How Long Do Funerals Last? A Guide to Timings and Traditions

Funerals and remembrance services are an emotional time. As poignant as they are, they are also life reaffirming and important social gatherings. We know from over 30 years of printing Funeral Order of Service booklets that the length of each service can vary depending on the wishes, religious and personal views of the families involved. Services range from the simple and very short, to longer, more complex proceedings which involve several speakers and multiple readings. Most often there are just two hymns, a reading, a eulogy, and prayers although there can be more content interspersed with moments of reflection where the deceased’s favourite songs or music are played.

Because of the wide variety of different service types, many of our customers are unsure about how long funerals may last. So, here we take a look at what makes up a funeral service and how long you can expect it to be.

The Funeral Service – An Outline of the Day

There are many factors that influence how long a funeral service is but there are common elements. Here is a list of those we often see taking place during a traditional funeral service:

  • Opening welcome message
  • Personal reflections or eulogies
  • Readings and poems
  • Musical interludes and hymns
  • Closing remarks and thanks

Example funeral schedule:

Funeral proceedings vary widely, but a typical schedule may proceed as follows. Please note that we have used the starting time only as an example for ease of calculating the various timelines involved.

9:00 AM Gathering at the Family Home
 
  • Family and close friends gather at the family home or the home of a family member
    closest to the deceased.
  • Transport, typically a hearse, arrives to transport the deceased, with family and friends
    following in a funeral procession.
9:30 AM Arrival at the Venue for the Funeral Service
 
  • The hearse and procession arrive at the location of the funeral service, which could be a church, crematorium, woodland burial site or other venue.
  • Guests arrive and are seated.
10:00 AM Funeral Service Begins
 
  • The service starts with a welcome from the presiding minister or celebrant.
  • Hymns, prayers, readings, and eulogies take place, reflecting the life and wishes of the
    deceased. These will all be set out in your Funeral Order of Service to guide the
    congregation.
  • The service may include a moment of silence, special music, or a tribute video.
10:45 AM Funeral Service Concludes
 
  • The minster or celebrant delivers their closing remarks.
  • The coffin is carried out of the venue to the hearse.
11:00 AM Procession to the Cemetery or Crematorium
 
  • The deceased’s transport, such as a hearse, leads the way to the cemetery or crematorium.
  • If the burial is to take place, guests follow the hearse in a procession.
11:30 AM  Interment or Cremation*
 
  • At the graveside, a brief committal service is held including final prayers and the burial.
  • Usually only attended by the closest members of family but your minister or celebrant will advise of arrangements at the appropriate time.
  • For cremation, a committal service is held at the crematorium. The crematorium will have decided with the family beforehand whether the coffin’s final journey is hidden from view as it leaves the room
12:00 PM  Post-Funeral Reception
 
  • Guests reconvene at a chosen location, such as a family home, church hall, or hired venue for the wake.
  • Food and drinks are served, and memories of the deceased are shared.
  • This reception may last several hours, allowing people to come and go as they please. It’s a time for family members to mix and share memories and meet, possibly for the first time, the closest friends, and colleagues of the deceased. Some may have travelled great distances and will want to make the most of their time together.
3:00 PM  Conclusion of the Scheduled Events
 
  • Formal events of the day conclude although it is not out of the ordinary for guests to stay and socialise.
  • Different cultures have their own rituals or customs, so when planning a funeral order of service these may steer the duration of the service, read more about these below and about how to create a funeral order of service.

*It should be noted that crematoria work on strict time schedules. These allow you to book time slots of 30 minutes (please check your chosen crematorium for local rules). From personal experience, services often take slightly longer than expected and when large gatherings are likely, even more so. For this reason, I recommend asking for a double slot so that you have enough time for your service to encompass all the elements that comply with the wishes of the deceased along with those which you and the family have planned beforehand. There may be a cost implication for doing so, but far better that than risking the anxiety of another family waiting outside for their allotted time slot whilst your service overruns.

Factors Affecting Funeral Duration

A small funeral congregation in a UK church with a wicker coffin in the foreground The duration of a funeral can be significantly influenced by cultural, religious, and personal preferences, which reflect the diversity of beliefs and practices surrounding death and mourning. There is one factor, however, which can have a significant effect on the service length, and it is often overlooked. The size of the congregation. The larger the gathering the more time you will have to allow for the mourners to congregate and mingle afterwards.

This shouldn’t be underestimated as large gatherings may spend a significant amount of time moving on to the wake after the service. And I am writing this from personal experience only hours after coming away from a very large family funeral.

Here’s how each can impact the length of funeral proceedings and we invite you to consider how these factors might apply to your situation:

Cultural Influences

Culture profoundly influences how funerals are conducted. Different cultures have unique
traditions that will dictate the proceedings and their length. For instance:

  • British Culture: Traditionally, British funerals have tended to be sombre and
    reserved, with services lasting around 30 to 60 minutes. This, however, is changing
    rapidly and while friends and family still gather in morning the emphasis is increasingly
    on celebrating the life and individuality of the deceased. Typically, Catholic and some Scottish
    Episcopalian services can be a little longer due to the extra rituals observed. However, with
    the UK’s diverse cultures, different types of ceremony are much more common today.
  • Irish Culture: Irish funerals might include a wake before the funeral service, adding to the
    duration. The wake can last for a day or two, where the deceased is remembered and
    celebrated.
  • South Asian Cultures: Services can span several days, including pre-funeral rituals, the
    funeral itself, and post-funeral ceremonies.

Religious Influences

Religious beliefs are of course a defining factor in the length and nature of funeral services:

  • Christian Funerals: A Church of England service might last between 45 minutes to an
    hour, while a Roman Catholic funeral mass could be longer due to the Eucharistic
    service. Read more about the Church of England’s Funeral Guidance.
  • Islamic Funerals: Tend to be shorter lasting up to an hour, from the washing of the body
    to the burial. Burial is usually the day after death but almost always within three days
    unless foul play is suspected. In such instances when legal due process must be
    followed this period is extended.
  • Jewish Funerals: The service is typically short, often under an hour, followed by a burial
    and a week-long mourning period called ‘sitting shiva’ which involves various rituals.
  • Hindu Funerals: These can last several hours and include extensive rituals like the
    burning of the body on a pyre, followed by days of ceremonial mourning.

Personal Preferences

Individual preferences can also influence the length of a funeral service:

  • Eulogies and Tributes: The number of people who speak and their allocated time can extend the service.
  • Some families may prefer a series of heartfelt eulogies, while others opt for a more concise format.
  • Viewing and Visitation: Some families may choose to have a prolonged viewing or visitation period to
  • allow more people to pay their respects.
  • Memorialisation: The decision to include various forms of memorialisation, such as video tributes, photo displays,
  • or musical performances, can also extend the length of the service.

The impact of culture, religion, and personal choices on the duration of funerals cannot be understated. Each element contributes to a rich tapestry of end-of-life ceremonies that reflect the diversity of the deceased’s life and their community’s traditions.

It’s important for funeral planners and attendees to understand these influences so that expectations are set correctly and to plan services that honour the deceased while also respecting the time and emotional needs of the mourners.

After the Funeral – Interment and Receptions

The interment is also known as the burial ceremony, and, in the UK, it typically comes after the service but before the reception where family and friends gather to remember the life of the deceased over refreshments. It may be burial in the ground or in some cultures a funeral pyre. For burials, the interment is typically brief may last 20 to 30 minutes where attendees will gather for a final prayer to see the deceased reach their final resting place.

Receptions follow and almost without exception include refreshments appropriate to the respective traditions.

Planning Your Loved One’s Funeral

A selection of 3 funeral order of service example front cover designsFuneral planning can be an emotionally challenging task, and knowing how to make an Order of Service for a Funeral can provide structure and guidance during this difficult time. Creating an Order of Service is a crucial step in organising a funeral, as it outlines the sequence of events, readings, and tributes, and will inform the duration directly. Read our detailed, step-by-step guide on how to make a funeral order of service, ensuring a beautiful and memorable experience for all those attending.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Funeral Durations:

How long after death is a funeral?

If the death is registered within five days and a death certificate issued, a funeral can be arranged whenever the time is right for you, your family, and your loved ones to make the proper arrangements to appropriately celebrate your loved one’s life. Read more in our post ‘When should a funeral take place

Help Planning a Funeral

Remember that during this difficult time you can turn to us to help provide further assistance and support throughout the planning process. Our Classic and Elegance ranges provide the perfect selection of Funeral Order of Service Template designs to help you every step of the way.

Please call us on 01824 708 804, where our helplines are open between 9am and 5pm on Monday to Friday.

Conclusion

Understanding the processes involved and calculating the duration of a funeral is an important part of funeral planning and is very much a matter of personal choice and cultural practices. We hope our guide has helped answer the common question ‘how long do funerals last’.

You can help

What are your experiences with funeral durations, have we missed anything you would like to add?  If so, we would love to hear from you, and you can send us your comments and feedback via email here enquiries@funeralstationery4u.co.uk