You can delay someone’s funeral by arranging an unattended cremation immediately after their death. Then, once their ashes have been returned to you, you’re free to have the memorial service at a time that’s right for you and your family.
How long after a death is a funeral usually held?
A funeral is usually held between one and three weeks after someone’s death. This normally gives the family enough time to choose a funeral provider and make the necessary arrangements. However, things can take longer if the funeral director has limited availability, or if there’s an inquest into the death.
How long can you delay a funeral?
As soon as someone dies, their body starts to decompose. This puts an element of time pressure on the funeral, and it’s also why most ceremonies take place within three weeks of someone’s death.
So, strictly speaking, you can only really delay a formal funeral ceremony for three or four weeks. However, if you’re happy to have a memorial service with your loved one’s ashes, instead of a traditional service with their body present, you can delay things for months or even years if you need to.
Why a funeral might need to be delayed
There are a number of reasons a funeral may need to be delayed, including:
An inquest into the death if a criminal investigation needs to take place
Difficulty getting family and friends together at short notice
The illness of a very close relative who would otherwise be unable to attend
Another reason you may need to delay a funeral is if the UK enforces a blanket ban on all social gatherings. This has been a concern for many people following the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country.
What's the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?
A funeral is a ceremony that takes place alongside a burial or cremation at a funeral home, church, crematorium or cemetery chapel. This is usually a formal affair that includes a visitation of the person’s body, giving family and friends the chance to pay their respects.
A memorial service is the part that often takes place after a funeral, also known as a wake. This is where family and friends gather to celebrate their loved one’s life. This can be done by sharing stories, making speeches or simply listening to music that reminds you of the person you lost.
Traditionally, the funeral and memorial service take place on the same day. However, there’s no reason it has to be that way.
How to delay a funeral
By thinking of your loved one’s funeral and memorial service as two separate things, you give yourself the freedom to delay things for weeks, months or even years. This can be particularly useful if you’re struggling to get all your family and friends in one place, or if the UK places a ban on public gatherings like funerals.
The most important thing to understand here is that you’re not actually delaying the funeral, you’re simply delaying the memorial service.
Here’s how it works if you’re planning a cremation:
Arrange a direct cremation immediately after your loved one’s death
Your loved one will then collected from their place of death and taken to a crematorium so an unattended cremation can be carried out
Their ashes will be collected and hand-delivered to you in a temporary urn
You can then have a memorial service with your loved one’s ashes present – this can be held whenever and wherever it suits you
If you’re arranging a burial, things can be a little bit more complicated. However, you still have couple of options:
Having an intimate service at your loved one’s grave site after the burial has taken place
Arranging a memorial service at home or at a local venue – this helps to give friends and family closure even if the body isn’t present
Need help delaying a funeral?
How to arrange an unattended cremation