5 Tips for Proper Funeral Etiquette

If you have never attended a funeral, or have not done so in some time, we understand that you may be nervous about accidentally saying or doing the wrong thing. We would like to reassure you that as long as you are respectful and considerate of the feelings of others, you will probably not do anything that is offensive to the family of the deceased or the other mourners. Nevertheless, knowing what is expected of you in terms of what you should and should not do may help you feel more at ease during the service. Here are some basic guidelines for proper funeral etiquette.


1. Arrive to the Service on Time

This is common courtesy in most social situations, and it gives you a moment or two to express condolences to the family, or to pay your respects by viewing the remains. Bear in mind that not all funeral services are open casket, so viewing the remains is not always an option, and it is never compulsory if you do not feel comfortable with it.

If you do arrive late to the ceremony, do not cause a disruption when you come in. Enter via a side aisle rather than the center aisle, and quietly find a seat near the back.


2. Dress Appropriately

Sometimes the deceased has expressed a wish for guests to dress a certain way at the funeral, or the family may have a preference. If so, the family will probably inform guests prior to the service. If not, it is safest just to dress conservatively. This typically means a shirt and tie for men, possibly a suit, and a dress or a skirt and blouse for women. Wearing black may not be necessary and is not always welcome, but you should wear subdued colors. The focus should be on the deceased, so do not wear anything that attracts a lot of attention.


3. Turn Cell Phones Off

One of the most disrespectful things you can do at a funeral is to allow your cell phone to cause a distraction during the service. The best way to prevent this is to avoid bringing your cell phone with you into the service at all. If you must have your cell phone with you during the service, switch it to vibrate or silent mode. Do not take out and use your phone at all except in the direst emergency.


4. Show Respect for Religious Ceremony

If the funeral is a religious service, you will probably be provided with materials that help you follow along. This service aid may indicate when a response by the congregation is appropriate. If you are comfortable participating in prayer or giving the requested response, you may do so. Otherwise, just remain respectfully silent. Do not do anything to disrupt the ceremony, and do not try to participate in any part of the religious service that you are not requested to do or that you do not fully understand.


5. Know What To Do at the Graveside

The burial service may take place on the same day of the funeral or on a different date. In either case, most of the same funeral etiquette rules apply at the graveside, but there are some special considerations:

  • Remove your hat during the service, if wearing one
  • Do not step on any graves, plaques, or memorial stones when making your way to the gravesite
  • Remain standing during the service unless you are a close family member of the deceased, in which case you may sit in one of the chairs provided.


As a family-owned business, Wujek & Calcaterra has been helping families to plan funerals and memorials for generations. We can answer any questions you may have about what is and is not appropriate during the services.

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