Funeral Etiquette: What You Need to Know
As directors of funeral homes in Ridgeway, SC, we frequently get asked questions about funeral etiquette. Everything from what to wear to is it ever okay to skip a funeral, we have heard it all. Like everything in society, funeral etiquette has evolved over time. While common sense is your best guide when attending a funeral or cremation service, here are a few dos and don'ts of funeral etiquette.
Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt aren't acceptable either. You should still dress to impress. Try to avoid any bright or flashy colors. Wear what you would wear to a wedding or a job interview.
However, some families tend to customize the funeral dress code to reflect the deceased's personality. For example, if the funeral is for a child, the funeral might be more casual. If the funeral is for a military service member, you might be expected to wear your military uniform.
Do be on time
It is always best practice to arrive 10 minutes early to an event whether it's christening or wedding and the funeral is no exception. Funerals usually start on time and it would be disrespectful to the family of the deceased if you arrive late. If you are running late, call the funeral home and let them know.
Doors will usually close when the funeral service begins so that everyone can focus on the ceremony. If you do happen to arrive after the funeral has started, wait outside until the casket is brought out then quietly slip into the back row.
Who should attend the funeral?
If you were close to the deceased and/or their family, it is typically appropriate for you to attend the funeral service. However, if your presence will detract from the service or cause a distraction in any way, it is better if you do not attend. Remember that the service is about the deceased and their family and not you.
Is it ever okay to not attend the funeral?
While it is always good form to try and attend the funeral, there may be certain circumstances that cause you to have to skip the service. This could be for several reasons including not being able to take off work, not able to travel, or you simply live too far away. Also, if your presence would upset the family in any way it is best to skip the service.
Do express your condolences
It’s not easy to come up with the right words for someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet. Simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family”, is enough. If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
The finest piece of advice we can give is to keep it short and honest. The family will most likely be chatting with a variety of people during the day, so they won't be able to devote much time to you. There are no hard and fast rules for what you should and shouldn't say.
When do I talk with the family?
One reason people attend funeral services is to be able to offer their condolences to the grieving family. While you may be tempted to do this before the services begin, try and wait until after the service has ended as this is a more appropriate time.
Do sign the register book
The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased. Although you may feel inclined to write a note of condolence, this is not the place to do so.
Do bring a gift
You don’t need to go overboard with your gift - it is the thought that counts. Suitable gifts include: flowers; a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking dinner for them, offering to clean up their house, or doing any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with death. Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.
Do Keep your phone silent or turn it off
This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget. Not only is it incredibly rude to have your phone go off during a funeral service, but it can also be disruptive and distracting for other mourners.
If you must keep your phone on for some reason, make sure it is on silent and keep it out of sight. If you get a call, step out of the funeral home or chapel to take it.
Do show your emotions
Contrary to popular belief, funerals are not about being stoic and holding in your emotions. It is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to cry during a funeral. In fact, it can be therapeutic for both you and the other mourners. So don’t be afraid to let your emotions out. It will make the funeral experience much more meaningful for everyone involved.
Do Keep in touch
You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse. The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support. So don’t forget to check in every once in a while.
Don't just sit anywhere
The first few rows of the church or venue are traditionally allocated for family members or close friends. If you're neither of these, take a seat in the middle or rear of the room. Stay there (and quiet) throughout the entirety of the ceremony once you've been seated. If you start coughing or weeping, go to the bathroom or wait in the lobby until it stops.
Don't allow your kids to be a distraction
From a very young age, children are aware of death, and if the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparent, aunt, uncle), they should be given the option of attending a burial service. If it is not appropriate for your child to be there, or if you feel they will cause a commotion, it might be best to find appropriate care for them for the day.
Don't post the funeral in social media
Unless you're a close family member, it's unacceptable to tweet, Instagram, or Snapchat a funeral. When it comes to photos, you shouldn't take them during the ceremony, but it's fine if you're away from the mourners and want to pose for a group shot with friends or family you wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Don't be intimidated by religion
If you don't practice the same religion as the deceased or their family, don't let that intimidate you from attending. You don't have to participate in any rituals that make you uncomfortable, but funeral homes and churches are generally happy to have respectful guests, regardless of their beliefs.
If food or drink is served, don't overdo it. Remember that you won't be the only attendee. If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two drinks.
We are here to help you
Please contact Powers Funeral Home by calling (803) 408-8711 if you have any queries about funeral etiquette or how to behave at a funeral service. A team member would be delighted to help you and answer any questions you might have.