Common Funeral Questions

Losing a loved one is a devastating experience. But during this loss usually lies layers of questions from families and friends. It’s quite challenging to process grief while still trying to find answers to certain questions. To help you during this period of grief, below is a list of the most common funeral questions with their answers.

Who Should be Invited to a Funeral?

Well, it depends on the deceased’s wishes. If they didn’t have wishes, then people who have been in the deceased’s life should be invited, including those who have played a role in offering the remaining loved one’s support. Besides that, guests who had different relationships with the deceased, e.g., employer or colleagues, should be invited. They also need to come to terms with losing a friend and colleague. So, they need to share collective grief with others.

Note that it’s common to send out funeral invitations in the US, and the details can be published online or in newspapers for those who wish or are allowed to attend. Funerals and cremations are usually reserved to close family members in most cases. Most people are usually invited to memorials, however. Overall, the people who mattered the most when the deceased was still alive should be there.

How Long Does It Take to Arrange a Funeral?

Most funerals in the US take place within seven days or less from death. If you are using the services of a funeral home, then a week is enough time for you to make the necessary arrangements and contact other family members and friends.

Where Do I Get a Death Certificate?

You need to contact the state or county’s vital records office where the death occurred. Note that informal copies of the death certificate are available to anyone who requests them. On the other hand, certified copies with the official stamp can only be given to immediate family members. This includes parents, spouses, children, or siblings since they are required for obtaining the burial or cremation permit.

To get a certified copy of the death certificate, you need to fill out a request form from the vital records office with details such as:

  1. The deceased name
  2. ·The deceased’s parents
  3. Date and city of death
  4. The deceased’s last address
  5. Your relationship with them

Note: in Connecticut, it’s a requirement to provide proof of your relationship with the deceased, e.g., a birth certificate by parents or a marriage certificate by a spouse. In a state such as California, you need to have a sworn statement stating you are a close family member or an executor of the deceased’s estate.

In some states, a medical professional and funeral director can also prepare death certificates. You only need to pay a fee to get the original copies from the vital records office.

We provide a more in-depth look at death certificates in our All You Need to Know About Death Certificates post.

What’s the Cost of a Death certificate in the US?

The cost usually varies from state to state or county to county. You could pay as little as $6 or as high as $25 per piece. The best way to determine the cost is by checking your local county or state charges.

What Is The Difference Between Wake and Funeral

Wake, also known as visitation, is an event that happens before the day of the funeral service. Family and friends usually come to pay their last respects to the dead on this day. This informal gathering precedes the funeral, and it all depends on your religion and traditions.

It is worth noting that some people may opt to host the wake on the same day as the funeral. This means that the deceased must be embalmed and placed in an open casket. In some instances, the casket may remain closed or may not be present at all.

The wake usually lasts for several hours, allowing family, friends, and colleagues to offer their condolences and comfort each other. Guests can leave at any time during the wake since it’s not mandatory to stay until it’s over. Just make sure that you offer your condolences before leaving.

The site of the wake may be filled with a solemn mood with other people crying. This is normal and so don’t stare. Give them the time to grieve with dignity.

A funeral is the official and final disposition of the corpse. It can be a cremation or burial done in the presence of different attendants. During a funeral ceremony, the body of the deceased must be present.

Traditional American funerals are usually basic and mostly involve some religious rituals followed by a procession to the official burial grounds. A small ceremony might be held at the gravesite, depending on the hosts’ culture.

What is a Memorial Service?

It’s a special service that takes without the deceased body. In the US, memorial services are usually held in fraternal halls and churches. Memorials tend to occur just a few days after the official death announcement. However, they can still take place weeks or months later, depending on the deceased’s death circumstances. Note that a family can turn a memorial service into an annual event.

But times have changed, and while memorials used to get held before the funeral, the popularity of cremation has changed the idea of memorial services. Some families may opt to hold a memorial service after the cremation. Alternatively, the cremated remains may be preserved in a decorative urn.

Note that sometimes memorials are held on the same day in the wake or funeral. This is a service to honor the deceased’s life, which is why it can take place at different periods.

What’s the Purpose of the Funeral?

Funerals bring together different people from walks of life to celebrate the deceased. Besides that, they provide the surviving family members, friends, and colleagues a supportive environment while recognizing the impact of the death of the loved one. Funerals are important since they mark the first step towards acceptance and healing. Attending a funeral ritual is, therefore, important for:

  1. Integrating with the bereaved community in sharing a common loss.
  2. Providing and getting social support system,
  3. Reaffirming everyone’s relationship with the deceased and the roles they played
  4. Providing the final opportunity to celebrate the deceased’s life and say goodbye.

Overall, funerals allow survivors to express their feelings of loss about the death of a loved one. The rituals are usually comforting, especially when things seem to fall out of control. The intense grief allows family, friends, and other people to come together and grieve openly while also finding closure since some people might still be in denial or shock.

What is Embalming?

It’s a process of preserving and sanitizing a dead body. Embalming is important since it usually delays the process of decomposition. This is important in allowing more time for viewing and other services before cremation or burial.

Generally, embalming usually helps create a life-like appearance, which is important, especially if the deceased had undergone a traumatic illness or death. Generally, it takes 1-3 hours to complete the whole process. The time depends on the state of the body and if there is severe damage. If there are traumatic injuries, then it might take longer. We take an in-depth look at the embalming process in our Embalming Explained article.

Is Embalming a Requirement?

No, it’s not. However, most states in the US usually insist on embalming depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, i.e., if a contagious disease caused it or there is an unclear timeframe regarding the final disposition.

Embalming is important in preserving the body and giving the deceased’s loved ones enough time to make funeral arrangements, including wake and memorial services. However, if the burial or cremation will be held as soon as possible without wake or visitation, then there is no need.

Must I Wear Black to a Funeral Service?

No. in fact, most funeral ceremonies nowadays don’t have dress codes, and this isn’t limited to black color only. Things are less formal currently, and times are changing, unlike in the past, where the accepted dress code was mostly black. Guests can now dress in vibrant colors depending on the deceased’s wishes or those of family and friends. We did a comprehensive look at how to dress for a funeral.

What is an Obituary, and is it Necessary?

It’s like a funeral service but used to notify the public of the passing on of a loved one. Obituary also relays important information to the public, such as details of the service. Traditionally, obituaries used to be published in newspapers, but they are mostly published online currently. Obituaries are necessary, although not mandatory. Check out our post on how to write an obituary for more information.

What are the Responsibilities of a Funeral Director?

They are also known as undertakers and are responsible for arranging the funeral details, including the logistic process. A funeral director must consider the deceased family’s wishes into account. Note that the family, with the help of the funeral director, helps establish the dates, location, and time of the memorial service, wake, cremation, or burial. Other responsibilities of a funeral director include:

  1. Picking up and transporting the body at any time to the funeral home
  2. Arranging and preparing death certificate
  3. Notifying the proper authorities and relatives of the death
  4. Working with the right insurance agents to ensure that important paperwork is filed for the receipt of any benefits
  5. Providing the insurance agents with certified copies of the death certificate for the processing of insurance benefits

Want to learn more about funeral directors? We took a look at the profession here.

Is Cremation the Substitute for a Funeral?

No. It’s simply an alternative type of entombment or earth burial for the final disposition of the deceased’s body. However, cremation also follows traditional funeral services. Over the last few years, cremation has become quite popular due to the changing views regarding death and burial ceremonies. Cremation has become popular due to the following reasons:

People are Preplanning for the After Life

Many people are now pre-planning how their bodies should be disposed of once they die, and cremation is currently one of the top options. People are keen on saving their loved ones the costly grief that comes with death, and that’s making funeral arrangements ahead of time seems to be one of the best ways out.

A report by National Funeral Directors Association indicates that in 2016, the national cremation rate was at 50.2 %, but that percentage is expected to increase to around 63% by 2025 and almost 79% by 2035.


Cremation is cheaper compared to a burial ceremony. The cremation package is half or a third of the basic burial costs in most cases. The cost-effective solution doesn’t involve:

  1. Caskets
  2. headstones
  3. Gravesite fees
  4. Cemetery fees

We looked at the cost of burials vs. cremations here.


You have a choice to determine when, where, and how your loved one’s remains will be finally laid to rest or interred. While most people usually opt to do contemporary services in funeral homes, the service might also occur at sea, in homes, and other landmarks.

Besides that, cremated remains can be preserved and used to make commemorative items such as tattoos, artwork, and jewelry.

Note: to conserve the environment, it’s important to choose environmentally friendly cremations, i.e., natural cremations or eco-cremations that don’t require the use of harmful chemicals.

For more information about cremations, check out our post on the cremation process.

What is a Hearse?

It is a large vehicle that used to carry the body of the deceased person in a casket to a wake, memorial, or funeral service. If you’d like to learn more, you can read our post on What is a Hearse.

Can You Have a Funeral Pyre in the U.S?

No. the only place where open-air cremations are legal in the US is Crestone, Colorado. They can handle around 12 pyres annually, regardless of your religion. Families are also allowed to participate in the process if they wish. Even so, the funeral pyre in Crestone is only limited to people who were already part of the local community.

Can My Employer Deny Me Time Off for a Funeral?

It depends on your relationship with the deceased. If the person who died wasn’t a dependent, e.g., a friend, you don’t have a legal right to time off to attend the funeral service. However, the federal government still requires contractors and federal employers to provide their employees with bereavement leave. Most Americans are usually given three days for bereavement leave to mourn the death of a close family member. It should also be noted that currently, Oregon is the only state that requires employers to offer employees bereavement leave. You can find more information on Bereavement Leave in our post here.

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Readinform is a Wisconsin based writer for funerals explained. They have come to understand the struggles of death and loss. Through life experience they have gathered the knowledge to help others and answer questions related to the funeral industry. When not writing readyinform focuses on learning new things and exploring the differences society offers.

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