Catholic funeral and cremation FAQs

Catholic funeral and cremation FAQs

We understand that there can be many questions about Catholic funerals and cremations. To assist your planning for a Catholic funeral we have put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How long is a Catholic funeral?

  • A Catholic funeral Mass usually lasts at least an hour.
  • A Catholic funeral without Mass takes around 40 minutes.
  • A Catholic funeral at the cemetery or crematorium usually takes about 20 minutes.

What time do Catholic funerals start?

  • Catholic funerals can take place at any time.
  • The timing is often restricted by availability of the cemetery or crematorium.

When do Catholic funerals take place?

Catholic funerals may be celebrated on any day except holy days of obligation, Maundy Thursday, the Easter Triduum (that is Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday), Sundays of Advent, Lent and Easter.

Can Catholic funerals take place on a Saturday?


Can Catholic funerals take place on a Sunday?

The Catholic Church allows funerals on Sunday but in practice, these would be rare as cemeteries and crematoriums are not usually available for funerals on Sunday.

What should I wear at a Catholic funeral?

If you aren’t sure, formal attire is best. There is no requirement to wear black.

Should you bring flowers to a Catholic funeral?

If you receive no instructions, check with the family. They may ask only family to bring flowers and ask others to make a donation to a designated charity.

Can children attend funerals?

In most cases, children should be encouraged to go to funerals. Attending funerals helps them to understand that death is a natural part of life.

Can you have a eulogy at a Catholic funeral?

The Catholic Church allows a relative or friend of the person who has died to say some “Words in Remembrance”. Speakers should speak for no more than four or five minutes and think carefully about the content. Some of the stories may be more suitable for the reception after the funeral.

Can you have secular music at a Catholic funeral?

Priests usually suggest that non-religious music is played at the reception after the funeral.

Are poems allowed at a Catholic funeral?

A favourite poem could be included words spoken in memory of the person. Alternatively it could be printed in the funeral service leaflet or read at the reception afterwards.

What should I do if a Catholic friend or relative dies and I cannot attend their funeral?

If you can’t go to the funeral it is a good idea to let the family know in a letter or a card. You may like to have a Mass said for the repose of the soul of the deceased person. You can buy a Mass card at most church bookshops. It is usual to ask a priest to sign the card in return for a donation. You can then send the card to the dead person’s family.

Do you have to be invited to a Catholic funeral?

No, a funeral is a public event so anyone can attend.

Is there always Mass at a Catholic funeral?

No, Mass is optional at a church funeral. A funeral service that takes place at the cemetery or crematorium does not usually include Mass.

Is there always a Reception of the Body on the eve of a Catholic funeral?

No, a Reception of the Body is optional.

Who sits where at a Catholic funeral?

Normally the family sits at the front, friends behind them and work colleagues at the back.

What is a wake?

A wake can mean two different things. In Ireland a wake is a reception that takes place in the home of the deceased person the night before the funeral. The coffin is usually present. In England, Scotland and Wales, the wake is another name for the reception that takes place after the funeral.

Is it a good idea to plan my own funeral?

Yes it is, even if you are fit and well. Most funeral directors will be happy to sit down and talk to you about your options. They can also help you with a pre-paid funeral plan if you would like to pay for your funeral in advance.  Take care, however, as some pre-paid plans only allow for a service at the crematorium.  

The Archdiocese of Westminster has prepared a useful form to help you plan your funeral.

Catholic funeral planning checklist

If you choose to opt for a Catholic funeral we have written a very simple checklist to help you plan ahead.

Other useful links

The Art of Dying Well