Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard on its own, and having to plan a funeral can take the stress to a whole other level. There are some funeral homes that can do the whole thing for you.
However, these services are costly and you might want to do it on your own. To make things easier, here’s an overview of how long it takes to plan a funeral and what items you need to check off the list.
How Long Does It Take To Plan a Funeral?
A funeral can be fully planned in a matter of hours. In western societies, most funeral services are commemorated within 7 days. This doesn’t necessarily apply to cremating services, as there can sometimes be a line for the cremating process.
Don’t mix up the planning of the funeral with waiting for the funeral. Funerals are often delayed and there are instances in which weeks can pass before the funeral is held. For example, if many people need to come from far away – it takes time to organize trips.
In most cases, however, funerals are organized quickly and simply. Usually, all it takes is a few phone calls and a few errands to run.
What Do You Need to Prepare for a Funeral?
Depending on cultural differences, funeral customs could differ, but most of them involve a burial, some sort of religious service, and a gathering (a large one or a small one) of friends and family.
In most cases, especially with the very sick and elderly, people plan a funeral in advance – choosing the funeral home, buying a graveyard spot, and taking care of the finances beforehand.
Believe it or not, the time between death and burial (or cremation) is regulated in some places and it isn’t the same everywhere. There are places in the world where you can have the funeral the next day, while there are places where you have to wait at least two days before you can bury someone.
Funeral homes have this information at hand, so you can count on them to sort it out. A funeral home will also get all the details about the graveyard spot in case the deceased hasn’t taken care of that in advance.
It’s also legal (although not in all places) to bury someone in their own backyard. Graveyard spots are not free and they’re a once-in-a-lifetime (literally) payment. Aside from graveyards, people can also be buried in crypts, while many people opt for cremation or donation of their bodies to science (medicine, criminology, etc.).
During this period, the body will be moved to the funeral home, where it will stay until the day of the funeral.
The funeral home will provide you with the option of embalming – this practice isn’t common around the entire world and many cultures simply bury their dead without embalming them.
Choosing the Date
You need to choose a date for the funeral, and it has to be the date when the funeral home staff can conduct the funeral, the religious leader of choice (if there is one) is available, and most importantly – a date close family and friends are comfortable with.
By this point, a graveyard spot has to be purchased, the body of the deceased has to be prepared (embalming is optional), the casket has to be bought, and everyone has to be notified of the funeral.
In case of unclear causes of death (such as sudden illnesses or mechanical causes of death), especially if foul play is suspected, the police and hospital staff have the authority to keep the body of the deceased until they determine what happened.
Getting time with a religious leader can be difficult because they’re often busy, especially with funerals. Many religions require a ritual after the funeral, such as the Roman Catholic church, so it’s often not just the funeral.
Notifying Friends and Family
Once the date has been set, it’s time to notify friends and family. At this time, obituaries are also written, often with the cause of death included, as well as the date of the funeral.
Obituaries are posted in newspapers, while they’re also listed on notice boards (especially in small places) and in religious institutions.
This can actually be the longest part of funeral planning – calling dozens of families to inform them of the funeral can take hours, and the process can last all day if there are plenty of people to notify.
Nowadays, it’s generally accepted to only inform the closest friends and family in person or via a phone call, while acquaintances and not-so-close friends and family can be informed through a text message or email.
Organizing the Reception
There’s no specific rule about organizing the reception. In some cultures, the family house will be full of people from the moment the deceased has passed until after the funeral.
There are cultures where it’s disrespectful not to pay your respects by coming over to the deceased’s family before the funeral and expressing your condolences.
On the other hand, there are also cultures where there is no service after the funeral, or there’s a very small home service reserved for the closest family and friends. Having a mass of people visit the family before or after the funeral can be seen as invasive.
If you are organizing a reception, you can have it at home, while many people opt for holding it at the funeral home. However, not all funeral homes have this option. There are also catering services with spaces of their own that you can rent.
Whatever choice you make – you can either hire catering or cater to the guests yourself, but this is impossible if the gathering is large. Just like with reception spaces, there are funeral homes that offer catering services as well.
What’s Different if the Deceased is Cremated?
The biggest difference between a burial and a cremation is that you might need to wait for the cremation. Cremating offices have a limited number of cremations they can do daily, and it can get crowded.
There also isn’t a burial, although a service is often held. Since there’s no body to bury, the service isn’t conducted at a graveyard, but at the home of the deceased.
With some funeral homes, you can rent a casket and hold a more traditional service at home (with the body physically present) and only cremate the deceased afterward.
For practical reasons, the reception is usually held at the home of the deceased as well.
FAQ How Long Does It Take To Plan a Funeral
Can You Have a Funeral 2 Days After Death?
Yes, many places allow funerals within two days, even the following day if the family can organize it. It’s important to understand that the family of the deceased usually wants to get it over with as soon as possible, no matter how rough that might sound.
To them, the grieving doesn’t really start until the funeral is over. If they have to wait a week (or in extreme cases, several weeks) to bury their dead, their lives hang in the air during that time and can’t go on.
How Do I Organize a Funeral?
After confirming the passing, inform yourself about funeral home options and contact a funeral home once you make your choice. Some funeral homes have the all-inclusive package – this minimizes the work you have to do, but it’s more expensive.
Is Cremation Cheaper Than a Burial?
In most places around the world, cremation is much cheaper than a burial. It doesn’t include a casket or a spot in the graveyard, while the reception is usually smaller, so money is saved on catering too.
Prices of funeral services change, but they’ve always been expensive. In 2021, the average funeral cost was about $7,848 in the USA, and cremation is much more popular (for obvious reasons).
Do I Have to Hold a Reception?
Absolutely not – funerals exist so the living can say their final goodbyes to the dead. If the closest family of the deceased aren’t comfortable with a reception, they can simply not organize one or have a closed reception.
Closed receptions are reserved for the closest family and friends.
Final Thoughts on Funeral Planning
So, how long does it take to plan a funeral? Usually, a few hours – it’s just a matter of making phone calls and paying the people that provide their services.
Complications arise with complicated deaths when hospitals and the police keep the body for autopsy and investigation, while cremations can also take a while as cremating offices have restricted space.
It’s all about organization and coordination of the funeral home, catering staff, and the religious leader if there is one. After that is done, all that’s left to do is inform friends and family.