Changing the Funeral Etiquette of the
By Martin Heikens
If you've never been to a funeral before and are
concerned about what exactly funeral etiquette involves,
don't worry. The following guidelines will help you
navigate the (often unspoken) 'rules', enabling you to
rise to the occasion with confidence.
Universal Funeral Etiquette
Funeral traditions, rituals and conventions vary
considerably in different countries and cultures,
However, appropriate etiquette, wherever you may be in
the world, is based essentially on showing profound
respect for the deceased and conducting oneself in a
dignified manner, according to the prevailing funeral
The overriding aim should always be to dress
respectfully and appropriately.
As a general guideline, dark coloured (not necessarily
black), conventional clothing is still the preferred
form of attire for attending funerals. Men,
traditionally, wear black ties and dark suits; women,
generally, choose subdued coloured outfits such as smart
trouser suits, below-the-knee skirts, modest dresses and
Conversely, wearing unconventional or bright-coloured
clothing may be equally appropriate, particularly where
the deceased has previously instructed family and
friends not to wear black at the funeral.
Children & Funerals
Whether children should be allowed to attend funerals
depends largely on the age and maturity of the
individual child involved, as well as the nature of
child's relationship with the deceased.
A strong argument exists for children who are old enough
to understand what is happening to attend the funeral,
not least as a means of facilitating the grieving
process and gaining closure.
Equally, very young children, infants and babies who
would inevitably be oblivious to events, are probably
better off not attending the funeral. Also, on a
practical note, the presence of a crying baby at a
funeral can prove highly stressful, particularly for the
adult in charge.
If in doubt, consult your funeral director about whether
the presence of children is deemed appropriate; Funeral
When attending a funeral, it is common practice for the
mourners (apart from immediate family) to arrive early
and take up position, at least 5-10 minutes before the
funeral officiant commences proceedings.
The seating at the front of the venue is reserved for
immediate family, with other mourners occupying the
seats to the rear.
After the ceremony, the mourners stand while close
family members leave the building, first. The immediate
family then usually pauses to acknowledge those who have
attended the funeral and maybe exchange a few brief
Trends in contemporary funeral etiquette include:
a shift away from religious observance and ritual
towards personalising funeral ceremonies in a
less formal and rigorously defined funeral-wear, in
certain circles, in favour of greater individual
expression, sometimes even with a hint of drama, e.g.
ostentatious ladies' outfits complete with large hats,
showy jewellery, dark glasses, etc., and more casual
men's attire instead of dark suits and black ties;
increased use of social networking websites to pay
tribute and mourn the deceased, online.