A funeral at the Chapel

Funerals & Memorials

Duke Chapel shares the sorrows and joys of the life of the community by tending to the full spectrum of human need, including the depths of lament.

Available to students, staff, faculty, alumni and their children or grandchildren, as well as members of the Congregation at Duke Chapel. If one of your loved ones has recently passed away, the Chapel stands ready as a venue for memorial services and funerals as well as a place of comfort and communal care.

If you would like to host your loved one’s funeral or memorial service in the Chapel, the following information will guide you through much of the scheduling and planning process.

First Steps

Reservations for all memorial services and funerals are made by emailing us or by calling (919) 681-9488. In your email or voice message, please provide some information about your deceased loved one as well as preferred dates and/or times of day for the service. For example:

“I’m writing to inquire about reserving the Chapel for a memorial service for my father, a Duke graduate and former professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, who passed away last week. Morning or mid-afternoon on a weekday would probably be the best time. Ideally, we’re looking at a date range between October 27 and November 12. Can you please help?”

Once a date and time are settled upon, we will ask the person planning the service to please complete and return the Funeral & Memorial Service Planning Guide as soon as possible. The guide may be completed by the funeral home, minister, academic department, or family. As soon as we receive it, we will begin making all the necessary arrangements for the organist (if desired), parking, set-up, and technical services. By tending to these details, the Chapel strives to make the service-planning process as worry-free and straightforward as possible for the family.

Please note: Because the Chapel hosts a variety of worship, music, and University events during the week as well as weddings and services on Saturdays and Sundays, unfortunately the Chapel cannot guarantee availability for funerals, particularly if the family has a very specific date in mind. Please be assured, however, that we will do everything we can to accommodate all requests.

Frequently Asked Questions


A funeral at the Chapel
A funeral at the Chapel
Who is eligible to have a funeral or memorial service at the Chapel?

Duke Chapel is available for the funerals and memorial services of Duke students and alumni, employees and retirees of Duke University and the Duke University Health System, and members of the Congregation at Duke Chapel. If your loved one does not have a connection to the University or the Congregation but there are extenuating circumstances that you would like us to consider, please do not hesitate to ask.

In what ways is a funeral different from a memorial service?

A funeral service takes place with the casket and the body present at the Chapel. A memorial service, on the other hand, memorializes the deceased person without his or her body present at the service. If your loved one has been cremated and his or her ashes are present in an urn, the service is considered a memorial rather than a funeral.

Funerals tend to be scheduled immediately following the death, whereas memorial services may be held weeks or even months after it depending on the availability of family members and friends or the academic department.

How much does the Chapel charge for a funeral or memorial service?

The main Chapel or the smaller Memorial Chapel (with seating for forty-nine people) are available at no charge for funerals and memorial services.

Other costs, however, include the Technical Services fee (for microphones, podium and lectern set-up, and someone running sound during the service), which is generally in the $100 range. Because the fee may be higher for more complicated services, Duke Technical Services is happy to provide customized price quotes if desired. Note that Technical Services is not needed in the Memorial Chapel. 

If the Chapel Circle—the small parking lot immediately in front of the Chapel quad—is reserved for parking for the family on a weekend, families are typically asked to pay a reservation fee through Parking and Transportation Services. For services scheduled during the workweek, a limited number of spaces are generally available at no charge.

If you would like the Chapel organist to play for the funeral, it is customary to offer an honorarium in exchange for his services. Amounts will vary, but—most generally—the organist’s honorarium is around the $300 mark. The check should be given privately to the organist and thus should be made out directly to him, not to Duke Chapel.

If you would like one of the Chapel’s ministers to preside over the service, many times an honorarium is not expected; however, honoraria in the range of $100 to $200 are often still given as a gesture of appreciation for the minister’s time and care.

How long does our reservation last? When can we arrive to set up?

The Chapel generally allows one hour for set-up, one hour for the service itself, and thirty minutes for clean-up afterward. For a 3:00 p.m. funeral, for example, set-up would take place between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., the service would last until approximately 4:00 p.m., and clean-up (and the receiving line, if applicable) should finish by 4:30 p.m.

In general, if flowers will be delivered, this should be done thirty to sixty minutes before the service is scheduled to start. Ushers, bulletins, and the guest registry (if applicable) should be at the Chapel and in place at least thirty minutes before the service starts.

Our family minister is unable to travel. Can one of the Chapel’s ministers preside over the service instead?

Families are encouraged to invite the ministers of their “home” congregations to preside over their loved ones’ funerals. However, if you do not have a family minister or if your minister is unable to travel, the Chapel’s ministers are occasionally available to preside over funerals and memorial services. While the Chapel cannot guarantee the availability of its ministers, please email us and we will do our best to find a clergyperson to assist you with the service.

Will the Chapel print our bulletins for us?

Unfortunately, the Chapel does not offer design or printing services for bulletins; instead, these are to be provided by the funeral home, family, minister, or academic department. We are happy to send samples of past bulletins if they would be helpful.

You are welcome to use your choice of paper, and there are no restrictions on content or design. If desired, you may use this image of the Chapel as your cover image. Southworth ivory parchment paper (8.5” x 11”, 24-lb. weight) is copier and printer compatible, can be purchased at local office supply stores, and is an excellent choice for funeral bulletins.

We’d like to host a reception following the service. Can we do this in the Chapel?

The Chapel, unfortunately, does not have space available for receptions after services. Some buildings on campus do, however, and there are wonderful off-campus options as well. Please email us for more information.