Ask An Expert

How long does it take to plan a funeral?

When someone dies, even if that death is expected, there’s much work to be done. Among the first tasks is organising the funeral. But how long does this usually take?

In some cases, where plans are already in place, a funeral can be held within 48 hours of the person’s death. Some religions, including Judaism and Islam, stipulate that the funeral should be held as soon after the death as possible. Catholic funerals usually take place within a week of the death.

On average in the UK, it takes families around 15 days to organise a funeral. And there’s a lot to accomplish in that period.

In some cases, your loved one has made clear to family members their wishes about their funeral or enshrined them in their will. They also may have taken out a funeral plan, paying in advance for the funeral they’ve chosen.

If this isn’t the case, the survivors will have to make a number of important decisions, including whether to have a burial or cremation, which funeral director to use, where to hold the service, and how to host the wake. It can take several days to make these decisions, especially if there are disagreements or you’re waiting to access the will. 

While you can begin planning, you can’t proceed with a burial or cremation until you’ve registered the death and received the death certificate and a certificate for burial or cremation known as the ‘green form.’ In England and Wales, the death must be registered within five days, while in Scotland you have eight days. Deaths are registered at your local registry office. The appointments only take 30 minutes. But you may wait a day or two for a slot, so it's important to contact the registry office promptly.

You may then face delays if your chosen crematorium, cemetery, or place of worship isn't available immediately. Waiting times for cremations can be up to three weeks, depending on the area and the time of year. Public holidays will increase those waits. If you chose to use a celebrant, you’ll also have to accommodate their schedule.

If your loved one has taken out a life insurance policy to help cover their funeral costs, such as an over 50s policy, you may also wait a few days for that money to be paid out.

Additionally, you need to consider family and friends coming from around the country and from overseas to attend the funeral and give them enough time to make travel arrangements.

Related guides

We endeavour to keep our users fully informed when it comes to making a purchasing decision. Please read through our handy guides to find the information you need.