How Long Does Cremation Take?

Most Americans know very little about the cremation process because most people who pass away go the burial route. It’s because burials after death are a part of Western culture, and for religious Americans, it’s a sin if you cremate a body.

If you or a loved one intend to defy these cultural norms after you die and are thinking of getting cremated, you’re probably interested to learn about this process and the length of time it takes. But, unfortunately, the answer is not as straightforward as you may think. 

The duration of cremation itself will be anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. However, it will take more than 5 hours because you have to consider the entire application process, which will require more time from you. Therefore, from the day you apply until the day you receive the ashes of your loved one, you can expect to wait about 1 to 3 weeks. 

The typical waiting time will be more along the lines of 8 to 10 days if they are only slightly busy. 

Most people ask why you have to wait this long if the actual cremation takes only 4 hours, and it’s a typical question to ponder. This guide will walk you through the entire cremation procedure and discuss the factors that influence the time it takes to get your loved one’s ashes back after this process is complete. 

What Factors Affect The Time It Takes To Receive Ashes After Cremation? 

Cremations aren’t common in the West, and most people here have a lot of concerns about the process and can’t comprehend why it takes close to 2 weeks to deliver ashes. 

We want to learn what our loved one’s bodies will go through before and after the cremation. And if it’s a cremation you are planning for yourself when you die, you want to prepare your closest relatives for any situation regarding doing it correctly. 

Whatever your motive is for attempting to understand the proper steps to a successful cremation, studying every detail is a good use of your time. 

Read the sections below to piece together the many factors that affect the time it takes to get ashes back after someone you love is cremated. 

Funeral Homes And Crematoriums

The first decision you have to make with anyone else who is a decision maker is whether to conduct business with the crematorium without a middleman or use a funeral home. 

The average person is busy and prefers to allow the funeral home to do the leg work. Once the hospital delivers the body to the funeral home, they keep it in a freezer to wait for the required documents so they can help you move forward. 

In the parlor, you can buy unique urns, containers, and other options you can choose for storing the ashes of the deceased. At this point, they will also ask you if you want to hold a memorial at the funeral home before the body is sent to the crematorium for an extra cost. 

One disadvantage of using a funeral home as a middleman is that there will be more transportation costs, and you will have to compete with other customers for memorial time slots. This drawback will delay the cremation process by a day or two. 

Death Certificate

Before cremating a body, the crematorium has to process official documents. Of course, the most vital one is the death certificate. 

To receive a death certificate, either the crematorium or the funeral manager must call the general practitioner that cared for the person that died. By law, the GP must answer them within 5 to 7 days and register the certificate with the health department of your state or city. 

In most states, most doctors can upload the death certificate online with them before they can cremate the body. Expect to wait around 2 to 4 days for this to be ready. 

Lastly, the medical examiner must examine the certificate before cremation occurs. This cremation request may take only 2 days to get the green light. 


While waiting on the medical examiner, you can call the crematorium to assist you with getting the authorization you need for the cremation.

The time this takes also hinges on the state you live in because some states take longer than others. The person handling this for the deceased is the spouse or their children. If unmarried, the responsibility goes to the closest living relative. 

When going to the funeral home and crematorium, ensure you have the documents stating you are authorized and responsible for the remains of your loved one, or the process will be delayed further. 

Legal Waiting Times

Once all the paperwork is filed and everything is approved, they will cremate the body. The time this takes depends on the weight of the body, the quality of the casket, and whether you went with the flameless or traditional cremation. It should take 1 to 3 hours if there are no issues. 

The final step is letting the ashes cool for 1 to 2 hours. Then, whatever bone fragments are left can be minced with a tool that resembles a hammer until the ashes are as fine as salt. 

Weekends And Holidays 

Crematoriums and funeral homes are not 24-hour institutions like hospitals. In addition, most of them don’t open on Saturdays and Sundays, so keep this in mind when making a schedule. And you should expect a longer wait if the deceased passes away during a holiday. 

If you pay extra, some crematoriums offer services on the weekend but expect to pay a premium, so this is not recommended. Therefore, when calculating average times, never include weekends, so your estimation is more accurate. 

How Are Cremated Ashes Given To You? 

You get to choose how the ashes are delivered back to you. There are many packages available that come with either an urn or a container. Each one has a different design according to your personal preferences. 

If their inventory is not to your liking, buy one online and take it to the crematorium when the ashes are ready. 

And if you show up with nothing but still don’t want to buy an urn from them, you will get your loved one’s ashes in a sealed plastic bag kept in a cardboard box. 

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