A Simple Guide to Funeral Etiquette in the UK

The following guide with answer some of the common questions which arise when it comes to funeral etiquette in the UK.

14 Tips for Funeral Etiquette in the United Kingdom

The following guide with answer some of the common questions which arise when it comes to funeral etiquette in the UK. When attending a funeral, it is important to remember you are there to show support and give respect to both the deceased and their family and friends. Understanding proper funeral etiquette will help you feel equipped and more comfortable at the funeral service.

  1. What to bring to a funeral?

Whether the funeral is big or small, it is helpful to understand what things you will need to take with you to prevent feeling uncomfortable at any time.

  • Tissues
  • Flowers
  • A story or memory of the deceased
  • A charitable donation
  • Sunglasses or umbrella
  • A card of sympathy or well-wishes
  • Guestbook (if you're the organiser)

If there's a wake following the funeral provider, you might want to think about asking the family if there's catering provided. If there is not, you could offer to create a dish for the aftermath.

  1. What to wear at a funeral?

Traditionally, black is the most worn funeral attire as a result of the sombre color and affiliation with mourning. But, wearing brightly colored clothing to symbolise a celebration of life is becoming quite common. To prevent any mishaps, consult with the household organising the funeral, or dress neutrally.

Generally, guests are expected to dress in smart attire and prevent casual clothes such as jeans, hoodies and trainers. The main thing is to be comfortable and dress for the weather. Churches and cemeteries can be quite chilly in the winter.

Men typically wear dark-coloured suits with a collared shirt, black tie and formal shoes.

Women usually opt for dark-coloured suits or dresses, with smart shoes and coat if required.

  1. Who can attend a funeral?

If the funeral details have been publicly shared, you might also take guidance from these.

The funeral service is typically a chance for loved ones, friends and people who knew the individual to say goodbye. A funeral service is generally open to anyone, unless the family has said that it is a private ceremony.

A funeral service is generally open to anyone, unless the family has said that it is a private ceremony.

  1. Where should I set during a funeral ceremony?

In a funeral, immediate family and close friends sit at the first few rows and then and then the remaining seats can be filled.

In a large hall or church, it's important not to sit too far back as the chairs can often stay unfilled, leaving the close family in the front feeling isolated and the clergy having difficulty making themselves heard.

  1. What should I say at a funeral to the family of the deceased?

Though you might find it uncomfortable to say something to the family of the deceased at a funeral, it's always appropriate to extend your sympathy for the family's loss.

All you will need to do is offer a few sympathetic and kind words in an even tone or perhaps share a fond memory of the person if you desire. It is important not to say anything negative or make light of the individual's death.

Here are a few expressions that are appropriate and could be said to loved ones or family members of the deceased:

I am so sorry for your loss

Please let me know if you need anything, I am here for you

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers

They were a wonderful person and will be sorely missed

  1. Should I make a donation at a funeral? How much should I donate?

Some people may request charity donations instead of flowers, it is curtesy to honour that request. You may also make a note to the charity or association and send a card to the family members and friends of the deceased.

  1. Flowers: should I sent them prior to or after a funeral?

It's never too early or too late to send flowers, though if you are sending them to the funeral home, make sure they arrive on time for the day of the funeral. Even if you send flowers a couple weeks or months later, it still shows that you care and are thinking of the family.

Sending funeral flowers shows respect and offers comfort to those in mourning. You might want to have them delivered to the funeral home or to the home of the family of the deceased.

  1. Who should travel in the funeral procession?

The family organizing the funeral usually decide who'll be in any vehicles after the hearse. If individuals are travelling in their own cars, they can sometimes follow the procession or choose to fulfill the procession where the service has been held.

  1. Where does the funeral procession travel from?

Ordinarily, the procession departs from the home of a close relative. The family may choose to leave from the address where people will go back to after the funeral. Or, mourners may choose to meet at the location of service. If you're not certain, check with the family or the funeral director.

  1. Is it right for children to attend funerals?

Children are able to attend funerals at the discretion of the parents. Often families decide not to take toddlers and babies, since they may be disruptive and noisy, especially if it's a long service.

If you are thinking about taking older children to a funeral ceremony, it's a good idea to prepare them beforehand so they know exactly what to expect.

  1. Is it common to visit the person who has passed away at the chapel of rest?

Seeing someone in the chapel of rest can be very painful, but some find that it can offer closure - knowing that their loved ones are now at rest. Normally, this service is used by family and close friends only, but in the event you would like to go to, it is recommended that you ask the person who's arranging the funeral.

  1. When should I go into the church (or crematorium)? Before or after the coffin?

Funerals vary based on tradition, where the ceremony is held, and family preference. In church services, guests usually arrive prior to the household and take their place before the ceremony begins. However, with funerals in crematoriums, it's more traditional for immediate family to lead the procession and then friends and other family to take their seats following them.

  1. What should I do at the end of a funeral service?

Once the service comes to a close, the minister will leave and everyone will stand to pay their last respects. The coffin, based upon the service, will then be lowered, carried out or concealed by a curtain.

The coffin may remain on view for loved ones to say one final goodbye before they leave. Family and close friends will then leave first, followed by the remainder of the funeral attendees. If it is a burial, the coffin will be taken to a grave before being lowered into the ground.

  1. What happens at the end of a funeral?

After most services, the family members or friends organising the funeral will provide a get together, also referred to as a wake, with light refreshments either in a house or in a private function area like a bar or hotel. This is an chance to show support to the family and also share happy and fond memories of a loved one.

If you have any other questions or would like more information about funeral etiquette, your local Dignity Funeral Director will have the ability to offer you all the help and support you require.