Funeral arrangements

Funeral arrangements should be made in accordance with the wishes of the departed, if known, and the necessary decisions should be made in view of those wishes. Funeral services can be held in churches, chapels, private chapels, places of worship for religious associations, private homes and in various other meeting places.

Time and place

  • There are many things to attend to with respect to a funeral, whether or not the wishes of the departed are known. According to Christian custom, funerals generally take place five to ten days after death. The principal rule is that a funeral shall always be conducted according to the customs of the religious association to which the departed belonged, or in another manner if the departed was not a member of a religious association.
  • A church ceremony is not mandatory. Funeral services can be held in churches, chapels, private chapels, places of worship for religious associations, private homes and in various other meeting places, all according to the faith, will and wishes of the departed and/or the relatives.
  • A funeral can be held on any day of the week, depending on the religious association the departed belonged to and provided that the administrators and staff operating the cemetery and burial plot permit the arrangement.
  • Generally the relatives contact a religious minister or the head of a religious association directly or, if the departed did not belong to any religious association, they contact a funeral services company (undertakers) and/or a cemetery. Some of the decisions that have to be made are:
  • Where the departed should be laid to rest.
  • The design of the burial casket.
  • Whether it should be a burial service (interment) or a cremation.
  • The date of the wake and of the funeral.
  • Notifications in the media concerning the death and funeral.
  • Who will arrange the funeral and where it will be held.
  • Whether arrangements should be made for an organist and singers, a solo musician or a solo singer to play at the funeral.
  • Whether the funeral should be public or private.
  • Whether a funeral reception should be held and who should make the arrangements.

Funeral parlors (funeral homes)

  • Funeral parlors are operated in various locations in Iceland. Their services are for everyone, whether or not they belong to religious associations. They may be contacted at any time of the day or night.
  • Funeral parlours give advice and arrange all aspects of funeral services in consultation with the relatives. Most of these funeral parlours have websites, and many of them also publish brochures with details of their services.

The coffin/burial casket and the wake

  • The departed are laid to rest in a coffin, and relatives must decide on all the surrounding arrangements in consultation with the undertaker.
  • Funeral parlors can assist the relatives with the choice of coffin and other necessary items. Special rules apply to coffins in the case of a cremation.
  • In rural areas the staff of medical care establishments, in close co-operation with the relatives, arrange for the preparation of the wake.
  • At the wake the closest relatives and the friends bid farewell to the departed. The wake generally takes place in a chapel, a private chapel, a hospital chapel, or in a health-institution chapel.
  • The wake for Christians normally takes place two to six days after death. Religious associations differ on whether or when wakes are held for those who are not members of the state church. This also applies to those who are not members of any religious association.
  • The departed are remembered in a few words spoken by a religious minister, the head of a religious association or a relative. There will be singing, and prayers will be said and music played if requested.

The cost and expenses of a funeral and funeral allowance

  • Funeral costs differ according to the arrangements that are selected. The relatives should carefully examine all costs and expenses involved when preparing a funeral.
  • Funeral parlours, staff in nursing homes and health institutions, and parish ministers can all provide information on the cost of various items.
  • Most funeral parlours have a price list for the services they offer. They will also offer to draw up a cost estimate based on the requests they are presented with regarding the funeral. Further information can be obtained from funeral-parlour websites.
  • According to law, the cost of the services of a minister for the wake and the funeral, as well as the cost of digging the grave, are paid by the cemetery administration.
  • If it is evident that the estate of the deceased will not be able to cover the cost and expenses of the funeral, relatives can apply for a funeral allowance from the municipality where they live, subject to certain conditions. Further information on funeral allowances can be found in rules on financial assistance established by the municipality in question.
  • Many trade unions grant funeral allowances for their deceased members, with certain conditions. Further information can be obtained from the unions.

Laws and regulations