There are a wide range of casket styles to choose from. One of the first decisions is whether you want a half couch or a full couch casket. Most people choose half-couch without knowing the difference, but full couch caskets are available in most models.
In this article, you will find out the main differences between a half couch and a full couch casket. This will help you decide what the better option is for your loved one.
Note: You might see that the words “casket” and “coffin” are used interchangeably. Although many people think they are synonyms, they actually differ from each other.
Half Couch or Full Couch Casket? How to Choose?
The difference between a half couch casket and a full couch casket is the lid. A half-couch casket has a two-piece lid with only the head portion opened during the visitation or viewing services. A full couch casket has only one lid that exposes the full body when opened.
Half Couch Casket|
Full Couch Casket|
Casket split in two sections – allows for only the head section to open|
Casket opens fully from head to toe|
Lid is divided into two pieces|
Lid is one piece only|
More common type|
Less popular but still traditional in some areas|
Allows mourners to focus on the face of the deceased during visitation|
The whole body is presentable and visible during the viewing|
More common today|
Gained prominence during latter half of the 20th century|
Choosing between a split couch and a full couch casket mainly depends on how you want to present the deceased during viewings and visitations.
Reasons you might choose a half-couch casket:
You prefer your loved one to be displayed from the waist up only.
Because of popularity there is a wider variety to choose from.
You are concerned about delivery time.
On the other hand, you might choose a full couch casket if:
You want your loved one to be presentable from head to foot.
Your choice is only available as full couch.
It is the traditional option in your location.
Difference Between Half Couch Casket and Full Couch Casket
Here are some details about the key differences between the two types of caskets.
Half Couch Casket
A half-couch casket has a closed foot end while the top portion is open. Contrary to popular belief, the division of the top and bottom portion of a half-couch casket is actually not equally divided. The separation of the lid is not exactly at the center, so the foot portion is longer than the head portion. In the casket pictured above, it’s about a 2/3 foot and 1/3 head.
A half-couch casket is a good option if you think the standard sized casket may be too short for the deceased. It can be expensive to get a longer casket, so funeral directors often bend the knees or adjust the feet to make the body fit. Read our guide if you are considering an oversized casket.
In some caskets, the interior of the bottom end are sometimes unfinished. Because it will not be seen during open casket viewings, some manufacturers do not put that much cloth and design in the bottom portion. (this can reduce cost)
However, for higher-end caskets such as those made of copper and bronze, you can expect that the full interior will be finished whether or not the bottom half is going to be visible during an open-casket viewing.
Full Couch Casket
A full couch casket opens with the lid in one piece. Since there is no separation, the whole body of the deceased will be visible during open-casket viewing. These are also commonly used in closed casket funerals since there is no need to open the lid.
In a full couch casket, the whole body is visible and will require more attention. They will need to be styled from top to bottom, including socks and shoes. Funeral directors must make sure that all the details of presentation are taken care of (e.g. feet pointed in the right direction).
Kari Northey, a licensed funeral director (no affiliation) explains the difference between a half couch and a full couch casket in a 2-minute video.
Why Is There a Difference?
While there is no exact explanation why there are two styles of casket, it is assumed that the half couch was introduced as viewing and open caskets became more popular. Some factors affect cultural preferences are location, viewing traditions, and the time period.
The preference for half couch and full couch caskets tends to be regional. For instance, full couch caskets are more commonly used on the East Coast and in the South (United States). On the other hand, half couch caskets are more prominent on the West Coast.
A coffin can be considered a full couch since the opening and closing of the lid would reveal the full body of the deceased. For this reason, a full couch is still popular in some parts of the UK.
Half Couch Caskets Focus on the Face
When we interact with a person, we normally focus on the upper portion of their body particularly their face, hand, and arm gestures. In contrast, we rarely put attention on the legs or the feet.
It’s the same in the way at funerals, people are more interested in the person’s face because it is what they are most familiar with.
Viewings and visitations allow families to have a final look at the deceased. We all have different reactions. It could be comforting to say goodbye. Or it may help with acceptance, achieve closure, or even begin the healing process.
Viewing – How to Dress the Body?
Split-couch caskets help save time in preparing the deceased. Many families skip shoes altogether because they would not be seen anyway.
More than any other clothing, it can also be challenging to get shoes on a body especially if it has been embalmed. Sometimes the feet swell, or they have become too stiff.
This requires more time and effort from funeral directors to prepare the body and to ensure that all details are presentable for viewing.
Preferences Change Through Time
Many people believe that the traditions of choosing between a full couch and half couch caskets have been influenced by the rise of funeral parlors. Particularly the popularity of viewing and visitation services.
Full couch caskets were more popular in the latter half of the 20th century in the USA. People just used a blanket to cover the body up to their waist. Today, split-couch caskets are more popular.
However, according to Kari Northey, full and half-couch caskets have always existed. There is no exact reason why these two types of caskets exist but the tradition of using a half couch or full couch casket is simply influenced by changes in time and preferences.
Flower Options for Half Couch and Full Couch Caskets
There are many options for funeral designs and flowers that you can place over a casket. The construction of these casket decorations depends whether the casket is full couch or half couch.
A casket spray is designed to cover the top portion of the casket. There are two basic types of casket sprays:
Half Couch Spray – Also called a foot spray. These are placed on the lower portion of the casket to accommodate open viewing
Full Couch Spray – Also called a lid spray. These are larger casket sprays placed in the middle of a full couch casket. Most suitable for closed casket ceremonies.
Check this article for casket spray designs and the best place to buy one..
A casket blanket is a design of flowers constructed on a piece of fabric (such as burlap) that is designed to drape over the top of the casket.
Full Couch – For a full couch casket, the casket blanket covers the entire upper portion of the casket and may even extend towards the floor.
Half Couch – Although it is more common for closed caskets, a casket blanket may also be designed to cover only the bottom portion of a half-open casket.
There are different ways to drape a flag on a casket, depending on whether it is a half couch or full couch.
Half Couch (Open) – For a half-couch casket, the flag must be placed in three layers to cover the closed portion of the casket. The blue field will be the top layer next to the open portion of the casket on the deceased’s left.
Full Couch (Open) – For a full couch casket, the flag must be folded into a triangle and placed at the middle of the casket lid just above the left shoulder of the deceased.
Closed Casket – The flag must be centered on the casket so that the blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.
Floral garland are flowers that are displayed over the hinge of an open casket. It is usually constructed by binding the foliage and blossoms together by wiring, taping, or gluing the materials in a loose rope-like design.
Half Couch – The floral garland is designed to fit only the open lid of the casket.
Full Couch – The floral garland is designed to extend towards each end of a fully open casket.
A casket scarf is a floral arrangement that is draped over a small portion of the casket, either lengthwise from head to foot or draped over from front to back. Similar to a casket blanket, it is usually placed in fabric but it is smaller.
Half Couch – The casket scarf is draped over the closed portion of the open casket.
Full Couch – The casket scarf covers the full length of the closed casket.
A half-couch casket has a two-piece lid where the bottom portion remains closed during open casket viewings. In this type of casket, you will only see the deceased from the wait up. On the other hand, a full couch casket opens while the lid remains in one piece. In this case, the whole body of the deceased is going to be visible in an open casket viewing.
Full couch caskets and half-couch caskets function the same. They are virtually identical in appearance and they function the same way. The only difference between the two is the lid, the top of a half-couch casket is two pieces while the lid of a full couch casket opens as one.
Half couch caskets are more commonly used than full couch caskets. Because of this, half couch caskets are easier to find among casket sellers. However, many casket companies offer a casket in either variety.
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