what is Funeral Etiquette

Like everything in society, funeral etiquette and what is expected of you has evolved over time.  As always common sense and good discretion is the best guide to proper funeral etiquette.  Here are a few do’s and don’ts of funeral etiquette.

Do the Following at a Funeral:

  • Express your condolences – It’s not easy to come up with the words to offer sympathy to someone who has just lost a loved one.  You don’t need to be a poet, simply saying something like “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.

  • Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt isn’t exactly acceptable either.  You should still dress to impress and avoid any bright or flashy colors.  Wearing what you would wear for a wedding or a job interview would be the most appropriate. 

  • 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.

  • Give a gift – You don’t need to go overboard with your gift, after all 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 them dinner, or offering to clean up their house, 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.

  • 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.

  • Have a discussion with your children - From a young age children are aware of death, and therefore should be given the option to attend a funeral of someone close to them. It is important to inform your children on what to expect while attending the service. Depending on the age of your child, it is often beneficial to bring quiet toys or snacks to maintain their attention. 

  • Be conscious of the amount of food ordered and amount of people attending - If food or drink is served, it is important to consider the portion you take and the amount of people attending. If alcohol is served, be aware of your limit. 

  • Turn your cell phone on silent - A ringing phone will cause a disturbance and take away from the service. Please step outside if you need to make a call or check your messages.

Don't Do the Following at a Funeral:

  • Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process.  Sharing a funny and appropriate story is both acceptable and encouraged, and in some cases is exactly what the deceased would have wanted.