Etiquette Tips

Funeral Etiquette

Attending a funeral is not something you do every day - so it is natural you may not be sure what to say or what to do. We’ve put together a short guide to help you pay your respects with courtesy. Ask the funeral director if you need any assistance at any time.

The funeral service

The funeral service

Funeral services differ depending on the personal, cultural or religious beliefs of families. The service may be held at a funeral home, church, temple, residence or somewhere else appropriate to commemorate the life of the deceased. Some families choose not to have a service at all.

Seating

Seating

Whether the service is held at the funeral home or at a place of worship, enter quietly and be seated. The first few rows are usually reserved for family members, but you should feel free to sit closely behind them to offer your support and comfort.

The Ceremony

The Ceremony

The ceremony is usually conducted by a member of the clergy, celebrant, family or friends. If you are unfamiliar with the cultural or religious customs of the family, do not worry. Simply follow the guide of others.

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

If the funeral is proceeding to a secondary location such as a cemetery, a funeral procession led by the hearse may be formed. Please turn on your headlights so you will be identified as part of the procession, and remember to turn them off when you arrive at the cemetery.

At the Cemetery

At the Cemetery

If there is a graveside service, the chairs at the coffin or casket are reserved for immediate family members. You may be asked to stand for this brief service, which may include a short prayer or other words of strength and encouragement.

What is appropriate dress?

What is appropriate dress?

Black is not compulsory attire for a funeral. You should dress in a way to show respect to the family and other mourners. The most important thing is not how you are dressed, but that you are there.

Should children come to a funeral?

Should children come to a funeral?

Parents are the best judge of whether their child is old enough to comprehend death and whether attending the funeral will be meaningful to them. It is important children be allowed to express their grief and share in this important ritual. Children can be naturally uplifting to those in grief, a hopeful reminder of the future. If you bring young children, carefully explain to them the importance of being on their very best behaviour. If a very young child becomes cranky or noisy, remove them promptly so as not to disturb the dignity of the occasion.

Turn off your phone

Turn off your phone

If you choose to bring your phone into the funeral home, take a moment to make sure you’ve turned it off, or, at the very least, on silent or vibrate.

What to Say

What to Say

Express your sympathy in your own words, however it feels right to you. Kind words about the person who has died are always appropriate, and a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningful and comforting for the bereaved.

Immediately after the funeral

Immediately after the funeral

A family often extends an open invitation to join them for refreshments and a quiet reception at the funeral home immediately after the funeral. This provides an opportunity for friends and family to talk, and provides some rest and refreshment, Some of the best stories about the deceased are often told at this time.

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