Funerals and memorial services have been part of human life for thousands of years. During that time, there has been a wide array of rituals and ceremonies surrounding the death of a loved one. 

Today, our memorial services incorporate a lot of elements from the ceremonies from yesteryear as well as ceremonies from other cultures. Because of this, it is common for people attending a memorial service not to understand the history and reasons behind everything that they see.

One of the most common parts of a funeral or memorial service that few people understand is the reason why the legs of the deceased are typically covered in the casket. This can be done in several ways; some funeral homes will use a blanket or shawl to cover the legs, while others may close the lower half of the casket lid. 

In order to do this, the casket must be designed to have a lid that is divided in half. This is called a half-couch casket, while caskets with a solid or one-piece lid are called a full couch. It is usually possible for a client to choose which type of casket they prefer.

But, because few people really understand the reason behind this, it has led to a lot of speculation and, quite honestly, some rather wild theories. The truth is that the reasons for covering the legs are often more practical than traditional. Be aware that these reasons may be somewhat disturbing to some readers. The remainder of this article will discuss the practicalities of embalming and burial.

Height Constraints And Fitting Concerns 

Caskets tend to come in a standard size, but human beings come in a lot of sizes. This means that adjustments often have to be made in order to get a body to fit into a casket. In the case of a shorter or smaller person, this may mean using additional padding and pillows to fill in the extra space. 

However, a funeral home may need several methods for a larger person. The most common method is to bend the knees or feet to shorten the body's overall length. A heavy blanket or half coffin lid can be used to cover this bend.

In order to avoid this, it is necessary to purchase a larger or oversized coffin. Costs for coffins like these can be high, and in some cases, they may be a special order, meaning that there could be a delay in planning the service. 

Another reason that the legs are usually covered is because of the effects of decomposition. Typically, fluid collects in the feet, causing them to swell. This means that the feet will no longer fit into shoes. For many people who are attending the funeral, seeing the deceased with shoes or seeing the results of this swelling can be very disturbing. Covering the feet is a way to get around this issue.


When the entire body is displayed, it is necessary to prepare or embalm the whole body. In order to mitigate issues such as the swelling of the feet and other tissues, additional preparation is needed. The extra time required for this preparation comes with additional costs. In order to reduce costs, many people choose to plan a funeral that will only display the upper half of the body.

Reason For Death 

As unpleasant as it may be to contemplate, there are multiple ways to die that cause trauma to the lower half of the body. While many funeral directors are skilled enough to repair some damage, there are simply some circumstances where repair is impossible. In these cases, the only option available is to cover the portions of the body that cannot be repaired.

Cultural Or Religious Reasons 

There are a number of religions and conservative belief systems that believe that the legs of the deceased should be covered for reasons of modesty or decency. In these cases, it often does not matter if a blanket, shroud, or the lower portion of the casket is used for this purpose. 

The requirement to completely cover the feet or legs of a body is not unique to a specific religion. This is considered traditional in many sects of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, some parts of Buddhism, and a number of other smaller religions and native cultures.  


In order to ensure that the body is shown in the best way possible, it is often necessary to adjust the lighting of the body. Illuminating just the upper part of the body is often much easier than illuminating the whole body. In some cases, illuminating the whole body may be ill-advised, especially if there was an issue with the death that caused trauma to the body.


Many people want to see the flowers or other special items they choose for the deceased to be displayed close to the body. In order to display these items so that they look like a neat, well-organized display instead of a jumbled pile, they are typically displayed on the closed half of the casket. 

There are also a number of people who prefer to have a funeral or visitation with only the upper half of the body displayed. There may be no real reason to do this beyond a simple personal choice.

For all these reasons, it is common to attend funerals, memorial services, or visitations with the lower half of the body covered. And because so many of these reasons can be upsetting to the deceased's loved ones, it's usually considered very poor taste to inquire about the exact reasons.