How Long After Someone Dies Is the Funeral Held?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough, but having to also plan their funeral can be too much for some family members to handle- especially if it's unexpected. There are many different things that can play into how soon after someone dies you should have the funeral. 

For a variety of reasons, timing is crucial. It may be determined by the funeral home's schedule and availability, as well as the deceased's burial plans. Because different religions have separate requirements for how long you can wait for a service and burial, the time between the death and the funeral varies.

If you're in the early stages of funeral planning, knowing how long you can expect to wait after death is essential. While some decisions can wait until a later date, planning the funeral and determining the time frame is often the first priority.

How long after death should the funeral be?

The most important factor to consider when determining the timeline between death and the funeral is the individual's religious preferences. While there are other factors that might contribute to this timeline, this is typically the biggest factor to consider. 

If the body is properly preserved and stored, you could wait for anything from one week to four weeks for the funeral. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you would have an open casket. If you opt for cremation, there is no time constraint, provided the body is properly stored.

What is the average time between death and the funeral?

The average time between death and the funeral is two to three weeks. This gives families enough time to make all the arrangements and ensures that the body is properly prepared. It also allows for any out-of-town family members or friends to make travel arrangements, if they wish to attend.

What are the factors that will determine the schedule?

There are a few different factors that can play into how soon after someone dies you should have the funeral.

  • If the death is expected, such as in the case of a terminal illness, you may have already made funeral arrangements ahead of time. In this case, the funeral could be held within a week or two of the death.
  • If the death is sudden, this can be more difficult to arrange. In this case, you may have to work around the schedules of the funeral home, clergy, and other vendors.
  • Whether sudden or expected, the availability of your funeral home will play a role. in determining the schedule. Not all are open every day of the week and some will close over the Christmas period which can lead to a backlog.
  • Weather can impact your funeral arrangements, particularly if it could make travel more difficult. You may need to delay if relatives won't be able to fly in due to snow or ice.
  • Legal considerations may also play a role in funeral planning. If an autopsy is required, you may have to wait for the body to be released before you can move forward with planning the funeral.
  • Your financial situation could also impact funeral plans. If you are short on funds, you may need to choose a day of the week when funeral homes are able to offer a lower rate.

How to plan a Catholic funeral

If you are planning a Catholic funeral, you will need to contact the priest as soon as possible after the death. They will help you to plan the funeral service and advise on any special requirements

With a Catholic funeral, there is usually a wake held a few days after death and the funeral often takes place around three days after death.

How to plan a Christian funeral

Christian funerals often follow the Catholic tradition, but the wake may be replaced by a viewing. Many Catholics are less strict about the three-day burial time frame. It could be up to a week after death before the funeral takes place.

How to plan a Jewish funeral

Orthodox Jews have some of the strictest guidelines around funeral planning. Many require the funeral to be held within 24 hours of the death and the funeral cannot be held on certain Holy Days. Cremation is not permitted in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, but Reform Judaism does allow this. Embalming is typically not permitted unless required by law.

How to plan a Muslin funeral

In the Muslim faith, the funeral must take place within 24 hours, before the arrival of the next sunset. The body is bathed and shrouded, but not embalmed unless it is required by local law. Cremation is not permitted.

How to plan a Hindu funeral

Cremation is usually the traditional method of burial in the Hindu faith, and this typically takes place quickly, around 24-48 hours after death. This is often followed by a second ceremony, around 10-13 days after the death, or sometimes on the anniversary of the death.

How to plan a Buddhist funeral

Buddhist funerals can be held soon after death, but many wait up to seven, 48 or 100 days after death. The body may be embalmed and a cremation is an option. The entire mourning period will usually last around 100 days.

How long can you wait before burying a body?

There is no legal time limit on how long you can wait to bury a body, but most funeral homes will require that the funeral takes place within 30 days. This is because they need to be able to store the body safely and this becomes more difficult over time. If you are planning to have a longer delay, you may need to find alternative arrangements.

If you are planning a cremation, preserving the body isn't required, but those hoping for an open casket will want to plan the funeral as soon as possible. Embalming can help to preserve the body for a time, but there are limitations. If there is no embalming, the body will need to be kept refrigerated, but this will not slow the decomposition rate by much without embalming.