Although optional, a gathering in the funeral home, place of worship or another meaningful place altogether may provide you, family and friends the ceremonial "closure" needed to come to terms with a death.
A gathering does not necessarily have to include a religious ceremony. The body does not need to be present if you do not want it to be. You can have a religious ceremony in a church or a memorial service in the funeral home. Gather at the graveside or crematory. You also can choose a simple, non-religious memorial ceremony at a favorite restaurant with a certified celebrant. Or, you could even gather at sunset at a favorite beach or park.
The choice is yours.
Things to Consider
Traditionally, the memorialization of the dead has been affiliated with a religious ceremony of some sort. The Catholics have a wake and funeral mass. The Jewish bury immediately after death then sit Shiva. Muslims also bury immediately with males attending graveside services. Today, due to the changing attitudes toward religion and death itself, the options for religious services have expanded.
If you choose to have a religious ceremony for yourself or a deceased family member, you should speak with your religious advisor or clergy. They can help you understand how the "ceremony" will unfold. Also discuss your options with your funeral director. Collectively you will be able to design a service that recognizes both the deceased and your religious beliefs.
If you want to have a memorial ceremony and your family does not have a strong religious affiliation, consider using the services of a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Celebrants are trained to design and deliver personal memorial services that are unique to the deceased. The celebrant will spend time with you and your family to learn more about the person being memorialized. This option provides a spiritual element that is unique and non-denominational. See "Celebrant" section for a listing of certified celebrants.
Whichever option you choose, your funeral director can help you design a gathering that meets your and your family's needs.