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Funeral Etiquette: 12 Tips for Attending a Funeral

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A funeral is a sad time for everyone involved — the death of a loved one can be devastating. If you’re attending a funeral, make the experience easy and comfortable for the bereaved. Here are some tips on how to conduct yourself:

Know the Details

The first and most important thing to remember is that a funeral is the final rite of passage for a person, so you should treat it with respect and dignity. If you don’t know how to conduct yourself during funerals (maybe because of cultural or religious differences), ask for help before you even attend one. Know who is hosting the funeral and ask them a few questions so you can plan accordingly. This way, you can avoid any awkward situations during visitation.

 

Alternatively, you can research the deceased’s culture to know what to do during the funeral. Also, be sure to arrive early enough for seating at church/mosque/synagogue services so that you have enough time for familiarizing with the hosts.

Think Before Sending Flowers

Funeral flowers are a nice gesture, but choosing the right color is important before sending some. If you choose to send flowers, be sure to consider cultural and religious practices, or check with the family first. Some cultures or families have specific preferences and may want exactly certain types of funeral flowers instead of random varieties.

 

If you decide on flowers as part of your gift, make sure they’re safe for all senses: fragrant yet nontoxic. Carnations, daisies, and lilies are the best funeral flowers for many cultures. Check with local florists or community gardens before purchasing any blooms; some people may have allergies or sensitivities that could cause discomfort. You can also buy artificial flowers — these are made of non-allergenic materials like paper stems.

Dress Appropriately

The funeral will be held in a church or temple, so it’s important to dress according to the occasion. You won’t go wrong with dark colors, but if you’re not sure what clothes you should wear, ask your friend who is attending or someone from the host’s culture what they think is appropriate for that day.

 

Don’t wear casual or summer clothes — the funeral is not the time to show off your killer style. Wear something respectful and appropriate for the occasion, such as a conservative blouse or a neutral color attire (e.g., white or black). Don’t wear revealing clothing either; show some respect to the bereaved.

Know What to Bring to the Funeral

Bring a card or flowers. The family will appreciate any gesture, whether it’s a simple note or one of those brightly colored cards that says “anonymous” on the front. You can also bring an envelope with some money. Unless it’s necessary or you’ve been asked to, don’t bring food or drinks to the funeral. 

Be on Time

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Arriving early is the simplest way to show the hosts that you’re committed to sharing grief with them. It will also help you get parking/seating space and get ample time to familiarize yourself with the hosts. Finally, arriving early means you won’t miss some rituals.

Take Part in the Service

You should check out the order of the service. In most cases, this is a guide to what will happen during the funeral service and includes information about who does what and when. If the organizers have assigned you to read Psalms during the funeral, be sure to know how long your participation will be so you can prepare yourself accordingly.

Respect the Family’s Privacy

The last thing you want to do at a funeral is take photos and selfies, so don’t; otherwise, the family may feel bad seeing their photos circulating online. If you must use your phone during the occasion, ensure the camera is off before entering any room where mourners or other people are gathered. If you still need some access to your gadgets for work, inform the hosts in advance.

Don’t ask for autographs from celebrity attendees to avoid being disrespectful to the deceased’s family.

Sign the Guest Book

It is a nice gesture to sign the guest book. Write about your feelings about the deceased, but don’t write anything negative or disrespectful. You can use a few words to express your condolences, such as “He was a great man,” or “She was always kind.” Sign with your full name and relationship (if applicable).

Cry to Let Out Emotions

Crying is a normal and healthy way to release your emotions. If you find yourself overwhelmed with emotions, ‌express that by crying. Remember, you don’t need permission from anyone to cry at funerals—you should allow yourself to do so!

Donate

If you can, consider donating in honor of the deceased. This is a great way to show your respect for them and their memory. You could donate money or goods like food or clothing that they would have liked if they were alive. You can also make an honorary donation by giving money to charities.

Don’t Chew Gum

People frown upon chewing gum at funerals. They consider it disrespectful to the deceased and may distract you or others from paying attention to what’s happening during the service. Also, don’t smoke cigars during the service as it can make people feel uncomfortable.

Notify the Family If You Cannot Attend the Funeral

Courtesy is notifying the bereaved family if you cannot attend the funeral service for any reason. In that case, it is still important to show your respect by sending a card or flowers. You can also consider attending an alternate event (like an anniversary) where family and friends come together to pay their respects to the deceased.

Conclusion

The funeral service is an opportunity to express the love and respect you have for someone who has passed away. Whether you are a guest at a funeral or you’re just gatecrashing the service, your behavior should reflect kindness and respect for those mourning the loss of a loved one. You will help them through this difficult time by showing compassion and understanding that they need more than even sympathy flowers.

 

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