Etiquette for Funerals

Attending a funeral is something most of us have to do at least once in our lives.

You may likely need to attend the funeral of a family member, close friend, or a member of your community someday. When you’re invited to a funeral for the first time, it’s very normal to be nervous when you aren’t quite familiar with the etiquette.

Funerals are very somber affairs and there may be certain rules that you’ll need to follow with respect to the deceased and their family. Now let’s take a look at common etiquette for funerals that you need to follow.

Etiquette for funeral attendance

The first question about etiquette for funerals that may enter your thoughts might be whether you should attend the funeral or not. The truth is, this decision depends on your choice, your circumstances, and those of the deceased and their family. However, it goes without saying that if you were close to the deceased in terms of friendship or family bonds, you should make it a point to be present for the funeral.

That being said, there are a few circumstances where you may not want to attend the funeral:

  • If you aren’t on good terms with the deceased’s family members, your presence at the funeral could cause a stir. In circumstances like this, it would be best to not attend the funeral. However, out of respect for the deceased, you should at least try to ask the family permission to attend.
  • Being sick is another reason to not attend a funeral. If you’re contagious, it would be better to inform the family of the deceased and let them know about your situation. If you still decide to go to the funeral despite being sick, make sure to wear a mask, try not to cough or sneeze too much during the funeral services, and try to keep yourself isolated from the rest of the attendees.
  • Traveling can also prove to be a challenge to your attendance. If you live very far from where the funeral is going to be held, for example, if you’re living abroad, traveling can be very expensive. If traveling to the funeral is too difficult due to your circumstances, there is no shame in not attending. Make sure to let the family know that you’re unable to travel.

If you do plan on attending the funeral, make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the service begins. After arriving at the funeral, you should see the entire service through to the end, unless you need to leave early due to prior commitments.

Etiquette for funeral clothing and attire

Funeral attire represents the respect you show to the deceased and their family. In most cases, black or neutral colors such as gray, dark blue, or brown, should be worn at funerals.

However, you should be mindful of the family’s religious and cultural beliefs regarding color and dress code. For instance, a lot of cultures look down on black, red, and purple as colors worn at funerals.

You should also make sure that you don’t wear anything too casual, or flashy, or show too much skin, as it may be seen as offensive or undignified. Instead, wear something classy and conservative, like a suit or a dress. You can also wear a skirt or a blouse but avoid shorts.

Make sure to ask the family about the dress code if you’re not sure.

Etiquette for offering condolences

When going to the funeral, one of the most difficult things to do is deciding what to say and how to behave as a family is grieving. You may feel uneasy, embarrassed, or afraid of conveying your sympathy and support. While there’s no perfect formula for offering condolences, here are some tips that can help you communicate effectively and respectfully:

1. Be sincere and genuine

Avoid the use of clichés, sentimentalized expressions, or comparisons like “I know how you feel” or “They’re in a better place now”. Instead, say something very simple and heartfelt like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “You’re in my thoughts and prayers”

2. Be empathetic and compassionate

Listen actively with utmost respect towards the family and acknowledge their emotions and feelings. Don’t exacerbate their emotions by trying to minimize, rationalize, or judge them, or by giving them unsolicited advice. Do not stay away from the family during the funeral; speak to them and do what you can to comfort them—it can mean a lot to them

3. Be helpful and supportive

Try to help the family of the deceased with the funeral service. Offer to help them with the food, guide guests, or look after kids at the service

If you’re unable to attend the funeral, you can send the grieving family flowers or a carefully written card. Even a simple phone call can mean a lot to a person in mourning.

Etiquette for behavior and mood

A funeral is a solemn event; however, it can also be a remembrance of the life and a comfort to the bereaved. According to the kind of funeral, you may be affected by various emotions such as sadness and pain or joy and thankfulness. Here’s how you can keep your feelings in check:

1. Be quiet and attentive

Shut your phone off or switch it to the vibrate mode, and remain quiet throughout the service without talking, texting, or checking your phone. Listen to the eulogy, music, readings, and prayers

2. Be calm and composed

It’s quite normal to cry and feel emotional at a funeral but avoid sobbing loudly as it may upset other attendees at the funeral. If you find yourself in a situation where your emotions are overwhelming you or you need some rest, step out of the service and take a walk or get some alone time to shake off the stress

3. Be polite and friendly

Shake hands with and hug the family and the guests, and make a quick introduction to yourself if they don’t know you. Offer your condolences by expressing your feelings and memories of the deceased. Smile, nod, and avoid any arguments with anyone

If you find it difficult to control your emotions during events like this, try speaking with a family member about your feelings before attending the funeral.

Learn more about etiquette for funerals

Even if you have never been to a funeral, there may come a time when you may need to arrange one for someone close to you. When this happens, you may want to speak with a funeral home that offers professional funeral services and will also help you learn more about etiquette for funerals.

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