your loved one and their faith. You might consider holding the funeral in a non-traditional location, such a special lakeshore. Another type of unique touch could be providing each attendee with your loved one’s favorite flower. Or your family might prefer considering more traditional options. Either way, Gerst Funeral Homes is here to support you and your loved ones. Protestant funeral and burial customs allow for a wide latitude to customize and personalize this meaningful and important event, which can be done in large or small ways as appropriate to honor the memory of your loved one.


No matter the religion or faith journey, a respectfully prepared funeral service is a beautiful way to honor the life of a loved one. Our team of licensed funeral home directors and staff are here to support you and your family to create an honoring experience. Available 24/7, we are here for you.