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Oh wait, thats me. In my part of the country, we refer to the time before the funeral a viewing or visitation. Other parts of the country refer to it as a wake. The viewing can be the night before or the same day as the funeral. In my funeral home, its about 50/50. It seems the younger and/or better known the person, the families opt to have a night before viewing since so many people work during the day and find it difficult to attend a viewing the same day as the funeral. Still others can't bear to have a two day ordeal and decide to do a viewing right before the funeral.
Personally, our procedure is this, once the minister says amen, we get up and make an announcement to the congregation giving them instructions on how to proceed to the graveside. We then dismiss the public one pew at a time until the immediate family remains. We then shut all the doors to give them privacy, then take them up for their final time. Once we dismiss them, we close the doors again. At this time, its usually me and dad and my sister and mother that stays to close the lid, take the cards off of the flowers, and whatever else we need to do to get ready to leave. We then invite the pallbearers back into the chapel to load the casket. We always have the minister stay behind in the chapel while we close to witness what we do. (This is not meant to sound funny, but it gives us a witness so that others can't say, well that funeral director removed mom's pearls before he closed, its unfortunate that some people think that and look for ways to sue, etc)
There has been times when the family requests that we close the casket right before the service where we have to in front of the congregation. So we do as requested, but as a general rule of thumb, this does not happen. Oftentimes in church services if we have a viewing before the service, we will close the lid before the funeral starts, after the family has their last moment (which is in front of the congregation). Some churches per their culture/tradition, require us to close the casket before the service. Still others allow it open for the funeral. So for church services, its usually a mixed bag as far as protocol, but its their culture that dictates what we do. Whenever we close a casket in front of a congregation, we standin front of the casket and mainly block the view of it closing. Thats not hard to do with 2 – 6'2" guys weighing over 250 lbs.
I hope that answers your questions….if not feel free to ask more….
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