Proper Funeral Home Etiquette

In the past, funerals were strictly formal affairs, and very specific etiquette rules applied to nearly every service. Today, funerals have become more personalized, and while some are still very ritualistic, others are quite informal. The same strict rules no longer necessarily apply, so if you are attending a funeral at Wujek Calcaterra & Sons or another funeral home, you may wonder how to behave or have anxiety about committing a faux pas that will cause pain to the grieving family. As long as you make an effort to think about the family’s situation and show respect and consideration for others, even in the face of unfamiliar customs or religious beliefs, your effort should be appreciated and any minor lapses in funeral home etiquette should be forgiven. However, here are some basic guidelines regarding what to do, and what not to do, at most funeral services.

How To Dress

At one time, funeral guests were expected to dress entirely in black. Failure to do so was considered a mark of disrespect. However, the customs have changed with time. Sometimes the deceased will leave behind very specific instructions that no one is to wear black at the funeral, or the family may have very strong objections. All black is no longer required, but unless you receive instructions to the contrary, you should dress conservatively, in subdued colors, and avoid anything too bright or flashy. This pertains to accessories as well as the clothing itself.

What To Do At the Service

While you may have personal reasons to attend the service (saying good-bye, gaining closure, greeting loved ones, etc.), your primary function as a funeral guest is to provide comfort to the survivors. Therefore, you should avoid any behavior that would make them uncomfortable, put them in an awkward situation, or disrupt the service in any way. If you try to put yourself in the family members’ position and refrain from doing anything that you wouldn’t want a funeral guest to do if you were one of the survivors, you are unlikely to step out of line. However, it’s worth pointing out some rude and disruptive behaviors that should be avoided at all costs:
  • Arriving late to the service
  • Eating, drinking, or chewing gum
  • Talking to those around you and/or laughing loudly
  • Sitting up front, unless you are a relative
  • Using a cell phone in any way (talking, texting, web browsing, etc.)
  • Taking photographs, unless requested to do so by the family
Show consideration for any religious rituals that take place during the service, even if they do not represent your beliefs. If you feel you cannot participate or are asked not to, then just sit or stand quietly as a gesture of respect. Crying is allowed and expected at funeral services. Grief is a strong emotion that can manifest in different ways, and a funeral is a chance to begin working through these emotions to begin the healing process, and you should never feel ashamed of your tears or try to hide them. However, if your crying becomes so loud and uncontrollable as to disrupt the service, you can and should leave the room to find a quiet corner in which to compose yourself.

How To Behave at the Gravesite

Many of the same rules that apply to the initial service also pertain to the burial. In addition, you should show respect for the existing graves by not leaning or sitting on headstones and not stepping on or walking over graves or their markers. Men are expected to remove their hats at a gravesite, and mourners are expected to stand during the burial except for family members and people with physical limitations. Most of all, don’t avoid attending a funeral out of fear of accidentally saying or doing something wrong. Your presence alone will mean a great deal to the family members. To find out more about funeral services available from Wujek Calcaterra & Sons, contact us today.

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