Pay Your Respects Well: 10 Important Tips for Proper Funeral Etiquette

funeral etiquette

Funerals are an unfortunate part of life. It’s never enjoyable to lose someone near and dear to your heart. 

Believe it or not, many people aren’t familiar with proper funeral etiquette. In fact, some people can become downright rude while those around them are grieving.

Understanding funeral etiquette can make the difference between a pleasant ceremony or a moment everyone would rather forget. Let’s take a look at a few things you should remember the next time you attend a funeral or graveside service.

1. What Time Should You Arrive?

One of the most crucial aspects of etiquette is to be punctual. Especially at funerals. This should go without saying, but some people apparently haven’t received the message.

Be on time. It’s really that simple. Showing up late to a funeral is disrespectful to everyone, especially the family.

A good rule of thumb is to arrive at least minutes early. This allows a few minutes for you to interact with some of the other guests before the service begins. 

And if you do happen to arrive late, be courteous. Don’t walk down the center aisle looking for a seat. Either use the side aisle or try to find a seat in the back to avoid interrupting the service.

2. Leave Your Smartphone in the Car

This is something a lot of people struggle with. Surely you can live without your smartphone for thirty minutes to an hour. Any calls or texts you might be expecting can wait. 

It’s best to leave your phone in the car, but if you feel the need to keep it with you, at least turn it off or silence the ringer. And if you absolutely must take a call, please step outside to do so.

3. Don’t Be a Distraction

We recommend that you not attend a funeral if your presence will be a distraction to the family. Even if you knew the deceased, you might not be welcome and thus will likely make the family uncomfortable.

It’s understood that you’ve come to pay your respects to the dead, but you also need to be respectful of those who’ve suffered the loss.

4. What Should You Wear?

When it comes to how to dress for a funeral, the key is to appear respectful and dignified. Black isn’t usually required, but you should always wear something conservative. Never dress to draw attention to yourself. 

Resist the impulse to wear bright colors or patterns that will distract from the family or the service.

Your appearance doesn’t have to be dour. Simply keep your focus on trying to convey respect and you should be fine.

To see other examples of how people have shown disrespect at funerals, read this blog.

5. Should You Bring Children?

Overall, it’s fine to bring your children to a funeral. But they need to be well-behaved and remain as quiet as possible during the service.

We recommend that you leave babies or toddlers at home. After all, there’s nothing more distracting than a crying baby, especially when people are grieving.

6. Where Should You Sit at a Funeral?

Typically, the first couple of rows are reserved for family. Others in attendance might sit close to the family if they were close to the deceased, but everyone else should sit in the remaining rows behind the family.

Again, if you arrive late, please be respectful enough to either sit in the back or quietly take your seat closer to the front. 

7. What Should You Say to the Family?

We recommend that you keep conversation to a minimum. Especially when speaking to the grieving family. 

Keep it simple. Saying something like “I’m sorry for your loss,” is typically enough to show your respect. 

That being said, everyone is different. For example, there will be occasions when members of the grieving family will want to interact a little more with guests. This is a way to feel loved and to avoid the loneliness and pain of their loss.

The key is to show your support for them without being distracting or overbearing.

8. Bringing a Gift to a Funeral

If you want to bring a gift, flowers are usually best. A beautiful bouquet of sympathy flowers are the ideal way to show respect and will be appreciated by the grieving family.

Either have the flowers delivered to the funeral home beforehand or bring them with you to the service. Many families will request money donations to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers.

You can also consider delivering a meal to the house as a way of helping the family during their time of grief.

9. Signing the Guestbook

The purpose of the guestbook at a funeral is to provide a record of everyone who attended. Signing the guestbook is a personal decision, especially if you aren’t close to the family. If you do sign it, clearly state your name and perhaps add a brief description of your relationship to the deceased.

10. The Graveside Service

Not everyone will opt to attend the graveside service. Sometimes the cemetery is located on the church grounds, though most often there is a procession of cars that follows the hearse to the cemetery in another area of town.

There will typically be a row of chairs reserved for close family at the graveside memorial. Once you’ve arrived, everyone should gather behind the chairs, allowing plenty of room for the remaining family to stand as close to the casket as possible.

This is everyone’s final chance to say goodbye before the remains are interred in the ground.

Showing Respect With Proper Funeral Etiquette 

Death is as much a part of life as birth. Many people find funerals depressing, yet these events can also serve as a celebration of life.

Funeral etiquette is a way of showing respect to the family of the deceased. After all, you are there to show respect for a life that has passed on, just as you would hope respect will be shown to you when your time comes.

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