Funerals are often long and challenging. It can be a sad day for the community and the family of the person who has passed away.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long funerals go, but many funeral homes will tell you that they last from two hours to six hours, depending on the type of service and other factors.
This blog post will give you some general information about funerals so that you know what to expect when attending or hosting one. Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.
A typical funeral service lasts around an hour, although some funerals can last several days, subject to custom and religious beliefs.
How Long Does A Funeral Service Last?
Some services can be as short as 20-30 minutes, but remember to allow extra time for people to enter and exit when booking a venue.
You might wish to look into booking a double-time slot if the funeral may run over to be on the safe side, though remember that this will cost you more in crematorium and cemetery fees.
Some services are deliberately kept short, and then some time is set aside for people to share stories of the deceased.
Funeral service slots are usually allocated hourly, but it’s possible to request more time.
Some services last up to two hours, with time given over to hymns, speakers, music, readings and so on.
Some places charge a late-running fee in the instance that the service runs over schedule.
You can get a rough idea of how long the funeral will be by the length of the order of service (funeral service schedule), which is given out as you enter the service.
This will detail how the service is structured; for example, it might start with a song, then the eulogy may be read out, and then there may be several poetry readings.
If you are arranging the funeral, speak to your celebrant or minister for a more precise time estimate of the service.
If you need to leave early, be respectful and exit quietly.
The family will understand if you cannot stay for the whole service or can only attend a part of the funeral. However, use discretion and leave at a time that will cause the least disruption.
Funeral wakes/receptions tend to last a couple of hours, but it is expected that people will come and go during this time, so you do not need to stay to the very end.
The bereaved family will usually stay throughout to speak to guests but don’t feel compelled to be present.
Funeral visitations, where people visit the family at the funeral home, don’t last for a defined period.
There’s no rigid etiquette for visitations, but most people stay for at least 15 minutes, and many stay longer.
People can come and go freely, and you don’t necessarily have to view the body.
How to Determine How Long a Funeral Should Last
When planning a funeral, to set out a clear structure and allow a specific amount of time for the service, a celebrant will help you set out the service's details and help you arrange the service in the appropriate order. This should enable you to gauge a relatively accurate time frame.
But why is it important to know how long a service will last?
There are several reasons why it is essential to know the correct length of time for the funeral service, including purely logistical reasons, such as booking the venue and allowing attendees to arrange travel to and from.
Whilst there is no hard and fast rule as to how long a funeral service should last, there are several factors you should consider throughout the planning that may affect the duration of the service.
Factors That May Affect Funeral Service
Cultural and Religious Traditions
When planning a funeral service, it’s essential to consider the cultural and religious needs of the deceased.
Religion and culture have a significant impact on people’s lives. Therefore, even in death, it may be essential to include their denomination or belief's religious and cultural practices and rites.
Especially since many of these practices may be believed to be necessary for the person to rest in peace.
Funeral rites will be specific to each religion; thus, the length of time necessary for the service will differ accordingly.
Funerals, unfortunately, can be expensive. Therefore, it’s vital that you keep your expenses in mind and within a set budget throughout the planning.
Remember that some locations may charge extra fees if the service runs over, so it is essential to talk through the proposed schedule with your celebrant before the service to get an accurate time frame.
The Number of Attendees
Suppose you have a large number of people coming to the funeral. In that case, it may be wise to leave a time allowance of 15 minutes on either side of the service to allow your guests to be seated and then to go afterwards, without overrunning the time you’ve booked the venue for.
Similarly, factor time into the length of the service for your guests to offer their condolences to you and your family members.
Often, before they die, your loved one may make specific wishes known, whether verbally or through their testament, regarding their funeral arrangements.
Outside of traditional funeral rites, your loved one may wish to have certain songs played, have attendees dress up in costumes, or even have a bespoke ceremony performed.
A celebrant will be able to help you accommodate anything you may want or need for the funeral service, no matter how outlandish it may seem.
As much as a funeral service is a chance to lay your loved ones to rest and mourn their passing, it is also a time to remember who they were and celebrate their idiosyncrasies.
And, if that happens to be inviting the attendees to wear the colours of their favourite football team, then so be it.
The Type of Funeral Service
The length of cremation may vary, although most last for around 40 minutes, including the entry and exit.
You can use the time to perform eulogies, readings or sit in remembrance. Usually, the coffin is not cremated immediately and is instead after mourners have left.
Regardless of any individualisation, burial services and cremation services both differ in length.
Burial services tend to last longer.
If you follow the format of a more traditional burial, there may be a short service held first, followed by the committal of the body into the ground.
Depending on the deceased's wishes, the former may have to include time for an open casket, performances or other ceremonies. You may also need to factor in travel time here between where the initial service is held to the place where the body will be buried.
Ultimately, the most significant factor at play in the length of the service is the wishes of the deceased and yourself and your family.
Components of a Funeral
Funerals will vary depending on traditions, culture, and the individual wishes of the family. However, they all share a few components that you can expect. These all have different lengths, and some are less formal than others:
- Greeting of the family and friends
- Viewing or visitation
- Reading of the deceased’s obituary
- Religious ceremony or service
- Friends and family speeches
- Songs or poems dedicated to the deceased
- Final words or closing ceremony
- Graveside committal
You might not need to stay for all of the components. Some might only be open to immediate family. However, knowing a rough itinerary of funeral services will help you understand what to expect.
Duration of Visitations and Viewings
Funerals are rarely a tiny service on their own. Instead, they’re usually paired with a visitation or viewing.
A visitation is a time to meet with the mourning family and pay your respects. Depending on the wishes of the family and the deceased, a casket may or may not be present. A visitation will be at a minimum of half an hour.
Viewings are a chance to view the body, usually in an open casket ceremony. But, again, this depends on the particular funeral tradition. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide low-cost funeral services.
Viewings are also called wakes in some traditions. These are longer affairs, but it’s normal for visitors to come and go during this time. Only the close family would remain for the whole time, which can last several hours.
How Long Do Receptions Last?
Many families also choose to have a reception after the funeral. However, the funeral service itself is usually a formal ceremony, often with a religious service.
Reception is typical for those who want a chance to be with their friends and family during this difficult time.
A reception service is usually hosted immediately after the funeral or burial service. It can last upwards of two hours, and it often includes food or a meal.
Receptions can take place at a family member’s home or within a funeral reception hall.
Receptions are sometimes optional to attend.
The length of your attendance depends on your relationship with the deceased. If you’re close to the departed or a member of the immediate family, it’s expected that you’ll stay for the majority of the reception.
Duration of Funerals Based on Type of Service
Because funerals vary based on tradition and custom, let’s examine some specific rules to answer this question fully.
Here are common types of services as well as how long you can expect them to last.
Catholic funerals begin with a viewing or visitation, though attendance is usually optional for this component.
This will be followed by a more casual, family memorial where guests are expected to drop in or an entire Catholic mass.
The mass itself could take several hours and is usually followed by a reception.
For a Christian funeral, the service is typically half an hour to an hour-long. This may or may not include a visitation or viewing, which will likely be casual as well.
Expect a similar reception after the service.
Hindu funerals typically take place within 24 hours after the deceased passes on. The mourning period is 13 days long, though the burial itself will be on the first day.
The funeral ceremony will be a lively affair complete with several traditions. The entire event can last several hours, and it’s common for close friends and family to visit the mourning family throughout the entire 13 days of mourning.
Expect to spend a couple of hours at a Muslim funeral. The funeral procession takes place very soon after the passing, and the service will last between one to three hours, followed by a visitation.
Jewish funeral services last under an hour. They usually include visitation with the family, after which is less formal, and attendance is optional. In addition, Jewish funerals often include a casual reception at the family’s home.
There are three primary rites within Buddhist funeral processions, and each takes about 45 minutes. So the entire funeral ceremony will last around two hours, and there is no pressure to remain the whole time if you’re not very close to the family.
It’s important to note that you might not need to stay for the entire duration of these services and customs listed above.
Typically, only very close family and friends will be a part of the entire service. However, there are likely limited time frames for other friends and family, so it is suggested to keep your attendance brief.
In addition, each family handles things their way. Many of these traditions above are modernising and changing, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long a funeral service can last. The best way to know for sure is to check the funeral service schedule or itinerary.
Duration of Graveside Committal
Aside from knowing what to expect at a funeral, it would help if you also thought to the graveside committal.
These are primarily associated with Christian and Catholic funerals, but they’re not uncommon with other religions.
A graveside committal is a service where the body is laid to rest in the grave. This usually is a separate occasion held after the funeral service, but the service can also be at the tomb to combine both traditions.
Committal services typically take around half an hour. Depending on the prayers and eulogies read during the ceremony, it could take longer or shorter. There will need to be enough time allotted for people to travel from the service to the graveside committal at a different venue, so plan accordingly.
Duration of a Cremation Service
Committals can also take place at a funeral home before the burial of the body. But, again, it will depend on the deceased person’s religion and end-of-life wishes.
Cremation service can vary, but they usually last between 30 and 45 minutes.
Burial services last longer than cremation services, and it’s common for the casket to lower into the ground during the ceremony.
At a cremation service, the body or casket will be cremated after the guests leave.
The length of cremation services vary, but most last 30-45 minutes, accounting for entry and exit time.
Within this time, the cremation service may feature a eulogy, poems, readings, and music.
The coffin is not cremated immediately, and most crematoriums wait until after mourners have left.
Burial services tend to last longer. If the person is being buried, then there may be one service held first, following the format of standard service, and then a committal of the body into the ground where a few words are said, which will usually take another 30 minutes.
Make sure to factor in travel times between where the service was held and the cemetery or churchyard.
If you’re arranging a funeral, be sure to discuss the details of the ceremony and how this will impact the duration with your chosen funeral director.
If you’d like, you can make a free obituary for your loved one online here on Beyond as well.
As well as being a thoughtful and creative way to celebrate your loved one’s memory, these pages make it easy to keep guests updated on things like the time, date and duration of the funeral service and wake.
Planning for a Funeral Service
As you can see from the guide above, there is no set formula for funeral services. Many factors are at play when planning the duration of a funeral.
Each service is unique to the person and their family, so the length of the service will vary.
Overall, most funerals last at least an hour, and this can go longer depending on visitation or viewing practices that precede said funeral service.
Ultimately, religious traditions and ceremonies are the most significant factors in the length of the service. Some are more casual, where it’s normal to come and go during the memorial. Others are strict in their size and attendance.
The best way to manage funeral costs is to pre-plan. To learn more, see our information on Prepaid Pre-Planned Funeral options.
However, now that we’ve listed the potential variations for each type of service and visitation, you’ll be able to plan accordingly and make the most out of your visit.