Funerals are formal events for paying respects to the deceased. Practicing proper funeral etiquette and wearing the right attire ensures that you are conveying the message of mourning and sympathy that you feel for those left behind. Read on for some pointers for good etiquette when attending funerals.
Express Your Condolences First
Whether through a handwritten letter, email, or phone call, remember to reach out to the bereaved and share a genuine message of sympathy. There is no required length or depth to this gesture, so just be sincere.
Come Only When Invited
Some families may wish to maintain privacy and limit the funeral service to close friends and family only. In general, it is polite not to come unless invited or if a public announcement has been made to allow all interested parties to attend.
Bring a Token of Sympathy
Some people would also suggest sending flowers or a donation, especially if you cannot attend the event personally. Make sure to connect with the family to ensure that they will safely receive your token of condolences. Some families may also prefer that the donation be made to a charity or cause that the deceased was known to support. In any case, heed their wishes.
Choose the Proper Attire
Proper attire is the component of funeral etiquette that people are most likely to notice. When picking what to wear, the most important thing to remember is not to draw too much attention to yourself.
Conservative color combinations like black and white generally work best. It is polite to avoid wearing printed or colored clothing unless specifically requested to do so. Funerals are formal events, so formal dress is expected.
For women, sleeved dresses and pantsuits are stylish choices. Plunging necklines and short dresses are avoided. Closed-toe shoes are worn to complete the formal look. For men, most go for a classic suit with a white French cuff dress shirt. A dress shirt with a blazer and tailored pants is also acceptable. These outfits are paired with laced dress shoes.
Minimal accessories like simple jewelry or custom cuff links can add a personal touch to otherwise somber outfits.
Make sure not to wear accessories that are too big like hoop earrings or those that make noise such as stacked bangles.
Mind the Seating Arrangement
The front row is usually reserved for immediate family, with the following rows for extended family. Close friends follow, and co-workers and acquaintances take up the last few rows of seats or remain standing in the back of the room.
Prepare to Share Memories
If you are particularly close to the deceased, you may be asked to share some words with the rest of the group in attendance. In that case, inquire about how much time you have to share. Often, two or more people may be asked to share memories in the eulogy. You do not want to encroach on another person’s time to speak. Keep your speech brief and meaningful.
Being a Pallbearer
A pallbearer traditionally helps in carrying the coffin, but being one these days is often symbolic, and the role is often reserved for close family and friends. Should you be given the honor of being a pallbearer, make sure to arrive early and receive instructions from the family about what exactly you are to do.
General Etiquette Also Apply
As with any other formal event, setting your mobile phone to vibrate or silent mode to avoid interruptions is a must at a funeral. If you are bringing children, try to keep them on their best behavior or take them outside if they start to interrupt the service. Do not post anything about the service on social media unless you are an immediate family member.
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Respect Cultural and Religious Differences
Remember that certain cultures and religions may impose restrictions at the service. Be understanding and do not cause a scene in case someone asks you to make small adjustments (i.e. wear additional clothes, take off your shoes) according to their beliefs.
Ask for Advice
It is best to ask an immediate family member for any specific preferences of the deceased or the family regarding the funeral. It is also wise to know about the details of the funeral like the time and venue in advance to guide any preparations you need to make for the day itself.
This guide has walked you through basic funeral etiquette. At the end of the day, just keep in mind that funerals are generally serious occasions to remember the deceased. Thus, it is best to stay simple and subdued, both in sense and style.