Funeral Etiquette

Posted on August 3, 2021 by Sarah Driskell under Most Common Questions
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One thing is for certain, no two funerals are the same. Traditional funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life are each unique in their own way. Then, when differences in religion, culture, and personal preferences are mixed in, all of these services become personally unique. While preparing for unique services such as a celebration of life, you may find yourself questioning the etiquette for attendees.


Often times, you may be unsure of what to wear, what to say, where to sit, or whether you should send flowers. Whether you have been to one funeral or several, the same questions will always arise.


What Should I Wear?


When it comes to funeral attire, conservative and tasteful is always best. Bold fashion statements are not recommended. Some services may be more formal than others, but dress clothes such as suits, slacks, and dresses are best. Black is the traditional color of mourning and is always a safe color to wear. However, dark colors like navy and grey and neutrals are always a safe bet, too.


What Should I Say and Not Say?


Keep things as short and simple as possible. “My thoughts are with you all”, “I am so sorry for your loss, my condolences are with you and your family”, or sharing a wonderful memory all are safe bets.


Try and avoid saying things that may sound insensitive such as “He is in a better place”, “I know how you are feeling”, or “The pain will lessen in time”. Never question the medical care or encourage thoughts of what could have been done differently, as this will only further upset the family.


Where Should I Sit?


Typically, the front few rows are reserved for immediate family and a row or two is reserved for the pallbearers. Most of the time, these rows will be clearly labeled as “Reserved”. Other than these reserved seats, guests can sit anywhere.


Should I Send Flowers?


Typically, the family will list in the obituary “In lieu of flowers…” if they do not wish to receive flowers for the funeral and would prefer some form of donation. Sympathy flowers are meant to express your sympathy and let the family know you are thinking of them during this time. If the family does not list an in lieu of flowers in the obituary, generally this means flowers will be greatly appreciated.


Is It OK to take Pictures?


Oftentimes, you will see relatives or old friends that you haven’t seen in years at a funeral. Be careful and don’t let it look like you are at a party or a reunion by taking photos. It is ok to let it be a happy occasion and reconnect but refrain from taking pictures and especially any social media posts. This is a time for friends and family to mourn and should be respected as such.


Should I Join the Funeral Procession and How?


Some services may be followed by a funeral procession to a cemetery where the loved one will be laid to rest. Generally, families’ welcome close friends and extended family to join them at the cemetery. Cars are typically lined up for the procession prior to the start of the service and leave immediately following the service behind an escort vehicle (generally a police car). Should you leave the funeral home or other venue late and miss the procession, do not try to catch up to it. In this case, you should meet the procession at the destination.


Again, each funeral is unique in its own way and that should be taken into consideration when planning your attendance. While it is safe to say there is some form of “traditional” etiquette guidelines to follow, there is always an exception for those services that are personally unique to the loved one who has passed.


  • Sarah Driskell

Sarah grew up in Dallas, Georgia and graduated from East Paulding High School in 2007. She attended Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia. She became a part of the Mayes Ward-Dobbins family in 2013. Sarah has two children, Ashlynn (7) and Easton (3). She enjoys spending time with her family, baking, reading, decorating, and being outdoors. She greets families with a warm smile and a caring heart.

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