By Last Updated: November 1st, 2021

How Long Does Cremation Take?

An easy-to-follow cremation timeline by Opal Cremation

When dealing with the death of a loved one, it’s important to understand the timeline so families can plan and make arrangements. Most people aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the cremation process, so it’s natural to be uncertain about how long the process will take from start to finish. Here is a simple, straightforward timeline to help you understand what to expect and ease the burden of planning for a funeral or gathering.


Step One: File a Death Certificate

Amount of time: Within eight days of death

California Health and Safety Codes require each death to be registered with the local registrar of births and deaths “in the district in which the death was officially pronounced or the body was found, within eight calendar days after death and prior to any disposition of the human remains.” Funeral homes and crematoriums can keep your loved one in a temperature-controlled room until the death certificate is signed by a doctor and a certified copy is obtained by the home or crematorium. Some hospitals can also provide this service.


Step Two: Authorization

Amount of time: varies

An authorized person must sign a written authorization before cremation can begin. This process can be expedited quickly if there is a directive in place that authorizes one family member to make arrangements. If there is no directive, or if authorization is needed by more than one family member, there could be delays in obtaining the approval. Sometimes family members put off signing the authorization or cannot be located right away.


Step Three: Cremation

Amount of time: One to three hours

The body will be prepared before cremation begins. Medical devices, such as pacemakers and prostheses must be removed to prepare the body for the chamber. The total cremation time varies according to body size and weight.

person signing a cremation / burial document


Step Four: Processing the Cremains

Amount of time: One to two hours

After the cremation, the cremains will be processed and placed in the proper container(s). This process takes about one to two hours.


Step Five: Delivering or Collecting the Cremains

Amount of time: Seven to ten days

Crematoriums may deliver the cremains to you, or you may make arrangements to collect them. This time frame varies, depending on delivery times and business hours of the facility.

The entire cremation process from start to finish takes about ten to fifteen business days. For more information on the cremation process, as well as your rights and requirements, visit The California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery and Funeral Bureau.


At Opal Cremation, we simplify the end-of-life process so you can focus on what matters most.

Opal provides consumers with a straightforward and compassionate direct cremation service with specialized resources to aid during a difficult time, including an option for expedited services. If you need assistance with cremation, please inquire here.

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