How Long Does It Take to Plan a Funeral?

Published September 8, 2020
woman shaking hands in funeral parlor

Planning a funeral can take anywhere from a single day to three weeks. On average, the funeral is held about a week after the person passes away. The length of planning time depends on the complexity of the funeral, whether arrangements have already been made, and other factors. Every family's situation is unique, but there are some common considerations.

How Long Does It Take to Plan a Funeral Service?

There's no set timeline for a funeral, but the average time between a death and service in the United States is about a week. You can have the service a day or two after the person has passed away, or you can wait much longer. If the deceased person is cremated, you may even choose to wait weeks or months after the death to hold the funeral or memorial service. However, most funerals take place within two weeks. How long it takes to plan a funeral depends on a number of factors.

Was the Funeral Preplanned?

Preplanning a funeral involves making many of the necessary arrangements before the time of death. This can include choosing a casket, selecting flowers, identifying the people who will speak at the service, and more. Much of the time required in planning a funeral is taken up with making decisions. If these decisions are made ahead of time, the funeral may happen within a day or two.

How Long Does It Take for Disposition?

The disposition of the body, or the amount of time you must wait until burial or cremation, can vary depending on the location. In many cases, this period is two days. You can check with local and state authorities to determine the specific disposition requirements for your area.

Do You Need to Set a Specific Date?

Sometimes, the planning time for a funeral will be limited by the date you need to set. This can mean you have only a few days to plan, since you need to have everything ready for a certain date. There are several reasons you may need to limit your choice of funeral date and planning time:

  • Religious faith - Some faiths require a body be buried or cremated within a set period of time.
  • Travel time for mourners - If you have family members and friends who must travel to be there, you'll need to allow travel time in your choice of a date.
  • Availability - availability of the funeral director, place of worship or funeral home, special musical groups, and other important aspects of planning a funeral can also dictate when you hold the service.

Typical Funeral Planning Timeline

There are several steps involved in planning a funeral, and each step takes time. You can use a funeral planning checklist to help you stay organized as you plan, and this can help cut down on the planning time. Here's a sample timeline for planning a funeral.

funeral planning notebook

Day 1: Select a Funeral Home and Burial or Cremation

On the day a loved one dies, you must release the remains to a funeral home. If you haven't already chosen a funeral home to handle the arrangements, this is the time to do it. You may want to call around to multiple funeral homes to compare costs and options, so this process can take a day or two. You can also choose to move the remains to a different funeral home if you decide you would prefer another one. At this time, you should also decide whether the loved one will be buried or cremated.

Day 2-5: Make Funeral and Burial Arrangements

There are several tasks you'll need to complete over the next few days. The funeral director will help you make many of the necessary arrangements, including scheduling the service, working with state and local authorities, and choosing a casket or urn. Often, the funeral home will take care of funeral programs, flowers, and other details. In addition, you'll want to do the following:

  • Choose a date for the funeral based on your specific needs, including religious faith and availability. Choosing a date can take a few minutes to a day or two, depending on whether you need to consult with other family members.
  • Decide on a burial location. If you are choosing burial, you'll need to select a cemetery and work with them to purchase a plot. Choosing a burial location can take a few hours to a few days, depending on where there is Availability.
  • Contact friends and family members. You may also want to write a funeral announcement. This can take a few hours.
  • Write an obituary. Often, you will need to include the funeral date and details in the obituary. Writing the obituary can take a few hours, or you can provide the newspaper or funeral home with the details and have them write it for you.
  • Decide who will have a role in the service, including pallbearers, those giving eulogies, musicians, and more. Invite these people to participate. Contacting everyone can take a few hours or even a few days.
  • Decide whether there will be a receptions and work with the funeral home to choose the food and format. Usually, these details are handled by the funeral home, but it may take you a few hours to decide on specifics.
  • Choose what you will wear to the funeral. This may be something you already own, or you may need to spend a few hours shopping.

Day 6-7: Visitation and Funeral

The visitation often occurs the day before the funeral, and then the funeral itself takes place. The work of your planning is already done at this point, leaving you free to mourn your loss and celebrate the life of your loved one.

Staying Organized Cuts Down on Planning Time

Planning a funeral takes time, but you can reduce the amount of time it takes by using printable templates. This can help you stay organized and keep things simple when you are already overwhelmed by the task at hand.

How Long Does It Take to Plan a Funeral?