“The idea is not to live forever but to create something that will.” – By Andy Warhol

If this is your first time arranging a funeral, it can be confusing to know how to navigate through all tasks and responsibilities of planning an event in such a short amount of time. We reviewed some of the most commonly asked funeral planning questions from family members.

Here the top 5 questions.

  1. Are funeral expenses tax deductible in the U.S.?
  2. What is the difference between a memorial service, funeral service, wake, and viewing?
  3. When should a service or end of life ceremony be held?
  4. How long should I plan on a funeral service being?
  5. What should I tell loved ones to wear?

Ultimate Funeral Planning Questions As A Family Member

Arranging a Funeral – 5 Answers to Your Top Questions (2019 Edition)

1. Are Funeral Expenses Tax Deductible in The U.S.?

No. According to H&R Block, funeral expenses cannot be claimed on taxes as a deduction. The best thing will always be to check with your tax advisor, especially if you’re having to organize things in another state.

Differences Between Memorial Services, Funerals, Wakes, and Viewings

2. What Is the Difference Between a Memorial Service, Funeral Service, Wake, and Viewing?

No matter what type of event you are planning, remember to give your friends and family enough time to make travel arrangements. Everdays ensures that everybody you choose will learn of the passing quickly, and will have access to the service details and anything else you’d like them to know. Visit our website or download our app, available on both iOS and Android, to learn more.


A wake is a gathering of family and friends to pay their respects to the deceased person. Traditionally, the wake took place in the house of the deceased. Modern wakes, similar to the viewing, are often held at the funeral home. A wake is generally held before the funeral service.


A viewing is a gathering of friends and family at the funeral home with the body of the deceased person present. The viewing gives mourners the opportunity to gather and support one another, and to pay their respects to the deceased. Generally, visitors have the option to arrive at any time during the designated viewing hours, and can stay for as long or as short as they’d like.

Funeral Service

A funeral service is designed to create a space for families and friends to lend support to each other and to say their final goodbyes. Unlike memorial services, wakes, and viewings, a funeral service may involve the burial. A funeral service typically takes place at a funeral home, place of worship, or a combination of both. The timing of the funeral service can vary by culture, ranging anywhere from a day or two to a week after someone has passed away.

Suggested Read: How To Plan A Funeral Reception That Reflects A Life Of Authenticity And Purpose

Memorial Service

At a memorial service, family and friends are invited to memorialize the deceased without the body present. If a cremation has taken place, the memorial service may be held with the cremated remains present. Alternatively, if a burial occurs prior to the service for the deceased, the service that follows is considered a memorial service. It is common for the service to take place shortly after the passing or on the anniversary of the death. Memorial services can take place in traditional settings, such as a church or religious institution, or at a home or memorable location that is sentimental to the family.

Suggested Read: Why We Need End of Life Celebrations

Why We Need End of Life Celebrations

3. When Should a Service or End of Life Ceremony Be Held?

There are many factors that determine when to hold a funeral including religion, local cultural traditions and burial practices, and sometimes even the local climate.

In Catholicism, a two-day wake is traditional with funeral and interment on the third day after death.

In Jewish tradition, it is seen as disrespectful to delay the burial. Thus, funerals are held as quickly after death as possible.

Muslim burial typically takes place within 24 hours or before the next sunset following the death, and after the traditional bathing and enshrouding of the body.

Arranging A Funeral

4. How Long Should I Plan on a Funeral Service Being?

Services typically run from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, however, it depends on the events that will take place during service.

Arranging A Funeral

5. What Should I Tell Loved Ones to Wear?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but there are simple suggestions to ask yourself when determining what friends and family members should wear to the funeral.

  • Where is the funeral service or end of life ceremony going to be held?
  • Did the deceased want a personalized service?

Traditional Services and Formal Attire

If you are not having a personalized service, or the event is held at a more formal location such as a church, friends and family should dress for a traditional service in formal attire. A dark suit, slacks, skirt, or dress is appropriate. For footwear, choose a flat shoe or a lower heel. It is often recommended to wear darker colors, and while muted color tones are generally acceptable, it is best to avoid bright colors and distracting prints.

Personalized Service Attire

If you are going to have a personalized service, the reception – the final celebration – should reflect the beauty and humanity of your loved one’s life and soul. Don’t feel limited by traditional conventions.

The service usually serves as a reflection of the deceased and may be themed around a passion or interest, favorite color, sports team, or an achievement. Dressing in a way that reflects or echoes the chosen theme can be a powerful and fun way to pay tribute to your loved one, and you may wish to ask your friends and family to join in on this if you’ve chosen to have a personalized service.

Suggested Read: How To Plan A Funeral Reception That Reflects A Life Of Authenticity And Purpose

What Else You Want to Know About Funerals?

Leave a comment on our blog and we will answer your questions in our next installment.

Additional Resources:
5 Things To Do Immediately Following A Death
How to Make a Funeral Program

Click here to find even more resources and practical first steps to take in the moments after the loss of a loved one.

Everdays Funeral Planning Guide

We’ve created our free Everdays Funeral Planning Guide as a helpful resource to support you and your loved ones as you go through this difficult time. We hope this can help you make your difficult time more manageable.

Click here to download the Everdays Funeral Planning Guide.

Be sure to download the free Everdays app to help you reach everyone you need.