Like everything in society, funeral etiquette has evolved over time. While common sense is your best guide, here are a few do's and don'ts of funeral etiquette.
If you are in doubt about something concerning these topics, please feel free to contact us.
- Express your condolences – It’s not easy to come up with the right words for someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet. Simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family”, is enough. If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
- Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt aren't acceptable either. You should still dress to impress. Try to avoid any bright or flashy colors unless the family requests attendees to wear a favorite color of the deceased. Wear what you would wear to a wedding or a job interview. When asked to be a pallbearer, men are encouraged to wear a jacket and tie along with dress shoes and women are encouraged to wear a suit or dress.
- Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased. Feel free to leave a message.
- Give a gift – You don’t need to go overboard with your gift - it is the thought that counts. Suitable gifts at the time of a death include: flowers, a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or helping with household tasks during the days leading up to a funeral service. These tasks can include caring for children or pets, a gift of food, running errands or preparing their home for visitors while they are at the visitation or service. You can also make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking dinner for them, offering to clean up their house, or any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family mourns the death. Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.
- Keep in Touch – You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a button. The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support.
- Bring your cell phone – Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance. Turn any ringers or notifications off. Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car. A funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages. If you must return a message or receive a call, exit the service quietly.
- Allow your children to be a distraction – From a very young age, children are aware of death, and if the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparent, aunt, uncle), they should be given the option of attending. If it is not appropriate for your child to be there, or if you feel they will cause a commotion, it might be best to find appropriate care for them for the day.
- Hold up the line - When attending a visitation where there is a line of people waiting to visit the family please do your best to keep the line moving. While greeting the family, please limit conversations at a later time so the family will be allowed to greet other guests.
- Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process. Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases, it's exactly what the deceased would have wanted.
- Be late for the service - When attending a funeral service please arrive on time. If you are late, please enter the service quietly and immediately find a seat. Please keep in mind that the first few rows or pews are always reserved for the family. Friends should always sit in the middle or towards the rear.