How are visiting hours determined?

For decades, if a loved one died, it was customary for a family to host visitation hours the day prior to a funeral service in both the afternoon, and evening.  As families encounter challenges in the way time is committed, customizing visiting hours to best serve family needs has become a necessity.

I believe that the best served family is one that has adequate time to interact with guests without exhausting the bereaved family.

That said, I offer the following from experience:

Calling hours 2-4 and 7-9 – are historically popular visitation periods, but today has limited effectiveness. Many older adults avoid driving after dark, and an afternoon visitation is ideal only on Sundays when many guests are not working. My experience with evening hours beginning at 7PM is that guests for evening visitation arrive almost immediately at the beginning of the allotted time. Attendance at visitation periods from 8 to 9 PM is almost non-existent - except for when a large line has formed.

Visiting hours in the evening only (6-8) are impractical in winter months because sunset occurs just after 5PM. An evening only visitation is more ideal in the summer months between 5PM and 7PM – hours that allow guests the option to come directly from work, or attend visitation later in the evening.

One drawback to a two hour visitation is the limited number of guests that can be accommodated. Larger families are better served with extended visitation periods.

Most families we serve between November and April (during darker winter months) prefer to host visiting hours between 4PM and 7PM. This extended time period accommodates both older adults who prefer to come and go before dark, and those who work in the afternoon, and can only attend after business hours.

The establishment of visiting hours must be balanced carefully. The comfort and needs of a family is of paramount importance, while experience in hosting visitations tells us that families and guests can be served well in tandem. In no instance do I recommend hosting more than three hours of visitation in one timeframe.

The most ideal setting for visitation hours for larger families, or when an unusually large attendance is anticipated is for establishing both afternoon and evening visiting hours. I recommend 2 – 4 and again from 6 – 8 in the evening – with the understanding that we don't just lock the doors and start the vacuum at 8PM – we remain on duty and at the service of a family and guests until everyone has enjoyed ample time to be together.

With the convenience of onsite family and reception center, many families take advantage of the facilities between calling hours to enjoy a meal and relax in a comfortable environment.

Hosting a family meal between visitations also lessons the burden on families as well – eliminating the rush home, a quick meal, with clean up and then a hurried trip back to the funeral home.

Most families take advantage of this time to use the food gifts they have received from friends and neighbors, while some order take-out from a favorite food. Catering is also available for families if they choose.

The additional benefit to this family time between visitation periods is the rare opportunity for fellowship that only occurs at weddings and funerals – when we get to see cousins renewing relationships and older siblings re-telling tales of yesterday.

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