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Funeral Etiquette Tips: What you need to know

We attend funerals to show our respect for the deceased and to demonstrate our love and support for the bereaved. Funerals can be formal occasions. Some people get nervous about the idea of attending a funeral because they don’t know what is expected of them before, during and after the service.

At Logan, we have conducted hundreds of funerals. Here is a summary of our responses to the most frequently asked questions about funeral etiquette. We hope these tips give you the confidence you need to be a calm presence at the funeral of your loved one.

Should I go to a funeral? 

People don’t generally wait to be invited to a funeral. Let the nature of your relationship with the deceased guide your decision making. If you feel you would like to honour their memory, and support their family, then it is probably best if you attend the funeral. If you weren’t close the deceased, and you don’t really know their family and friends, sending a condolence card might be a better option.

What should I wear to a funeral?

Most people wear conservative clothing in subdued, dark colours to funerals. Classic suits for men and simple dresses or skirts and blouses for women are recommended. Neat, tidy and understated outfits are the perfect choice for funeral outfits. More detailed information on funeral outfits is available in our article What Should I Wear to a Funeral?

What is a visitation?

A visitation, or viewing, usually takes place at a funeral home, and occurs before a funeral. Family and close friends are invited to view the deceased, and to quietly pay their last respects.

What is a wake?

A wake is a social gathering, usually held after a funeral, to celebrate the life of the deceased. Less formal than a funeral, a wake often involves friends and family sharing stories and happy memories over refreshments.

Should I send flowers?

Sometimes the funeral notice will indicate that the family wishes for donations to be made to a specific charity, instead of flowers being sent. If there is no advice regarding flowers, you might like to join with friends and contact a local florist to arrange for a funeral wreath to be sent to the funeral home.

Where should I sit at the funeral?

The front rows of the funeral venue are usually reserved for close family members of the deceased. Those presenting a reading should also be seated near the front, while acquaintances and work colleagues generally find a seat near the back. People with small children are advised to be seated at the end of a row in case they need to leave if the child becomes unsettled.

What happens at a funeral?

During a funeral service it is common for a close friend or relative to present a eulogy and share the life story of the deceased. Some funeral services also include bible readings, hymns, prayers, music and video tributes. It is best to listen quietly, and remember to switch off your phone!

Should I mention the funeral on social media? 

The topic of death and the news of a funeral should always be handled very carefully on social media. If the family has asked you to use social media to notify acquaintances of the funeral date, you should do so, but otherwise it might be best to be discrete and not mention details of the event on social media.

How can I help before a funeral?

There are many arrangements to be made prior to a funeral. If you have a specific skill you might be able to offer your services to support the bereaved. You could assist with creating a video montage, ordering refreshments, arranging the printing of booklets or choosing flowers.

What can I do to help after a funeral?

The weeks and months immediately after a funeral can be challenging times for the bereaved. Offers of help with gardening, meals, laundry and childcare are often appreciated.

For further information please refer to our article about supporting others through grief, please refer to our article on Using Laughter in Grief.

Funeral etiquette can vary depending on family requests and cultural backgrounds. Try not to become too tangled up worrying about doing the right thing. Your loved ones just want to have you near. Being there is what matters most of all.

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