Funeral planning is something many people encounter at one point or another, but it’s not something that’s openly talked about. From understanding how to find a funeral home to knowing how long it takes to plan the service, there is a lot that goes into this process.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Typical Funeral Planning Timeline
- Why Are Funerals Delayed?
- Tips for Speeding Up Your Funeral Planning Process
It’s understandably hard to think about what happens after a loved one dies. After a loss, the last thing you want to do is focus on the organizational tasks of planning a funeral or memorial service. That being said, this can be complicated the longer you wait.
In most cases, the burden of planning the funeral arrangements falls upon the families. A funeral is a powerful way to honor someone’s life, but how long does it typically take to plan a funeral? Since this is something most people don’t have experience with, this question isn’t always easy to answer.
In this guide, we pull back the curtain on the funeral industry to talk about the timeline. How much time does it take to plan a funeral from start to finish, and what other factors should you keep in mind?
Typical Funeral Planning Timeline
To start, let’s discuss the typical funeral planning timeline. It’s important to note that this is in no way one-size-fits-all. There are so many factors that can delay this service or speed up this process.
For example, if your loved one pre-planned their service, this will take significantly less time. Knowing exactly what your loved one wants for their memorial service or funeral means fewer questions and decisions for the family to make.
Most funerals are planned in 1-3 weeks. To speed up the grieving process, it’s important to hold the funeral as soon as possible. Some delays are necessary, but it’s still a good idea to hold the funeral service sooner rather than later. In general, the funeral timeline resembles something like the following.
1. Compile paperwork (1-3 days)
The first step is often the hardest. This is because the family is usually at their most emotionally vulnerable immediately after the death of a loved one.
At this early stage, it’s important to compile vital paperwork. This includes the death certificate, life insurance information, military service information, marriage certificates, and retirement accounts. Gaining access to these files, documents, and accounts takes time and energy in most cases.
Having these files organized and safe is key to the rest of the process. Families typically begin compiling paperwork immediately after the loss of a loved one, but it can take several days.
2. Talk to the family (1-5 days)
After the key paperwork has been located and organized, it’s time to ask questions about the service. It’s best to designate a single person or pair who will be in charge of the funeral service. Having too many voices involved slows this process down, and it could also lead to conflict.
This is still the pre-arrangement process. Now is the opportunity for the family to begin asking questions like:
- How will the loved one be laid to rest (cremation or burial)?
- What role will religion and culture play in the service?
- Who will be in charge of arranging the service and reception?
- Who will be invited?
While no definitive answers need to be made right away, it’s important to start asking these big questions early on in the arrangement process.
3. Choose a funeral home (1-2 days)
Choosing a funeral home is another big step. It’s essential to find a funeral home and funeral director that you trust. This person and company will be in charge of planning and sometimes even leading the service, so they should be someone competent and trustworthy.
To choose a funeral home, call around your local area and search online. It’s okay to ask about the cost upfront, and these providers are required to be open and transparent.
4. Decide venue and service information (3-7 days)
Now for the details of the service. Your funeral home will guide you in actually planning the service. You’ll decide on all of the following:
- Where will the service be held?
- Will there be a viewing of the casket or body?
- Who will lead the service?
- What types of prayers, songs, and readings will be in the service?
- How long will the service be?
- Will there be a reception?
As you can see, there are a lot of things to know about how to plan a funeral for a loved one. Luckily, the funeral director will lead you through this process smoothly. It’s always okay to ask for their guidance.
5. Final arrangements (1-2 days)
Last but not least, make any final arrangements for the service. This includes asking speakers to participate in the service, make decorations, prepare signage, and so on.
Again, many of these tasks are things your funeral director can assist with. Having more helping hands ensures the process moves quickly. Still, many family members can find the organization and planning to be understandably exhausting.
Why Are Funerals Delayed?
Sometimes it’s practical to delay the funeral service. While there is no clear answer for how long you can delay a funeral, it’s a good idea not to put it off for too long. The funeral is an opportunity to say final goodbyes, find closure, and honor someone’s life.
However, funerals are commonly delayed for the following reasons:
- Travel: If the family has to travel from far away, the funeral might be delayed to accommodate this extra time.
- Conflict: Another common reason funerals are delayed is because families struggle to agree about what to do. This is why communication is key.
- Cost: Funerals are expensive. For those who haven’t prepaid for the service, the family might wait while they raise funds.
- Holiday: Last but not least, if someone passes during a holiday, the funeral might be delayed until later for cultural or religious reasons.
The family is in control of the timeline when it comes to the funeral service. They can hold one as quickly or as slowly as they’d like. However, the longer you wait, the greater the cost if the body is being stored. This is why many families bury or cremate the body before the funeral, choosing to reschedule for a later date.
Tips for Speeding Up Your Funeral Planning Process
If speed is important to you and your family, you might be wondering how to speed up the planning process. A few key tips can make all the difference.
Less is more
When it comes to putting someone in charge, less is sometimes more. While a funeral is an emotional occasion, and many people might have opinions, understand that more opinions breed conflict.
Putting a single person in charge is the best way to ensure there are fewer roadblocks along the way. Remember, it’s not possible to please everyone. Consider what the deceased loved one would have wanted overall.
Know your budget
The better you know your budget and what you’re willing to spend, the better equipped your funeral director will be when it comes to providing options.
Make it clear what’s important to you and how much you can afford. From there, only focus on what’s within this budget to avoid unnecessary distractions and slowdowns.
Hold a smaller, immediate funeral
If holding a funeral quickly is important, consider having a smaller, intimate funeral soon after the death. If you’d like to plan something more extravagant, you can always hold this at a later date.
This allows you and your loved ones the opportunity to say goodbye soon after the loss while still providing more time for a bigger event later on. There’s no rule about how many funerals you can have for those you love.
Have hard conversations
Last but not least, the best way to speed up the funeral planning process is to have hard conversations about death. Talking to your loved ones about what they want when they die is the best way to know exactly what steps to take when the time does come.
While it’s hard to break these barriers, these conversations ease the burden of loved ones having to make these decisions themselves.
There Is No Single Timeline for Grief
While there is a clear timeline for planning a funeral, there is no timeline for grief. It’s okay if your path diverges from the “norm” when it comes to planning a funeral for a loved one. The next steps taken after someone’s death are hard to take, but you don’t have to face them alone.
While most funerals are planned in the week or weeks after someone dies, you might choose to delay the service or not hold one at all. There are many different factors to consider, so don’t worry about doing the traditional thing if that feels wrong to you. As long as you’re honoring your loved one’s life, you’re on the right path.