Whether you are coordinating with the funeral director yourself or you are simply attending a funeral, it is good to know what to expect. Funerals like many other services can vary greatly in length and composition depending on a number of variables. Below we will try and outline a typical funeral service so you can get an idea of what to expect and plan accordingly.
The Day Before the Funeral
If there is a viewing, then it will generally take place the day before. This will give friends and family members time to say goodbye and meet with and extend their condolences to the next of kin. The viewing is technically different than a wake (“What is the Difference Between a Wake and a Viewing?“), however, the terms have generally become interchangeable in the United States. Please double-check with the relevant individual if they say there will be a wake to confirm what exactly they mean. If there will be a traditional wake, then it will take place the night before the funeral (a traditional Irish wake would take place all night).
The Day of the Funeral
The funeral service can vary greatly in length depending on several factors such as:
- the number of guests
- the number of readings
- type of funeral
However, most funerals will have the following structure:
- Introduction from a faith leader or officiant.
- Readings by faith leader or officiant, friends, and family. These may be religious texts, poems, readings, or eulogies.
- Hymns or songs sung or played between portions of the ceremony.
- Concluding remarks by the officiant or faith leader.
- If the deceased is present in a casket, then the pallbearers would carry the casket from the ceremony to a hearse.
- Guests would then follow the hearse to the cemetery, where the burial would take place.
If the deceased was cremated or will not be buried, then 5 and 6 may not take place. If the urn is to be interned in a cemetery or grave, then you will likely follow the hearse or car transporting the urn to the cemetery for burial.
After the Funeral
The interment is the placing of the body or remains in its final resting place. This could be the burial of the casket in a cemetery, the placing of an urn in a burial plot, or the scattering of ashes. This may even be a dedication of the ashes into a memorial reef or watching the ashes being launched into orbit. These services tend to be short, between five and twenty minutes. They may include a saying or reading but tend to be much shorter than the funeral service itself.
Some families will have a reception afterward, either at the funeral home or another venue. These can be typical funeral receptions where people can gather and offer condolences and share memories, or they can be a more uplifting celebration of life. Read about celebration of life ideas and inspirations.
A funeral schedule can vary in length and composition, depending on the many factors outlined above. You should be generally flexible with your schedule and time, if you are leaving your children with someone then they should understand that you may not be home at an exact time and that they will need to be flexible. Generally, they will take up the better part of a day between getting ready, travel, the services, and extending condolences.