Funerals should be a time of remembering and honoring your deceased loved one. Learning some basic Funeral Etiquette can help you and others get the best experience possible from attending a funeral. Many behaviors and traditions are common knowledge among those who are acquainted with the deceased, but not everyone is well-versed enough to feel comfortable when they walk through the doors of the funeral parlor. Although funeral etiquette isn’t an exact science, and not every rule has to be followed to the letter, there are general behaviors that should be observed when you are planning or attending a funeral.
When You Arrive
Many times, the family of the deceased will have an album or billboard of pictures commemorating the life and times of their loved one. If you arrive early, don’t be afraid to peruse the photos and take some happy memories away from them. You should, however, be seated before the funeral service starts. Have a seat in the chapel at least two rows back, or farther if there are more rows reserved for the family.
What To Wear
Most people think of funerals having a strict “wear black” dress code. This isn’t the case at all. Although you should never wear bright, loud colors unless you are given permission by the family, you can wear conservative colors like grey, brown, black, navy blue, and so on. As long as your outfit isn’t a distraction to others, you should be fine.
Specific funeral etiquette for men’s and women’s dress is as follows:
- Women – Modest dress is a must. A simple grey dress with a black cardigan would be an appropriate outfit. Only wear a hat if it doesn’t block someone else’s view during the chapel or graveside service.
- Men – Suits, dress trousers and dress shirts are standard. Hats may be worn when outside, but not indoors.
Both men and women are allowed to wear military uniforms to a funeral if the occasion calls for it.
Bringing Your Children
If your child knows the person who died or is a family member, it is acceptable to bring them to the funeral. Explain to your child beforehand what has happened and why you are attending, your children will be less likely to interrupt the service with questions. If your child fails to behave in most social situations, or you are worried they may disrupt the service, make other arrangements for the children, such as a babysitter or staying with a friend/family member for the day.
Sympathy cards are a highly appropriate way to express your regrets about the death of family member, friend or loved one. Simple one-sentence notes in a card such as “I’m sorry for your loss” are best if you weren’t close to the deceased, but cards for loved ones or family members can be longer. Happy memories and humorous stories are appropriate to share, as they are remembering a positive experience you had with the deceased. Stay away from any negative or depressing talk in your sympathy card; it will just end up upsetting the person you’re sending it to. See our blog post on writing the perfect sympathy card here.
If you would like to send flowers to the funeral parlor or family of the deceased, there are some general rules to follow for proper funeral etiquette:
- Funeral Flowers – Unless the family has specifically requested donations instead, it’s alright for you to send flower arrangements for the funeral service. Make sure to have the arrangement on a stand that is easily transportable, as they may need to be moved around.
- Flowers For The Family – – Flowers sent directly to the home of the deceased’s family should be smaller arrangements, such as those that can be placed as a table centerpiece or in the entryway. Sending flowers for the funeral service to the family should be avoided at all costs, as it may upset them.
- Casket Flowers– Only those arranging the funeral should purchase casket flowers. If you would like a flower added to the arrangement, you can ask the family for permission to include it.
The type of flower you send can depend on the type of funeral. Different religions and cultures have certain types of flowers that have significant meaning, so make sure you do your research before you purchase an arrangement. You can also read MeadowLawn’s more in-depth blog post on Funeral Flower Etiquette.
The family of the deceased most likely doesn’t feel like cooking, so bringing dishes of food is appropriate. They will appreciate the gesture. Since they’ll be busy planning the funeral and making arrangements, clearly label your dish if you want it returned. It’s also a good idea to ask beforehand if any family member has food allergies or dietary restrictions. Casseroles and side dishes are what most people bring, but you can also bring a favorite food of theirs for some much needed comfort.
What To Say
It can be difficult to come up with the right words for grieving family members in their time of sorrow. However difficult you may find it to speak to the family; you should at least offer brief words of sympathy and condolences. Avoid negative comments or jokes. You don’t have to come up with anything clever. Simply say that you’re sorry for their loss and, if you’re comfortable, offer a listening ear should they need to talk.
Thank you for reading MeadowLawn’s article Helpful Funeral Etiquette Guide.
MeadowLawn Funeral Home, Crematory and Cemetery is located in San Antonio Texas.