funeral etiquette

Celebrating the life of a loved one during a funeral or memorial service is a meaningful experience and knowing the proper behavior can help you feel more at ease during the event. While every service is different, here are some general etiquette guidelines to keep in mind while you are attending a service.


WHAT TO WEAR
How you dress depends on the type of service you are attending, and sometimes the host will request a certain dress code (i.e. cheerful clothing.) While you don’t need to wear all black, you should be aware of your clothing and avoid loud patterns or bright colors. Generally, tasteful and subtle clothing in shades of blue, gray, or neutrals will be acceptable for any type of service.
WHERE TO SIT
Usually the first two rows of seats are reserved for the family or very close friends of the decedent. Unless otherwise indicated, seating should be available in any remaining rows. In the event that you arrive after the service has begun, please enter quietly and select a seat in the back of the venue to reduce disruption or distraction.
RELIGIOUS & ETHNIC CUSTOMS
Traditions and customs differ among various communities, ethnic groups, and religions and it's often helpful to ask beforehand about any special considerations you need to take into account. We can answer many of your questions, and can also point you toward resources that offer specific and detailed guides.
EMOTIONS
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 begins to cry. However, if you find yourself becoming extremely upset, it is kinder to excuse yourself to avoid increasing the strain on the family.
GREETING THE FAMILY
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.
WHAT TO SAY
Knowing the right thing to say can be difficult, but remember you can always keep things simple. A sincere “I’m so sorry for your loss” can go a long way to comforting a grieving family and reminding them you are thinking about them. You should also take the time to leave a quick note or memory in the register book, or write a message on a virtual memorial page for the family to cherish for years to come.
WHAT NOT TO 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 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.
HOW TO ACT
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.
SIGNING THE REGISTER
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.
FLOWERS AND 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. The simplest of tributes can be of great comfort to the family and can express your sympathy when words just aren't enough.
BE AWARE OF TECHNOLOGY
Please remember to silence your cell phone or turn it off completely. You may even consider leaving your phone in your car to avoid causing a distraction to other attendees. Refrain from posting anything regarding the service on social media unless you get permission from the family as they may wish to keep the experience private. Webcast and video services are incredibly common these days, so please also be aware of any cameras or recording equipment that may be present. Limit your conversations if you are within earshot of the camera.