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.
|Gathering at the Family Home
|Arrival at the Venue for the Funeral Service
|Funeral Service Begins
|Funeral Service Concludes
|Procession to the Cemetery or Crematorium
|Interment or Cremation*
|Conclusion of the Scheduled Events
*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
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:
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
- South Asian Cultures: Services can span several days, including pre-funeral rituals, the
funeral itself, and post-funeral ceremonies.
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.
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
Funeral 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.
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 email@example.com