The funeral or memorial service is incredibly important because it's the attendees' last chance to say goodbye and honor their loved one. Each culture and family has different requirements, but the average ceremony might last between 30 and 90 minutes. If you're not sure how to plan a beautiful yet affordable funeral service, it's best to reach out to a memorial park like Sunset Hills.

We will match you up with a funeral director who can guide you through the process and show you all the options. You'll have to make many decisions, including whether to cremate or bury the body, whether to hold a religious or non-religious service, and what should happen during the ceremony. The funeral director can assist you throughout the planning phase and help you put together a meaningful celebration of life.

How Long Should Funeral Services Last?

Every funeral is unique, and the length that works best for one family might not be suitable for another. If you're planning an end-of-life celebration, start by thinking about whether you'd like the service to be religious or not. Then you can consider who the attendees will be and what they will need. They might benefit from hearing a eulogy, readings, or hymns, depending on their culture and beliefs.

It's also important to consider where the funeral will be held. Some people have a graveside service, which might be shorter, especially if weather conditions aren't ideal. A ceremony held in a religious institution or hall is usually longer and involves more readings. Finally, you'll need to think about your budget. Since spaces are rented out by the hour, a longer service might be more expensive.

A Religious Service 

Different religions have different customs, so it's hard to tell exactly how long a funeral should last. Typically, a Christian ceremony takes 40 minutes to an hour or more, depending on whether there is a Requiem Mass or not. The funeral might involve a religious service, music, and a eulogy. Muslim funerals often last 30-60 minutes, and there are readings from the Quran as well as prayer recitals.

Hindu end-of-life celebrations are quite short. They might take 30 minutes or less, but it all depends on who died and what their preferences were. In Judaism, customs vary greatly. Orthodox Jews usually prefer simple ceremonies that only take 15-20 minutes, but other communities might spend more time on remembrances and readings.

A Non-Religious Service 

An increasing number of people are deciding not to hold a religious service. A non-religious celebration of life can easily be tailored to the deceased and their family's unique wishes because there is almost no limit to what can be done. Some families include the deceased's passion or hobby, while others hold the ceremony in a location that was special to their lost loved one.

Normally, a non-religious service takes between 30 and 90 minutes, but it could be shorter or longer. For example, some people go out to a local park or green space and plant trees, which could take a whole morning or afternoon. Other ceremonies include a fireworks display or the scattering of ashes in a meaningful location.

Cremation vs. Burial 

More than 50% of Americans are now cremated instead of buried. Cremation is the more affordable and environmentally friendly option, while a burial is the traditional path, which can be suitable for people who would like a specific kind of religious ceremony.

If the deceased is buried, there might be a graveside ceremony, which can either replace or supplement the traditional service held in a religious institution or another indoor location. However, there isn't necessarily a difference in terms of the length of the funeral, and a ceremony involving a cremated person can take just as long or be just as short as one that involves a traditionally buried loved one.

What Happens During the Funeral Service? 

Your funeral director will help you to plan an affordable funeral service that includes various elements important to you and your family. If you're holding a religious ceremony, you might incorporate readings and hymns that are in some way related to your lost loved one. You'll hire a vicar, priest, or other religious leader to guide you through the funeral.

If you're holding a non-religious ceremony, you can hire a celebrant, who performs a similar function. However, you can also decide not to have any guidance or lead the service yourself. As discussed, a non-religious celebration of life can take any form, and it can be held in a non-traditional location.

Funeral Etiquette

People who haven't attended many funerals before might not know how to act or what to do when they arrive. Although every ceremony is different, the principles of good behavior are the same.

Always remain respectful towards the culture, setting, and other mourners. If you're not sure what to do, observe how everyone else is acting, and copy them. You can also speak to the family beforehand and ask them about what will happen during the ceremony, so you're better prepared.

When Should the Guests Arrive?

Being late to a funeral is seen as extremely disrespectful by many cultures. But should you arrive exactly on time, or should you be early? The answer is that it depends on the kind of service you're attending and the cultural norms in your community, but in general, it's best to arrive 20-30 minutes before the service is due to start.

That way, you have some time to greet the other mourners and settle in, and you don't have to feel rushed. What's more, you'll still be on time even if there are some delays such as traffic jams.

What Should People Wear?

Most religious funerals require formal attire, so men might need to wear a suit or a smart jacket and women might wear a dress, skirt, or pantsuit. Generally, darker colors are preferred, so it's best to stick to black, dark brown, dark blue, or dark gray unless otherwise specified. However, vibrant colors are preferred in some cultures. For example, South African mourners often wear red, and Thai or Brazilian mourners might wear purple.

Families holding a non-religious service often ask attendees to wear something bright because the ceremony is meant as more of a celebration of life than a funeral. Don't hesitate to ask the organizers if you're not sure what to wear.

How to Act During a Funeral 

A funeral is a time for the family to mourn together, and it's important to respect all the customs and traditions, even if they're not your own. Before the celebration starts, turn off all your electronic devices. Don't talk loudly inside religious buildings, and follow all customs, including taking off hats if necessary and not revealing too much skin.

You might need to bring money for charity donations, a sympathy card or small gift, and weather-appropriate clothing. People attending a service that includes religious practices they're not familiar with don't have to take part if they don't feel comfortable doing so. Instead, you can simply listen and pay your respects to the deceased loved one. Take your cues from everyone else when it comes to entering and leaving the building.

Tips for Putting Together an Affordable Funeral Service 

Millions of families are struggling financially due to the current cost of living crisis. But just because money is tight doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a beautiful celebration of life. Together with your funeral director, you can come up with creative ways of keeping your expenses reasonable.

Your director might ask you to consider cremation, since this is more affordable than a burial. They will also speak to you about how the number of people you invite and the location of your service affects the cost. If you're not holding a religious service, you can reduce your expenses by leading the ceremony yourself instead of hiring a celebrant. Additionally, you can choose an affordable transportation method and use pre-recorded music instead of a live musician.

Should I Plan My Funeral Ahead of Time? 

An increasing number of people are planning their own funerals instead of leaving their relatives to it. This is often a good idea because it allows the individual to choose the kind of service they want, and it takes a lot of pressure off the family. Making decisions while mourning can be extremely challenging, so you'll be doing your loved ones a huge favor by taking the tasks related to funeral preparations off their plate.

It's also important to consider the financial implications of this decision. Often, assets are locked away for a while after a person dies, so the loved ones have to pay for funeral expenses out-of-pocket. You can take this burden off your family and prevent financial problems by paying for your funeral ahead of time.

Planning a funeral can be challenging because you have to make sure that the ceremony is long enough to honor your loved one but not so long that the attendees become restless. The best way to design a beautiful and affordable funeral service is to hire a funeral director. Give us a call at Sunset Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary to speak to a professional and start planning your ceremony.