Quaker Funeral Traditions

Quakers generally believe that the experience of God manifests itself as an Inner Light that lives in every soul. Though there is no unified Quaker theory on the afterlife, many Quakers reject the traditional notions of Heaven and Hell in favor of the idea that a life lived in the service of good deeds is essential to the salvation of humanity.

Cremation

There are no religious criteria for interment, and thus Quakers may be buried or cremated.

To learn about the differences between burial and cremation, see our article How to Choose Burial or Cremation.

Organ donation/donation to medical research

Organs may be donated or the body may be donated to medical research.

The Quaker funeral service

The goal of a Quaker funeral is to thank God for the life that has been lived and to help mourners feel God’s love. A Quaker funeral generally follows the normal Quaker worship, or “Meeting for Worship.” In the case of a Meeting for a funeral, there will be a "Meeting for Worship in Thanksgiving for the Grace of God, as shown in the life of our Friend,” or “Meeting for Worship on the occasion of the death of our Friend.”

The Meeting will usually begin with an explanation of what will happen during the Meeting, since it will be assumed that a number of mourners will not be Quaker and will not know the Quaker customs. Then everyone will sit in silent meditation. If anyone feels moved to speak, he or she may stand up and do so. Worshipers may offer prayers, memories, songs, readings, or any other expression of feeling. Together, as a community, Quakers share their love for the person who died and in doing so provide comfort to those who mourn.

Because the Quaker funeral follows the format of the customary Meeting, a casket or urn with human remains is usually not present.

Viewing, wake, or visitation before a Quaker funeral

As the remains are not present at a Quaker funeral, there is no wake or viewing before the funeral. If the family would like, there may be a visitation.

To learn more about viewings, wakes, and visitations, see our article Viewings, Wakes, and Visitations.

Dress code at a Quaker funeral

Though participants in the Meeting may cry, the Quaker funeral is not a somber affair, but rather a celebration of the life that was lived. In light of this, Quakers do not wear black as a symbol of mourning.

Quaker mourning period and memorial events

There is no prescribed mourning period or memorial events for Quakers.


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