9 Helpful Tips for Proper Funeral Etiquette

We have summarised the top 9 most asked questions about attending a funeral to help you feel more comfortable during one of the hardest of times.

When a loved one is no longer with us, it is important to take the opportunity to observe and pay respect for one's life. However, there are lots of aspects to consider when it comes to etiquette for a funeral, like what to wear, where to sit, and whether it is appropriate to attend a specific person's funeral.

To help you answer these questions, we have summarised the top 9 most asked questions about attending a funeral. This guide will show you the essentials of proper funeral etiquette so that you will understand how to communicate correctly with the deceased person's grieving family, while exuding dignity and respect during the funeral ceremony.

Quick Tips for Attending Funerals

  1. Should I attend this funeral?

Since funerals are not usually an "invite-only" event, it can be tricky to decide whether you should attend. If you knew the deceased, it's an opportunity for you to remember their life and pay your respects. If you didn't know the deceased but are near the family, then it is a means for you to show them your support.

You ought not attend a funeral if you believe that your presence will make the family uncomfortable or if it is clearly a private event.

  1. What is the dress-code to a funeral?

When choosing what to wear to a funeral it is always recommended to go conservative. Whilst it is true you don’t have to wear black, you should dress in a way that shows respect. That generally means avoiding colours that are bright, glittery fabrics and flashy prints. It is recommended to dress as if you were attending a serious business meeting; guided by the location of the funeral, the climate, and the background of the deceased.

  1. When should I arrive at a funeral?

A good guideline would be to arrive 10-20 minutes early to allow for a few moments to socialise with other guests before the service begins. Should you arrive late, do not walk down the middle aisle to take your seat. Rather, use the side aisle to find a seat near the back as to avoid interrupting the service.

  1. What should I say at a funeral?

Less is more. Those that are suffering from the loss might also feel isolated. Acknowledge their pain by saying something like "This must be so hard for you," to demonstrate that you care for them that will help them feel less isolated. Do not feel the pressure to overexert your condolences onto the grieving family by saying more than is needed. A simple "My thoughts are with you" or "I am sorry for your loss" are adequate enough to express your support.

  1. Where should I sit at a funeral?

The first and second rows of chairs are generally reserved for the close family and friends of the deceased. The rest of the attendees should sit in the remaining rows. Should you arrive late, be respectful by sitting at the back as not to disturb others. As soon as you are seated, it's important to stay seated for the duration of the service.

  1. Are children allowed at a funeral? 

It's okay to bring kids to a funeral if they're well-behaved, especially if they are interested in attending and were close to the deceased. Toddlers and infants should be left at home with a babysitter since they might require more of your attention and divert you from being emotionally present at the funeral.

  1. What should I write in a guestbook at a funeral?

Clearly state your first and last name, along with a brief description of your relationship to the deceased. Signing the guestbook is another way to demonstrate your support for the grieving family by letting them know you attended the service.

  1. Should I bring a gift to a funeral?

Gifting a bouquet of sympathy flowers is the best way to express your condolences and could be appreciated by the family. You may either bring a bouquet with you to the funeral or may choose to have them delivered to the funeral home in advance of the service. Moreover, you may also send flowers to the residence at which the post-funeral reception will take place.

Other thoughtful gift ideas include sending the family's house a gift basket. If you're near the family, think about bringing over a home-made meal to their home. Suffering a loss is already a lot to manage, and odds are, the spouse or family of the deceased would appreciate the additional help. If you aren't near the family, but still want to share your condolences, a thoughtful card is an excellent way to comfort them.

  1. What is a funeral processional and a recessional? 

A funeral processional is when the casket is brought in. The officiant leads the processional and is followed by pallbearers that carry the coffin. Next to walk down the aisle will be the family members and kin to the deceased followed by close friends who will take their seats in the first few rows, marking the beginning of the ceremony.

A recessional marks the conclusion of the funeral service. Again, the officiant leads the way followed by the pallbearers who take the coffin out. They're followed by family and friends of the deceased. Typically, one member of the group will present their thanks to the remaining guests at the ceremony. Lastly, the processional forms, in which funeral attendees make their way over to the gravesite in which the deceased will be put to rest.