The memorial brought several political figures, including Sen. John Kerry, who led the Democratic presidential ticket in 2004 that included John Edwards, and Vicki Kennedy, wife of late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Also, several Democrats from North Carolina were in attendance, including Gov. Beverly Perdue and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
During the service, friends and family recalled Edwards as an idealistic law student who challenged professors, a political sage who offered advice at every turn and a matriarch who comforted her family even as she was dying of breast cancer.
"There aren't words that are good enough," said daughter Cate Edwards, whose eulogy contained a passage from a letter her mother spent years preparing to leave to her children after she was gone.
"I've loved you in the best ways I've known how," the letter said. "All I ever really needed was you, your love, your presence, to make my life complete."
Edwards, the estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer.
Her last years were tumultuous ones, made difficult by her husband's affair and eventual admission that he'd fathered a child with the mistress. John and Elizabeth Edwards separated about a year ago.
John Edwards is not scheduled to speak at the service. The couple had four children together, including 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack.
One of the pallbearers, Tyler Highsmith, was in the car Wade Edwards was driving when he died. Wade, the Edwards' 16-year-old son, was killed in a car crash in 1996.
Highsmith and three other pallbearers - Michael Lewis, Ellis Roberts and Charles Scarantino - were pallbearers in Wade Edwards' funeral.
The service was open to the public, while the burial will be private.
Meanwhile, extra security is in place for the service as a controversial church group is expected to protest outside the funeral.
Members of Westboro Baptist Church claim Edwards supported gay rights.
The group is also targeting a play in West Los Angeles on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.