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Who is the main person at a funeral?

The main person at a funeral is typically the deceased person being mourned and honored. While the funeral is for the benefit of the mourners, it revolves around remembering the deceased and grieving their loss. The other key people with important roles are the officiant leading the service, the funeral director organizing the event, and the immediate family of the deceased.

The Deceased

The deceased person is always the guest of honor and focus of a funeral service. The ceremony is designed to honor their life, reflect on their impact on loved ones, and provide closure after their death. All parts of the service are planned with the deceased in mind, from the music and readings selected to the pictures and personal items displayed. Even in cases of small, private funerals, the deceased is still the reason everyone has gathered and the main focus of the event.

Remembering the Deceased

Funeral services provide a chance for mourners to remember the deceased and recognize their lasting legacy. The life of the deceased is often memorialized through:

  • Eulogies sharing memories and stories
  • Music or readings reflecting their personality and interests
  • Photos and videos from their life
  • Personal possessions representing their hobbies, style, or achievements

These tributes give loved ones a chance to honor the individual’s uniqueness and collectively grieve their passing.

Closure for Mourners

In addition to remembering the deceased, funerals give mourners closure after a death. Rituals like viewing the body, collective prayers, and committing the body or ashes to a final resting place provide symbolic closure. This allows friends and family to process their grief, say goodbye, and transition to life after loss. The deceased remains the focal point that brings people together for this closure.

The Officiant

The officiant leads the funeral service, guiding mourners through meaningful rituals and tributes. They often provide spiritual or religious guidance, comfort, and inspiration to those grieving. Typical officiants include:

  • Religious clergy, like priests, pastors, rabbis, or imams
  • Non-denominational celebrants
  • Close friends or family members

No matter their background, the officiant directs the service in line with the deceased’s wishes and the needs of the mourners. Their leadership role makes them a main person impacting the funeral proceedings.

Responsibilities of the Officiant

The officiant may take on many responsibilities inplanning and conducting the funeral service, such as:

  • Meeting with the immediate family to discuss arrangements
  • Working with the funeral director on logistics
  • Creating and leading the order of service
  • Delivering a eulogy about the deceased
  • Coordinating any rituals, prayers, or rites
  • Providing general spiritual counsel and comfort

Their guidance sets the right tone for memorializing the deceased and starting the grief process for those mourning.

The Funeral Director

Funeral directors handle all the behind-the-scenes logistics so that family and friends can focus on honoring the deceased. They are responsible for:

  • Transferring the deceased from their place of death
  • Filing necessary paperwork like the death certificate
  • Preparing and embalming the body
  • Coordinating with cemetery, crematorium, or other funeral site
  • Arranging transportation like hearses, limos, or clergy vehicles
  • Overseeing visitation, wake, or viewing
  • Providing caskets, urns, flowers, programs, guest book, and other items
  • Placing obituaries and coordinating any catering or receptions

While not leading the service itself, funeral directors work closely with the family to facilitate all the essential details. Their organizational skills and composure also provide comfort during the difficult time of loss.

Navigating Funeral Options

Funeral directors meet with the deceased’s family early on to guide them through all the options for services and disposition of the body. They present selections for:

  • Burial plots, mausoleum spaces, or columbarium niches
  • Caskets or urns
  • Embalming services
  • Cremation or burial
  • Funeral service location and details
  • Obituary content
  • Flowers, music, clothing, photos, and other personal touches

Their expertise and compassion helps families organize a meaningful service amidst grief and shock. The funeral director serves a critical behind-the-scenes role.

The Immediate Family

The immediate family members of the deceased play a significant role at the funeral. As the deceased’s closest loved ones, they often:

  • Sit in a place of honor near the casket or urn
  • Ride in the funeral procession
  • Help select readings, music, clothing, flowers, and other arrangements
  • Deliver eulogies sharing memories and gratitude
  • Receive condolences and comfort from other mourners

Family members may also decide who can speak or participate in the service. Their presence and participation gives continuity to the deceased’s life story.

Spouse and Children

The deceased’s spouse and children often take the most active public roles at the funeral. As their closest relations, they typically:

  • Sit in the front row near the casket or urn
  • Ride as pallbearers or honor guards
  • Help select symbolic gestures like music, clothing, or readings
  • Deliver one or more eulogies
  • Lead the procession out of the service

Their actions provide comfort, closure, and a final farewell on behalf of the whole family.

Extended Family

More distant relatives like siblings, cousins, and in-laws also participate in the funeral. Common extended family roles include:

  • Attending visitation hours and funeral service
  • Serving as pallbearers
  • Sending flowers, food, or other condolences
  • Making donations in honor of the deceased
  • Supporting and spending time with the immediate family

Their presence demonstrates family bonds that continue beyond death. Honoring the deceased strengthens entire family units.


While funerals support everyone grieving a death, the deceased is at the heart of the service. The officiant, funeral director, and immediate family also play central roles guiding the remembrances and rituals. Funerals reflect the unique story of each deceased person and gather communities for collective mourning and healing.