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Jehovah's Witness Funeral Traditions, Customs, and Beliefs

A Jehovah’s Witness funeral is very similar to a Christian funeral in terms of customs and practices. The main difference between the two services is that a Jehovah’s Witness funeral lasts only about 15-30 minutes, which leaves little room for extended readings, songs, or prayers. One of the main concepts of a Jehovah’s Witness funeral is to keep the funeral as simple and straightforward as possible since they value modesty. Funerals are not opportunities to show off wealth or extravagance in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, so purchasing large and loud flower arrangements or lavish and expensive caskets are frowned upon.

Services overview

The funeral can take place at any location such as a funeral home, the family’s home, graveside, or in the Kingdom Hall. The service will be led by the Congregation Elder, who will lead those attending in a small speech regarding the deceased. A prayer, a song, and a reading can be done, but these will generally be shorter to respect the brief nature of the funeral.

Once the talk given by the Congregation Elder and the other readings are finished, the body is buried or the urn taken away. Overall, Jehovah’s Witness funerals are brief affairs that focus on simplicity and modesty.

Common questions regarding Jehovah’s Witness funeral traditions

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about death?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that death is permanent and that with the death of the body, comes the death of the soul. (This is in contrast to Christian beliefs where the body might die, but the soul remains intact.) They do not believe in an immortal body or an immortal spirit and believe that death is the end of all things.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in resurrection of the soul, however. A select few (144,000) of Christ’s most faithful followers will be chosen to rule alongside him, after Earth is destroyed. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Hell but do believe in Heaven.

How long after death is a Jehovah’s Witness funeral?

A Jehovah’s Witness funeral should generally take place within a week of death.

Is a Jehovah’s Witness funeral open casket?

A Jehovah’s Witness funeral can be open or closed casket, this depends on the preferences of the family or of the individual. There are no rules in favor or against open or closed casket funerals for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Can Jehovah’s Witnesses be cremated?

There are no prohibitions against cremation for Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially since they believe in the resurrection of the spirit. The body is not required for resurrection and is not necessary for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven; cremation is an acceptable form of disposition for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Can Jehovah’s Witnesses be embalmed?

Embalming is the process of preserving a body and temporarily delaying the natural decaying process so that the body can be viewed by mourners. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be embalmed, which is often required (not by law) or highly suggested for an open casket funeral to occur.

How long does a Jehovah’s Witness funeral last?

A Jehovah’s Witness funeral is a brief and condensed affair, usually lasting only 15-30 minutes. Jehovah’s Witnesses focus on simplicity and modesty in their funerals, and do not believe that the dead are conscious. In deference to the Bible’s teaching, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not partake in wakes, anniversaries of death, or anything lavish when related to a funeral.

Are there flowers at a Jehovah’s Witness funeral?

Flowers are acceptable at a Jehovah’s Witness funeral, as long as they are simple and modest arrangements. Large and extravagant arrangements should not be sent to a Jehovah’s Witness funeral, nor should anything that could come across as Pagan.

What is the dress code for a Jehovah’s Witness funeral?

The dress code for a Jehovah’s Witness funeral is generally conservative and dark. Men should wear dark suits or a jacket and tie, women should wear something modest.

Can anyone attend a Jehovah’s Witness funeral?

It is not required that you are a Jehovah’s Witness in order to attend a Jehovah’s Witness funeral. Anyone can attend and are welcome, their beliefs do not factor into it. If you feel nervous about attending a Jehovah's Witness funeral while not being of that religion, it may be worth reaching out to the religious leader or speaking with friends or those knowledgeable about the faith to put your mind at ease. Additionally, learning about what to expect (by reading content such as this article!) can help you feel more prepared.

If you’ve been tasked with planning a Jehovah’s Witness funeral and are looking for a quick way to invite friends and family, you can easily send out funeral announcements with an Ever Loved memorial website. Memorial websites allow visitors to leave their memories and condolences, RSVP to events, contribute to a fundraiser, and much more.

Send funeral announcements

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Last updated September 16, 2021
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Sarah Thomas "@Debbie Balli - Thanks for taking the time to comment on our article and for letting us know. We've updated the article to reflect this information."
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debbie balli "Good day, I hope this finds you well. Some of your information about Jehovah's Witnesses and death is incorrect. We do believe in a physical resurrection and this will take place after Armaggeddon, the destruction of wicked mankind, not the physical earth. Then man will live forever upon a restored earth---John 5:28, Psalm 37:10,11, 29. Check out JW.org, a nice website for people other than Jehovah's Witnesses. We do offer condolances to non-Jehovah's Witness as this is the opportunity to share the teachings of the Christ and God's Kingdom in which he based his whole teaching upon. Thus the Lord's Prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 .
Thank you for your time. Debbie Balli Georgia, USA"
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Lori Hutchens "I want to know how a Jehovah's witness Elder can perform a funeral for a. Person who has been disassociated, and nor offer condolences too family members who are not Jehovah's a witnesses. This doesn't seem Christ like to me."
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Janet Gillespie "Revelation 7 describes two groups of people. The 144,000 who will rule as Kings and Priests from heaven with Jesus being King of Kings and Lord of Lords. These are spirit as you correctly said. However the second group, a great crowd which no man can number, will be given a physical resurrection on the earth. This is also supported by the Lord's prayer at Matthew 6 : 10 Let your Kingdom come on earth as in heaven. Also Psalm 37 says that the meek will inherit the earth and they will find their exquisite delight the abundance of peace. This is a comfort to me. I hope it will be a comfort to other bereaved and also your employees. Kind regards, Janet Gillespie more information o jw. org"
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Janet Gillespie "I am baptised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thank you for your considerate comments, which are mainly correct."