How Long Are Funeral Services? Here’s What to Expect

How long are funeral services? Whether you’re planning or attending a funeral, memorial service, or some other event, it’s important to know the amount of time it will take.

We’ll start with the average funeral service, then move on to alternatives such as celebration of life events, receptions, graveside services, and more.

How Long Does a Funeral Last?

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The typical funeral service lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. The exact duration will depend on a number of factors, including cultural and regional customs, religious traditions, the number of eulogies and the family’s wishes regarding additional elements.

For these reasons, some funerals can last for several hours. However, most are relatively brief, followed by a private or optional committal service and/or a reception.

You will want to arrive at least 15 minutes early to park, sign the guestbook, and find your seat. Additionally, once the funeral is over, it is customary to pay your respects to the grieving family.

Overall, expect to be at the church or funeral home for at least an hour, plus additional time if you attend the reception, procession, or graveside service (see below for information about each of these).

Of course, funerals for well-known and respected public figures may last longer, with multiple eulogies and additional ceremonial elements.

Religious funerals can also take extra time due to the specific rituals of that faith tradition:

  • Christian funerals (Protestant): About 30-60 minutes, which can include a brief homily and singing of hymns.
  • Catholic funerals: With Mass, over an hour. Without Mass, 30-45 minutes.
  • Jewish funerals: As little as 15 minutes up to an hour. Followed immediately by a burial.
  • Muslim funerals: Typically 30-60 minutes, with the burial taking place immediately afterwards.
  • Hindu funerals: Very brief, generally no longer than 30 minutes.
  • Buddhist funerals: A Buddhist funeral is highly meditative, and will last around an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.

Related: What is the most popular day for a funeral?

How Long Is a Memorial Service?

The average memorial service lasts around 30 to 60 minutes.

A memorial service is similar to a funeral, with the primary difference being that the body is not present. This can be due to cremation or a prior burial.

Either way, memorial services tend to be a little less formal than a traditional funeral, so elements like open mic sharing time, video montages, and slideshows can cause the service to run longer.

Read more: Funeral Etiquette Guide

How Long Is a Celebration of Life?

Life celebration events can vary widely. Some people simply like the sound of the term, and label a relatively typical funeral as a “celebration of life.” Others run with the idea and turn it into a party which can last for hours.

However, you can generally expect a celebration of life to last about an hour to an hour and a half. The event may turn into a reception or party, but the planned events rarely last much longer than an hour.

Learn more: Life Celebration Etiquette Guide

How Long Is a Funeral Viewing?

A viewing, visitation, or wake will typically last multiple hours, often spanning several days. However, visitors are only expected to stay a short time.

If you are an acquaintance, stop by during the posted viewing or visitation times and expect to stay at least 15 minutes. For close family and friends of the deceased, aim to stay around an hour or more.

The viewing is a time to pay your final respects to the decedent, and will typically have an open casket. A visitation, on the other hand, does not have the body present and is more focused on visiting the grieving family.

Related: What Is a Viewing? What should I expect, say, and do at one?

How Long Is a Funeral Mass?

Catholic funeral services come in two types, with a Mass (called a Requiem Mass) or without a Mass.

The Requiem Mass is the traditional service for a member of the Catholic Church. It involves taking Holy Communion and therefore lasts a little longer, typically over an hour.

A non-Mass service is shorter, often about 30-40 minutes long. The religious service itself will look similar, but it will not include the Rite of Communion.

How Long Is a Funeral Procession?

Travel time for the funeral procession itself typically takes 5 to 20 minutes. However, arriving early at the service and waiting in your vehicle will add another 30 minutes to an hour of the overall length of time.

A funeral procession is the transportation of the body from the funeral location to the burial site. The body is transported in a hearse, with the mourners following in a motorcade.

The length of the funeral procession will depend on how long it takes to drive – often fairly slowly – from the church or funeral home over to the cemetery.

If you plan on driving in the procession, it’s a good idea to arrive at the funeral service about 30-45 minutes early. Attendants will direct you or park your car in the procession line. Then, once the funeral is complete and the pallbearers have loaded the casket onto the hearse, everyone will get directly into their cars and proceed to the cemetery.

Related: What to Do When You See a Funeral Procession

How Long Does a Graveside Service Last?

The average time for a committal or graveside burial service is about 10 to 20 minutes. This is one of the briefest funeral events.

The officiant will say a few words, often reading a Scripture passage and saying a brief prayer. This is followed by the committal of the body to the earth, where the casket is lowered to the ground.

Mourners then pay their final respects, tossing a flower or a handful of dirt onto the casket in an act of burial.

Read more: The Committal: Everything You Need to Know About Graveside Services

How Long Is a Reception After a Funeral?

The length of a funeral reception can last over two hours. It is a more informal time to share a meal, spend time conversing with relatives and longtime friends, and to share memories of the deceased person.

Expect to stay at least an hour if you are an acquaintance. The deceased’s family and friends will often stay for a couple of hours, enjoying the funeral repast and celebrating the memory of the departed loved one.

More info: Funeral Reception Etiquette Guide

If you’re planning a funeral for your loved one, be sure to speak to the funeral director to see how much time the service will take.

You want to take enough time to honor your loved one with excellence, yet at the same time you don’t want to overburden the attendees with a lengthy, repetitive service. Strive to find a balance.

If all the elements you want to include cause the estimate to run over an hour, consider doing an additional service for family members and close friends. This could be a wake or visitation, a special interment or cremation service, or an informal memorial gathering to share memories and reflect on your loved one’s life and legacy.

Read more: 10 Types of Funeral Services

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