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Today we are going to help you with the question, How long after death is a funeral held?
You have just received a call from a family member informing you that a loved one has passed away. They are in contact with the funeral director and he or she is already making arrangements to have your loved one transported to the funeral home. They have promised to take care of things from here.
Everything seems to be happening so quickly, in the blink of an eye. But now what? The family starts calling with their condolences and asking when they should come for the service. You don’t even know when that will be! Three days, two weeks?
You probably have many questions. How long after death is a funeral held? How about cremation? What is the best day of the week for the funeral, or time of day? Can I plan a funeral on a Sunday?
Let’s take a look at these questions.
What is the average time between death and funeral?
Typically, a modern American funeral takes place within a week of death. So if it feels like everything is happening quickly, it’s because it is. There are many options to consider and decisions to make when it comes to planning a funeral, and a week is typically enough time to arrange everything but it can be a bit of a rush.
Historically, funerals had to happen relatively quickly, due to the inevitable decomposition of the body. But a week’s time is by no means the rule. In some regions and cultures, funerals may take place as soon as a day or two after death. On the other hand, with proper preservation methods, the funeral can occur up to two weeks, or even a month following the passing.
Assuming that the body will be present at the funeral, embalming and/or refrigeration will be necessary to keep the deceased well-preserved before the funeral if it will be longer than a few days.
Are the remains cremated? Then this is a different story. Once cremation has occurred, the funeral can occur whenever the family would like. On a similar note, in the case that the deceased is already buried, or the ashes already scattered, a memorial service can be scheduled for any later date.
For more information on the difference between a funeral and a memorial service, see here.
How long after death is cremation?
Usually cremation takes place a few days following death. While there are certain laws outlining exactly when cremation can occur following a death, this is typically the norm. The next-of-kin need time to sign the cremation authorization, and in some cases a coroner must also authorize it.
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Does cremation happen before or after the funeral?
Cremation after the funeral means that you can have the body at the service. But if you have the cremation first, you won’t be limited to the first week or so after death to hold the funeral – you’ll have more options to schedule funeral or memorial service and arrange out-of-town visits and other matters.
What day of the week are funerals usually held?
Funerals are regularly held every day of the week. Saturdays tend to be the most busy day for the funeral director; many families ask for Saturday availability so that family and friends will not have to take off work for the funeral. Alternatively, Sunday is the least busy day for funerals. This is because society traditionally views Sunday as a day of rest. Some cemeteries will even charge a fee for opening and closing a grave on a Sunday.
Can we plan a funeral on Sunday?
Usually, the answer is yes. Most funeral homes are more than willing to accommodate for a Sunday funeral, but there are some (usually smaller, family-owned locations) that do not. As stated above, be aware of any cemetery policies regarding burial on a Sunday. Also double-check with the officiant to ensure his or her availability to speak at the service. Otherwise, you should be good to go.
What time are funerals usually held?
Late morning to early afternoon is the most common time frame for funerals. Families often choose this time bracket so that their guests can stay for a luncheon or reception before heading back home. In contrast, wakes, viewings and visitations are usually occur in the evening, the night before the funeral.
How long after death is a wake?
A wake (sometimes referred to as a viewing or visitation) will usually happen within a week of death. So this answer is very similar to that of the question “How long after death is the funeral?” The wake itself typically takes place the evening before the funeral.
How long can a dead body be kept at home?
State laws dictate how long a family may keep a dead body at home. This can vary, but typically it is less than five days. In Texas, for example, a body must be at least refrigerated within 24 hours of death.
But if the body is embalmed and then transported back to the home for services, it should be fine to stay there for at least several days before burial or cremation is required. However, we highly recommend that you speak with a funeral professional if you are considering waiting longer than a day to have the funeral home pick up the body.
There is nothing black and white when it comes to planning a funeral. Every family is different, and each one’s circumstances will differ from the next. That naturally means that every funeral is different, but an experienced funeral director will know just how to plan for each situation and time frame. Here are just a few examples:
- Mrs. Jones had family in both Florida and Texas, so her children wanted her to have two funerals, the first one in Florida. This meant that the funeral director in Texas needed to coordinate with the one in Florida, and expect to schedule services a little later than is per usual.
- Mr. Brown writes in his will that he wishes for his funeral to be on his birthday. He passed away four months before that date. So his family decided to go ahead with a direct cremation, and then held his funeral service on his birthday four months later, just like he wanted.
- Miss Garcia’s grandmother wasn’t expected to make it through the night. So Miss Garcia went ahead and called the funeral home to make arrangements. As it turned out, her grandmother experienced a miraculous recovery, and went on to live another three years. The funeral director simply files his or her notes as a pre-arrangement, and returns to them when needed.
Reasons to delay a funeral
Most people think it’s best if a funeral service happens as soon as possible following a death. This is usually due to the widely held belief that the sooner the grieving process can start for the family, the better.
But sometimes a family has to delay a funeral for an unspecified amount of time. There are several possible reasons for this. Let’s take a look at just a handful:
- It’s the middle of winter, and there has been a bad ice storm. The city has experienced a power outage, including at the funeral home. The funeral director postpones the service until a later date.
- The deceased has family members from out of state or out of country. They need time to get back home so that they can attend the funeral.
- The deceased passed away in a different country. The body ships to the U.S. for the funeral, but there are delays occurring due to customs.
- A criminal investigation surrounds the death of a family’s loved one, and the coroner has not yet released the body.
- The family in need does not have the funds at this time to pay for a funeral. They are planning for a direct cremation right now, and will return at a later time to plan a memorial service.
When should I schedule the funeral?
While laws may vary from state to state regarding embalming and refrigeration, to put it simply, there is no set time period in which a funeral has to occur.
Especially when embalming has taken place, there is usually just enough time available for the family to get their thoughts in order and for the funeral director to finalize all of the service details.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. But practically speaking, the time frame to schedule the funeral is usually within one week.
Special considerations and possible reasons for delay aside, the important thing is to remember that it’s all about memorializing the life and legacy of the person who has died.
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of funeral planning, here are some helpful tips for keeping your focus on your loved one:
- Keep a photo of them in your wallet or in a frame on your mantle.
- Listen to one of their favorite songs or watch one of their favorite movies.
- Journal about all the good times you had with your loved one.
- Look through old photo albums to learn more about the life they lived.
We hope that you found this article insightful and helpful. Let us know your thoughts in a comment below.