Everything You Need to Know About
By S Matthews
You may think that wearing a dark suit or a somber black
dress to a funeral is the only required custom that
won't make you stand out from the crowd - or insult the
other mourners. Wrong. There's a lot more to funeral
etiquette than just wearing the right clothes. Knowing
what to do - and what not to do - can help prevent
offense on the day, and spare you lasting embarrassment
Funeral serve two main purposes: to commemorate the life
of the deceased, and to offer mourners a chance to
gather together and say their final goodbyes. Funerals
are NOT places to network, party until you puke or pick
up a cute date - although unfortunately all three happen
from time to time.
While there are general guidelines regarding funeral
behavior, as a rule they are specific to the event
itself, taking religious, ethnic and personal
considerations into account. While almost all funerals
require that guests are polite, discreet and respectful,
there is often more you can do - both to help the
families of the deceased feel better, and leave them
with additional happy memories of their loved ones...
Attending a funeral for the first time can be especially
tricky, but it's never all that easy. Here are a few
actions expected of you that will make the whole process
run a lot smoother...
DO offer up an expression of sympathy. Often we are at a
loss for words when encountering something as final as
death. Simply saying "I'm sorry for your loss" is
usually enough. Be respectful and listen attentively
when spoken to, and offer your own words of condolence.
DO find out what the dress code is. While black or dark
colors are the usual accepted attire, these days
anything goes. If the funeral is of a young person,
friends or parents may ask guests to dress up in sunny
colors. Some people even write in their wills that what
they want their dress code to be: they may want guests
to attend their final send-off in Star Trek or Batman
costumes, bright turquoise or even hot pink.
DO offer some type of gift, be it flowers, donation to a
charity or a hot casserole (see below). If you know the
family intimately it will be easy for you to choose the
right gift. If you don't, a bouquet or flowers or
charity donation along with a simply signed card will
DO sign the register book with your name and
affiliation, such as place or work or club membership.
This will help family place who you are in future.
DO keep in touch with family members and friends later
on. It might be awkward for you to do so, but for many
people the grieving doesn't end with a burial.
Avoid making a complete idiot of yourself by following
these simple rules...
DON'T feel that you have to stay at the funeral forever.
A funeral can be a drop-in occasion, and if you make a
visit during calling hours there's no reason your stay
has to be a lengthy one. Talk to the people you need to
talk to, murmur a few sympathetic words, have a drink
and a cracker and make your exit.
DON'T be afraid of having a laugh. There is no written
rule that says you cannot remember the departed with a
funny anecdote or a shared story or two. While pealing
off into raucous laughter may not be ideal, there is no
reason you shouldn't talk about the deceased in a happy,
DON'T feel you have to pray next to the deceased - or
even touch them - if there is an open casket. Act
according to what is comfortable to you. If you are a
bit nervous and want someone to come with you, by all
means ask. If, on the other hand, you don't want to get
all close and personal, then don't.
DON'T allow small children to run wild. If they don't
know the deceased, it's best to shell out for a
babysitter and leave them at home. However, if the
deceased meant something to them, it's a good idea to
invite them to share in the experience, which eventually
will help them come to terms with their own grief.
DON'T try to network at the funeral. This can sometimes
be a temptation if your entire office is in attendance,
including the higher echelons of power. But you can look
like a total jerk if you use someone's death to your
advantage, and it could all hideously backfire on you...
DON'T try to pick up the hot chick next to you either.
If you think she could be the future love of your life,
find out her name and try to contact her later - say in
a week or three.
DON'T take advantage of all the food and drink on offer
to stuff your face and get drunk. Nobody appreciates a
DON'T leave your cell phone on. Any type of electronic
device should be switched off before entering the
DON'T shy away from the receiving line. All you have to
do is shake hands or give a hug, say how sorry you are
for their loss, and offer up your own name and how you
knew the deceased. Remember, this isn't about you. If
they want to engage you in conversation that's fine; if
not, just murmur your condolence and move on.
Expressions of Sympathy
Some people like to bring a personal gift as a token of
sympathy; others supply gifts when they are unable to
attend the funeral in person. Expressions of sympathy
Card or letter, phone calls or email. A card is always
appreciated as it is a long-term keepsake. If you didn't
know the person well, an email will suffice.
Flowers. A beautiful bouquet can either be sent to the
funeral home, to the house of the deceased, or the
location of the memorial service. However, you should
respect the wishes of the deceased if donations are
asked for instead.
Donations to charity. Many people choose to put money to
good use, and designate some of their favorite charities
as a recipient. Ask and they shall receive.
Food. Often family is too busy to think about food, so a
cake, casserole or even a bag of easy-to-prepare
groceries is usually much appreciated.
Memorial gifts. While flowers and donations are the two
most common memorial gifts, others include statues in
honor of the deceased, jewelry, urns, sundials,
birdbaths (for the cemetery or garden) etc. Use your
common sense to purchase something appropriate.
Offers of help. While food is almost always appreciated
(see above), sometimes other offers of assistance are
needed. Maybe you can provide some hours of childcare,
walk a dog, buy a carload of groceries or clean a house.
The best thing to do is ask what is needed - then
Attending a funeral can be awkward for many people, but
there are tried-and-tested rules to make the experience
a lot easier for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are
attending a traditional funeral or a personalized family
affair, this is one occasion where you should be aware
of what is expected of you, and try to conform as best
And when it's all said and done, remember to keep on
offering support and love to the bereaved. Memories
don't die when the coffin is in the grave, and the next
few months are a time when grieving friends and
relatives could need you most. Let them know that your
support did not end when the funeral finished.
Sarah Matthews is a writer for Yodle, a business
directory and online advertising company. Find a Healer
at Yodle Local or more Health & Medicine articles at
Yodle Consumer Guide.