How long after a death is the funeral? Planning for a funeral can be overwhelming for family members, especially if it's unexpected. There are both personal and external factors that can affect how long after someone dies to plan the funeral. Timing is important for a multitude of reasons. It may depend on the funeral home's schedule and availability and the preservation plans for the body of the deceased. Different faiths also have their own requirements for how long you can wait for a service and burial, so the length of time before a funeral takes place after a death varies.
If you are in the beginning stages of planning a funeral, knowing how many days after death funerals are typically held in various situations may help you determine when to arrange it for a loved one you've lost. While some aspects of the person's passing, such as deciding what to write on a headstone, can be determined at a later date, determining the funeral time frame is typically a priority when a loved one dies.
How Long After Death Is the Funeral?
The length of time between a death and a funeral varies depending on the person's religious faith, among other factors. Assuming the body is properly preserved and stored, it's possible to have one anywhere within a week after the death, or up to two to four weeks later. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be able to have an open casket viewing. If you choose cremation, the funeral or memorial can be held at any time as the condition of the body is no longer a concern.
Average Time Between a Death and the Funeral
How many days after someone dies is the funeral held, on average? Typically, funerals are held within a few days up to a week after the person's death. This gives the family enough time to make arrangements with the funeral home and contact the loved ones of the deceased. Thanks to advancements in technology, it is easier to make arrangements than it used to be, and the deceased's body can be preserved for longer. However, there are no strict rules when it comes to having to wait a certain amount of time. You can have a funeral two days after death (or less) if necessary, especially if your religion or beliefs require it.
Factors in Scheduling a Funeral After Someone Dies
Scheduling the funeral will depend on a wide range of factors. Some things may be out of your control, and you can't necessarily plan around everyone's schedule. However, there will be some important aspects to consider. Some factors that come into play aside from religious beliefs include the following:
- The ability of family members to attend the funeral can be a consideration in determining when it takes place. Those planning the funeral may choose to delay it if people are traveling in from multiple locations, or if those close to the deceased are in a different country or have longer distances from which they are traveling.
- The availability of the funeral home and its schedule is a key factor in the time frame. Not all mortuaries will be open every day of the week, so you will need to check with the funeral home first.
- Medical situations, such as a family member who needs to attend but is about to undergo critical surgery or give birth, can impact arrangements. Other life situations where a funeral is typically delayed are if it would fall on a person's birthday or anniversary. In these cases, it's common to schedule the funeral for a different day to avoid associating the death with what should be a happy event.
- Bad weather, such as a forecasted snowstorm or hurricane, may affect scheduling a funeral. The family might choose to do it right away to avoid the weather or postpone until it's safe for everyone to attend.
- Legal concerns may delay a funeral, such as if a body needs to have an autopsy and is being held by the coroner or hospital.
- Funding can also be an issue. If you're limited by a budget, you may choose a weekday instead of a weekend to bury a loved one, as some funeral homes will offer lower rates if those days are less busy for them. On the other hand, you may need to do the funeral right away if you opt not to embalm the body due to the cost.
- If the body needs to be transported to another city, state, or other location, this can delay the scheduling of a funeral.
Each of these events and situations may impact how soon after someone dies to have the funeral. Those planning the arrangements will need to be aware of these different factors when determining how long it is appropriate to wait. Determining how long after someone dies the viewing is held is closely related to the funeral timing. A funeral viewing may be held one to two days before the funeral or several days prior. Multiple days of viewings are sometimes scheduled. A visitation generally precedes the funeral service. As with a funeral, the time frame of the viewing or visitation is dependent on a number of factors.
Scheduling a Catholic Funeral
Some religions have certain rules that require an earlier funeral and burial. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the wake is usually held within the first few days, which is why the funeral often takes place three days after death.
Scheduling a Christian Funeral
Christian funerals tend to follow the Catholic schedule, but the wake is replaced by a small viewing prior to the funeral. Christian denominations are less rigid about the three-day schedule, and you will see some variations within the time frame by about one week.
Scheduling a Jewish Funeral
Jewish funerals should be held without delay and scheduled as soon as arrangements can be made. In fact, Orthodox Jews require the funeral to be within 24 hours of the death. Funerals cannot be held on certain Holy Days. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism do not allow for cremation, but Reform Judaism does. All do not allow for embalming unless it is required by law.
Scheduling a Muslim Funeral
Muslims also require that a funeral take place within 24 hours of the death, or if that is not possible, before the next sunset takes place. In the Muslim faith, bodies are bathed and shrouded, and there is no embalming process unless required by local or state laws. Since most bodies are not embalmed, the burial needs to be done as soon as possible. Cremation is not an option.
Scheduling a Hindu Funeral
Hindu funerals differ from other major world religions in that cremation is actually the traditional method of burial. The funeral takes place at the family's home, though some families opt for using a funeral home instead. Funerals must happen quickly, usually within 24 to 48 hours of the death. Hindu funerals also include a separate cremation ceremony, known as mukhagni, that takes place at the cremation site. Some Hindu families include a third ceremony, the shradda, that usually occurs approximately 10 to 13 days past the death date, or in some cases, on the first year's anniversary of the death date.
Scheduling a Buddhist Funeral
A funeral for a practicing Buddhist usually occurs during the week following the date of death. Buddhists actually hold their funeral for a deceased person based on the date of death and will be either on the third, seventh, 49th, or 100th day after the original death date. Bodies may be embalmed, and cremation is allowed. The full mourning period can last up to 100 days.
How Long Before a Body Must Be Buried?
Decomposition begins once death has occurred, but embalming can slow it down for a short period of time. This extends the amount of time you have to plan an open casket viewing to approximately seven days. How long embalming slows the process can depend on a variety of factors, including the specific chemicals and methods. Embalming can preserve a body and keep it preserved for up to several years when combined with specific preservation methods such as refrigeration, humidity, and sterile conditions. If no embalming preservation process is used, the body needs to be refrigerated and buried as soon as possible. Refrigeration will not slow decomposition as much if not combined with embalming. Some faiths, as noted above, also prohibit embalming.
When Funerals Occur After Death
Although it's most common for a funeral to occur within a week of a person's death, religious dictates can shorten the time to within a day or two, or in some cases, extend it. Scheduling the funeral also depends heavily on factors such as the availability of the family to travel, the funeral home's schedule, legal concerns over the body, and avoiding serious situations such as a medical crisis or severe weather. If you find yourself tasked with planning a funeral, reach out to your funeral home director for guidance. Most funeral homes will be experienced with the rules and regulations of your state, as well as most major religious requirements regarding scheduling the funeral.