Funerals are challenging for everyone, from friends to family, and understanding appropriate etiquette can ensure everyone feels comfortable throughout.

This guide will help you.

For many of us, we only attend funerals a handful of times in our lifetime. And, with all of the emotions rushing through us during these unsettling times, it can become daunting to consider how you’re going to act during the event. While every single person’s requirements for their end of life celebration are likely to be different, you want to maintain a level of respect and dignity for everyone involved.

Who Should Attend?

Funerals provide opportunities for both friends and loved ones to say goodbye to the deceased. They are normally highly emotional events, designed to celebrate the individual’s life and pay homage to the memories they’ve left behind. If a funeral is described as a ‘private service’, it is generally considered to be just for family and specified close friends. An open service is one that can be attended by anyone who wishes to say their goodbyes.

Make sure to check any public funeral details given as these will help to dictate the guests.

What Should You Wear?

It is traditional for all attending guests to wear black to a funeral. It is said to signify tradition, solemnity and trust. However, it is becoming increasingly common for people to have different dress codes to suit the deceased wishes or personality. For example, they may ask all attendees to wear the deceased’s favourite colour or bright colours to create a true celebration of their life. In some cultures, it is traditional to wear white to a funeral, such as Hindu and Sikh.

Make sure you contact the deceased family to discover their wishes. In all instances, you should dress smart and leave casual items, such as trainers or hoodies, at home. This shows a level of respect for these important memorials.

What Should You Take?

Unless it has been specified by the family, you are generally not expected to take anything with you to a funeral. Sometimes, family members ask that donations be made to a specific charity or hospice that were a great support to the individual during their lives. Or you may wish to send a sympathy card or a bouquet of flowers to the family home.

On the day, all you should take is tissues.

What to Say?

Knowing how to speak to someone who has lost a loved one can be challenging. Everybody deals with death and grief differently, so the things that may bring you comfort could do the exact opposite to someone else. Nine times out of ten, any message of sympathy will be greatly appreciated by the family. Consider something along the lines of:

  • I am so sorry for your loss.
  • I am here for you when you’re ready.
  • You and your family are in my thoughts.
  • S/he/they will be greatly missed.
  • I’m always available if you need to talk.

Where to Sit

At a traditional funeral, the immediate family and close friends will sit in the first few rows. From here, the remaining seats can be filled by those who wish to say their goodbyes. Don’t sit too far back as this can make it difficult to hear and create a gap between family and friends. If a family member asks for you to move to accommodate others, it is polite to do this without a fuss – it is a difficult time for them and the grieving family must be put first.

Sending Flowers

Many people use flowers to send sympathy and show their support for family’s dealing with loss. There are two main types of flowers used during these times – sympathy flowers and funeral flowers. Sympathy flowers are sent to the family home to express your sympathy for all during this challenging period. They are typically smaller arrangements, designed to bring some comfort. Funeral flowers are larger arrangements that are used during the funeral to decorate the coffin or burial plot. They are generally organised by the family and close friends to ensure they are in keeping with the deceased’s requests.

Make sure to check the funeral notice or obituary notice as this will state whether the family are asking for donations over flowers. It’s never too early or late to send flowers. However, you must ensure that your orders arrived in time for the funeral day, if you are sending them to the funeral home.

Should Children Attend?

Whether or not children attend a funeral is normally down to the decision of the parent. Children under the age of 3 can be noisy and disruptive, taking the focus of their parents away from the funeral procedures. However, for children who are old enough, it is important that they are given the support to deal with grief in their own way. Once they are given all the information, they should be allowed to decide whether or not attending the funeral would be beneficial for them.

The Bereavement Advice website has this guide for grown-ups when children ask questions about death (PDF). It will help you to discuss death and funerals with your child.

How to Travel to the Funeral?

In many situations, the family will arrange for any vehicles that will be following the hearse. They may also put out a notice, inviting others to do the same. Processions traditionally take place from the home of the deceased and information will be given as to timings. If this information is not readily available, plan to meet the procession at the funeral home or crematorium at the time of the funeral.

At All Times, Remember to:

  • Be prompt and punctual.
  • Be respectful to the entire family.
  • Switch off your mobile phone during the ceremony.

At Wallace Stuart Limited, we support families as they make the difficult journey through planning a funeral and laying their loved ones to rest. If you have any further questions to help you feel comfortable and confident when attending a funeral, please do get in contact with us here today.