Proper Funeral Etiquette
A funeral is a somber and difficult time for everyone, especially the loved ones of the deceased. It can be difficult to find the right words and act appropriately in such a serious setting, and this can be even more challenging if you have not attended many funerals. Knowing some guidelines before the funeral or memorial service will help you act and speak appropriately during a time of great sadness for the family and friends of the deceased.
You may have seen a funeral scene in a movie where everyone in attendance is wearing black clothes. While this is traditionally the case, you do not have to wear black. However, dark tones are appropriate and conservative dress should always be worn out of respect to the family. Do not wear clothes that call attention to you, like a bright colored shirt, jeans or other casual attire. Dark, muted colors are an appropriate and respectful choice.
Often times, sending flowers to the family of the deceased is appropriate. You can send flowers directly to the funeral home or to the home of the family. Before you do this, however, make sure you read the obituary and funeral announcement. It is not uncommon for families to ask for specific memorial gifts in lieu of flowers. Sometimes, the family asks that you make a donation or send a gift to a particular charity in lieu of flowers. If this is the case, make sure you tell the organization or charity is aware that the gift you are giving is in the name of the deceased person. The organization will let the family know of the donation they received in the name of their loved one. If you are unsure of the family’s wishes, contact the funeral director to find out where to send the gifts, donations or flowers.
Many families choose to have visitation hours (otherwise known as a Wake). This allows family and friends a final time to say goodbye to their loved one. Usually, visitation is held a day or two before the funeral burial service, or right before the burial service. If you attend a visitation at the funeral home, make sure you sign the guestbook and express sympathy for the family’s loss. A simple hug or handshake with the family, along with an expression of sympathy, is appropriate when communicating with the family – especially if you are not in a close personal relationship with them. Making small talk with other attendees is also appropriate, as long as the conversation is kept quiet out of respect for the family.
The funeral service may be of a certain religious faith. If you are not a member of that faith, you can sit quietly and observe. You will not be expected to participate in any religious aspects of the service. You are showing your support and respect for the family simply by attending the service.
After the funeral, the family may hold a reception. Usually, the reception is held for family members and close friends of the deceased. If you are not a member of the family or a close friend, do not attend the reception unless someone extends you an invitation.
Funerals are a difficult time for everyone involved, but knowing how to properly offer support to the family make the experience a little less awkward. Knowing how to act, what to say and how to dress will allow you the opportunity to pay your respects at a funeral service.