Everyone will likely attend at least one funeral in their lifetime, so it is important to understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable and expected. Here is a guide that outlines funeral protocol and everything you need to know about basic funeral etiquette at funeral events, rites and services.
One of the first things you might consider is if you should attend the funeral. Funerals are usually open events, so anyone is welcome to attend. However, there are some things to consider when deciding if you should attend a funeral.
In most cases, if you have a connection or relationship with the deceased person, you are welcome to attend the funeral. Likewise, if you were not close to the deceased person but close to their family and would like to support them, attending the funeral would also be welcomed.
Uncertainty comes into play in situations where you are unsure of if your presence will be welcomed or not. If you feel that your attendance will cause conflict or make others feel uncomfortable, it is best not to attend. Similarly, if a funeral is a private event and you have not been invited, you should not attend.
Another concern that may arise when deciding to attend a funeral is who you can bring with you. In most cases, adults (e.g., spouse, significant other, friend, etc.) and older children are typically welcome. It is also okay to bring younger people who would like to attend provided they behaved. However, it is a good idea to leave babies and infants at home with a caregiver when possible as they are more likely to be distracting at the event and require your attention. If you cannot find accommodations, young children can attend, but it is essential to be conscious of any disruptions they may cause and do your best to minimize them.
One of the first things to consider when attending a funeral is what you should wear. Your attire can vary depending on the type of funeral. For example, a memorial or wake may be more casual, while a visitation may be more formal. However, it is safe to assume that formal and modest attire is expected unless specified otherwise.
For women, this can include dresses, dress pants, blouses, etc. For men, this can consist of suits, collared shirts, ties, etc. Children should follow a similar dress code, but younger children can be dressed in slightly more informal clothes.
In most cases, black-coloured clothing is viewed as the ideal choice. However, darker colours such as browns, grays, and dark blues are acceptable. It is best to avoid bright colours such as greens, reds, pinks, yellows, etc.
If you are unsure of what to wear, it is good to consult the people planning the funeral. You can learn more about appropriate funeral attire in this article: What to wear to a funeral.
Choosing a few supportive words to say to a grieving family is often one of the more difficult parts of a funeral. In most cases, if there are good intentions behind your words, it will be appreciated. However, below are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
You can learn more about what to wear to a funeral in this article: What to say at a funeral.
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In most cases, bringing a gift to a funeral is not expected or required. However, if you choose to bring something, then flowers, cards, or donations (to the family or charities or causes significant to the deceased person) are usually safe. You can choose to bring gifts to the funeral with you or send them to the funeral home or reception location.
You could also give the grieving family a gift that will help them through the difficult time. For example, you can drop off a homemade meal or pick up some groceries for them. With everything going on, it can be challenging to find the time or energy to cook regular meals, so a gift of service can be very helpful. Additionally, you may also choose to send gifts to the family after the funeral to let them know you are thinking about them.
Before attending a funeral, it is important to understand what type of funeral it will be and what the expectations around that funeral are. For example, a viewing or visitation is often more formal and sombre. Therefore, dressing in casual clothes, bright colours, and behaving upbeat or in an extroverted manner would be disrespectful. However, a lighter approach and attitude may be allowed at a more casual event such as a celebration of life.
If you are asked to say or share something at the funeral, it is best to have a general idea of what you would like to say. Moreover, if you are tasked with writing a eulogy, it is a good idea to have your speech written beforehand.
Finally, funerals are usually never easy, so mentally preparing yourself beforehand is a good idea. Understand that it may be difficult; remind yourself that it is okay to cry. Let yourself feel and experience all your emotions (happy or sad). And prepare yourself to say goodbye.
In some cases, families may opt to have a small reception directly after the funeral, such as a repast. This involves family and friends of the deceased person sharing a meal after the services are complete. A repast, or other receptions, can be an open or private event. If the event is private, those invited will be notified separately. If public, the funeral director, member of the family, priest, etc., will announce this and provide the location at the end of the funeral service or proceedings.
Some funeral events, such as a memorial, celebration of life, or ash scattering, may occur several days, weeks, or months after the funeral. If you want to attend these events, you must set these days aside or arrange time off from work or school. See additional information about what happens at various funeral events in this article.
Apart from attending funeral events, it is important to continue to support the bereaved family. The grief journey does not end after a funeral. It can sometimes be the beginning as death becomes more real and permanent afterward, and your family and friends will continue to need your support. Sending a gift is a great way to let them know you are thinking about them. However, just being there to offer help, talk to or provide a distraction (e.g., going out to dinner) can be beneficial, especially during more difficult times like the holidays and anniversaries.
How you are expected to act at a funeral depends mainly on the type of funeral it is. For example, at a viewing or visitation, you are often expected to keep your conversations and condolences with the family of the deceased person short. However, at a celebration of life you might spend hours talking and reminiscing with friends and family. Similarly, a funeral mass or religious ceremony is usually sombre. In contrast, a celebration of life is typically upbeat and joyous. Therefore, the type of funeral will often dictate how you conduct yourself at the event.
However, there are some general conduct rules applicable to most funerals. These include:
Eirene’s team is available 24/7 to provide guidance and answer your questions.
If you have received support from friends and family after losing a loved one, and you are wondering how to thank everyone for a helping hand, a supportive gift, or for simply attending the funeral, here is how to write funeral thank you notes.
Ask our experts at Eirene Cremations about any funeral etiquette questions you may have or about cremation or aquamation - email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us. We also can help you make arrangements for a loved one or preplan your own.