Proper etiquette for funerals is something that you may not know about if you have not been to many funerals. When going to a funeral, it’s important to remember that you are there to show your respect to the family of the person who has passed away. Funerals are always tough, but understanding proper funeral etiquette will make sure that you are ready and can feel more comfortable at a hard time. 

What to take to a funeral

Whether the funeral is large or small, it’s useful to know the things you should take with you to help you avoid feeling uncomfortable. It’s a good idea to take with you:

  • Tissues
  • Flowers
  • Charity donation
  • A story or memory that you can share about the deceased
  • Sympathy card
  • Sunglasses or umbrella

Etiquette for funerals includes that if the family has arranged a wake for after the service, whether themselves or through independent funeral directors, then you could ask the family if there will be catering. If there isn’t, you could offer to make a dish to bring. 

What to wear to a funeral

Black is the colour that is traditionally worn to a funeral, due to its sombre colour. Some people prefer to ask mourners to wear bright clothing to treat the funeral as a celebration of life. Make sure you ask the family who is organizing the funeral to check. 

Men should usually wear a dark-coloured suit with a collared shirt, black tie, and smart shoes. Women should wear a dress or suit in a dark colour, with smart shoes and a jacket. 

Guests are usually expected to dress formally or at least respectfully. Avoid casual clothing, like jeans, hoodies and trainers. Remember to dress for the weather, as churches and cemeteries can be very cold places. 

funeral etiquette

Who can attend a funeral?

A funeral service is usually open to anyone unless the family has said that the ceremony is private. The funeral service will usually be an opportunity for loved ones, friends, and others who knew the deceased to say goodbye. If the details of the funeral have been shared publicly, you could also take guidance from these. Funerals during covid-19 however, may require smaller gatherings. 

What to say at a funeral

Nobody really knows what to say at a funeral, but even if you find it uncomfortable to speak to the family of the deceased, it’s appropriate to say something to express your sympathy for their loss. 

You don’t need to say much, as all you really need to do is offer a few sympathetic and kind words, or share a fond memory of the person if you prefer. You should be careful not to say anything negative or make light of the death. 

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There are a few expressions you can fall back on that are appropriate and which are etiquette for funerals, if you’re struggling for something to say:

  • I’m sorry for your loss
  • They were a wonderful person and will be really missed
  • You and my family are in my thoughts and/or prayers
  • I’m here if you need anything

What Not to Do at a Funeral Service

  • Forget to silence your cell phone – Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance, so turn any ringers or notifications off.  Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car, a funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages.
  • Allow your children 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 to attend.  However if it is not appropriate for your child to be there, and if you feel they will not be able to sit still and quiet, leave them with a relative or a sitter. Be sure to talk to children about tragedy and loss.
  • Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process.  Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some calosses exactly what the deceased would have wanted. Remembering something positive that the family was not even aware of, brings comfort.
  • If food or drink is served, do not over do it – Have a bite to eat before you go to the service, you do not want to be that guy parked at the snack table.  If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two, do not become inebriated and risk doing something inappropriate.

A funeral is difficult for everyone involved, so it’s natural to feel strange and uncomfortable. As long as you behave in an appropriate way, you’ll be alright. 

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