Funeral Etiquette: Tips When Attending a Funeral Service

Funeral services are one of the most formal ceremonies that nearly everyone will take part in. While the family and close friends of the deceased will likely have a lot more to occupy their thoughts than nitpicking the manners of everyone who attends a funeral, it is still important to follow a few basic rules and etiquette guidelines if you plan on going to a funeral in the near future.

What Should You Wear to a Funeral Service?

It’s important to remember that the focus of a funeral is on the deceased and their loved ones. It is not the time to draw attention to yourself. In light of this, it’s a good idea to choose dark, conservative clothes. While black is an ideal choice, it is also appropriate to wear navy blue or gray. Try to opt for solid colors, but small, conservative prints can also be acceptable.

Avoid bright colors and bold prints. Also, choose styles that are conservative; long pants or skirts, button-up blouses and shirts, and neutral shoes. Avoid shorts, flip-flops, sandals, and skirts or dresses that are too revealing.

What Should You Say at a Funeral?

When surrounded by grieving family and friends, it can be hard to know the exact right thing to say. Start by realizing that there is nothing you can say that will make their pain and grief go away. The best you can do is to express to them that their loved one was important to you and that he or she will be missed. If you only have a minute or two to speak with the family, simply tell them how much you loved, respected, and/or admired their loved one. If you have more time, consider sharing a memory or story about their loved one that shows them at their best.

Do not share inappropriate jokes or stories. Also, be careful not to make references to how the person died, or make comments that his or her death was for the best or a relief. While it can be tempting to try to cheer up a grieving person, the funeral service is not the time for this. If you cannot think of anything to say, no one will be offended if you say you’re sorry for the family’s loss and go back to your seat.

Should You Send Flowers?

Flowers are a traditional gift to send to a bereaved family, but there are a few rules you want to follow. If you are an acquaintance or friend of the deceased, it’s appropriate to pick a small, tasteful arrangement that will be displayed during the funeral. Pick something that will not stand out or be too bright. Now is not the time to try to outdo someone else or the family.

It is becoming more common for families to ask for donations to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers. In these cases, making a donation is a good choice, but you might want to send flowers as well. Consider sending a flower arrangement on behalf of a group, such as all the students in a church class, the co-workers of the deceased, or all the members of a sports team. Individuals should send flowers if they knew the deceased well.

Include a small note or card with the flowers that explains the relationship between you or your group and the deceased and an expression of sympathy. Save remembrances of the deceased (including happy memories) for a card that the family can read later.

Other General Funeral Etiquette

Finally, remember that a funeral service is about the deceased, not you. Remember that no one will be offended if you arrive on time, sit quietly in the back (turn off your cell phone), and speak very little before leaving. Do not draw attention to yourself.

A funeral is a sad event, but it does not need to be miserable. Look at it as a time to comfort the family and friends of the deceased.

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