Funeral Etiquette: What to Observe

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It’s normal to worry about how you should act during a funeral service. The solemnity of the service does dictate certain conventions. For instance, wearing the appropriate wardrobe is common sense. But the appropriate wardrobe can sometimes mean a different thing for different cultures or families. And here’s where you get a bit uncertain on how to act.

What is Expected of You

Whether you’re attending as an immediate family member or coming to pay your respects to a friend who’s lost a loved one, your behavior can have an effect on the service and, potentially, someone’s grieving process.

So try the following:

Wear appropriate clothing

Traditional funeral services show family members and its attendees wearing black, gray, and white as mourning colors. This is not the same for every culture, so before you wear a white shirt or dress to the ceremony, check first with the family about the dress code.

But no matter what color is required, it’s usually safer to wear conservative clothing. The ceremony is solemn and formal, so you should dress accordingly. Avoid wearing any outfit that may distract from the ceremony; this typically means anything that’s too revealing or flashy.

Be mindful of the religious and cultural practices the family observes when choosing what to wear.

Arrive early to the location

Come early or on time to the service at the funeral home. Friends and colleagues of the dead usually have fixed schedules for visits, so it would be impolite and an inconvenience to the family if you arrived late.

Arriving early at the location not only shows your support for the family, but also conveys your respect for the solemnity of the occasion.

Express your condolences

express your condolences

It is important to comfort the grieving family during this time. Don’t hesitate to extend your condolences and listen to what the family members have to say. You can exchange stories about the deceased and relive the happier moments of their life.

Contrary to what you might think, it is OK to smile occasionally while at the ceremony. The deceased had positive and pleasant memories, too; and looking back on the good times will help ease the pain of their departure.

Turn off your mobile phones or set it on silent

Don’t use your mobile phone while at the service. It is not only disruptive but also inappropriate to an event that’s solely about honoring the person who passed away. If your job, however, requires you to be on call any day at any time, set your phone to silent. Setting it on vibrate may still be audible for those around you. And if you must take a call during a service, then step outside.

And in this era of social media sharing, would it be appropriate to take photos and share them online?

Practice the same sort of caution you would when taking calls on your mobile phone. Ask first if it’s OK to take photos, but don’t share them during the service. Wait until after it’s over.

A funeral service is a delicate ceremony where people come together to honor the life of the one who has passed on and to  comfort the grieving family. So observe proper funeral etiquette.