Funeral Etiquette

Essential Tips for Funeral Etiquette: What to Say or Do at a Funeral

When a loved one passes away, it is crucial to remember to commemorate their life. When attending a visitation or funeral, you might find yourself uncertain of what you should wear, what to say, or even what to do. Knowing the rules of funeral etiquette can make you feel more at ease throughout the event. We've put together a complete guide to the basics of funeral home etiquette to help you pay your respects with courtesy and consideration.

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While funeral etiquette may seem serious or stressful, keep in mind that your purpose as a funeral guest is to assist and soothe people who are mourning, as well as to participate in the communal sorrow that is going on. As a result, the best advice on how to behave at a funeral or memorial service is to be polite, kind, and generous to others. Remember that a friend's presence, a hug, or a kind remark can go a long way toward making someone feel better.


Wearing a formal attire at a funeral


What should I wear?

Try to find out the dress code before you attend so that you can be sure you'll fit in and look appropriate. If you aren't sure, simply try to dress in a conservative way that shows respect for the family and other mourners. This doesn't necessarily mean you must wear black (in fact, some families specify "no black" for their services), but try to avoid overly bright colors. For men, a suit and a conservative tie is usually a safe bet. Women should generally wear a conservative dress, skirt, or pants with a tasteful blouse.

Is it disrespectful to wear color to a funeral? Funeral services are traditionally held in black. non-black attire, such as dark blue or gray, is often appropriate. To avoid drawing attention away from the individual being honored, stick to muted colors and fabric textures. Red, hot pink, orange, yellow, and other bright hues should be avoided.


When should I arrive at a funeral?

Generally, funeral services are scheduled to begin at a time close to the individual's burial or cremation. If you plan on attending, arrive early enough so that you can be seated before the service begins (usually 30 minutes). Upon arrival, approach the family and express your sympathy with an embrace or by offering your hands. Don't feel that you should avoid talking about the person who has died, in fact, talking can help the grieving process to begin.

Since a funeral is an emotional time and grieving is a natural part of the healing process, don't feel uncomfortable if you or the bereaved begin to cry. If you find yourself becoming extremely upset, it is kinder to excuse yourself to avoid increasing the strain on the family.


What should I say?

Express your sympathy in your own words, however, it feels right to you. Kind words about the loved one who has passed are always appropriate, and a simple "I'm sorry for your loss" or "My thoughts and prayers are with you" can be meaningful and comforting for the bereaved. If you're not sure what to say, avoid generic platitudes like "He/She is in a better place" or "Everything happens for a reason."

What should I not say? Don't ask the cause of death; if the family wants to discuss it, let them bring it up. Avoid giving unsolicited advice, or making comments that might unintentionally diminish the importance of the loss, such as "I've been through this before."


Paying my respects at a funeral


How should I pay my respect?

At a service with an open casket, it's customary to show your respect by viewing the deceased and, if you wish, spending a few moments in silent prayer. The family may escort you to the casket, or you might approach on your own. Viewing the deceased is not mandatory, however, and you should act according to what is comfortable to you. After you've offered your condolences to the family, it's perfectly appropriate to engage in quiet conversation with friends and other associates of the deceased who attend the visitation. Don't feel that you have to stay longer than you feel comfortable; your presence means a lot to the family, no matter how long or short the visit is.

Be sure to add yourself to the register book, using your full name so that the family can identify you in the future. It's also helpful to add information about how you knew the deceased through work, social clubs, school, etc.


Where should I sit?

This can be a difficult question to answer, but in most funeral homes it's usually the first row of pews that are reserved for immediate family members. When considering where to sit at a funeral, it's natural to be nervous: some people worry that sitting too close to the family will indicate too much intimacy, while others worry that sitting too far away will express a sense of detachment or alienate the family. Remember that the most important aspect of seating during a funeral or life celebration is that family members and close friends have a spot in the front row and do not have to argue or bargain for a seat. Those in the front row, on the other hand, should not be surrounded by vacant seats.


Giving flowers as a gift at a funeral


Should I bring flowers or gifts?

Sending flowers, making a donation, or giving a memorial gift are all meaningful gestures to let the bereaved know that they are in your thoughts but it is not required. The simplest of tributes can be of great comfort to the family and can express your sympathy when words just aren't enough.

Sending a gift basket to the family's home is another kind of gift choice. Consider bringing a handmade lunch to the family's house if you're near to them. Suffering a loss is difficult enough, and chances are the deceased's relatives or spouse would appreciate the extra assistance. A thoughtful card is a terrific approach to comfort the family if you aren't close to them but still want to express your sympathies.


Is it okay to use my phone?

This one should go without saying if you choose to bring your phone into the funeral service, take a moment to make sure you've turned it off or put it in silent mode. If you really need to use your phone in the middle of the service, it is acceptable to excuse yourself humbly and take the call outside.

There are still many aspects of what to say or do at a funeral as we only covered the basics of it. If you need more information about funeral etiquette, don't hesitate to get in touch with a reputable Indianapolis, IN funeral home like Daniel F. O'Riley Funeral Home. Call us today at (317) 787-8224