If you did not know the deceased well, or even at all, but are close with the bereaved family, attending the funeral can be a way to show your support to the family and friends.
However, if attending the funeral would cause the bereaved family to feel uncomfortable or upset then it would be advised not to attend.
Do you have to wear black to a funeral?
Many people associate wearing the colour black with mourning – meaning it’s likely a lot of guests will dress in black for the funeral. However, other dark colours can also be acceptable. The bereaved family may even express that the funeral attire be a specific colour, or to wear bright clothes only – but if this has not been specified, sticking to darker coloured clothing is a safer bet.
However, regardless of colour, the style of clothing should always be conservative for a funeral, as you’ll appear respectful and dignified.
Who goes in the funeral cars?
The bereaved family or close friends of the deceased will be the ones to organise who follows the hearse in cars. The cars which follow behind are usually reserved for close friends and family only.
Sometimes, people travelling to the funeral in their own vehicles will follow the procession – but if you are not involved in the procession, you’ll likely meet everybody where the service is being held.
When should you arrive at a funeral?
Generally, guests arrive around 15-20 minutes before the service is due to start. This allows for greeting fellow guests, finding a seat and using the facilities beforehand if required.
However, if you do arrive late, ensure to make as little commotion as possible – use the side aisles rather than the middle aisle to find your seat and do not interrupt the service. If you cannot see a spare seat, stand at the back behind the guests until the service finishes.
Where do you sit at a funeral?
Immediate family members and close friends sit in the front row of the venue. This is often followed by other close family members or friends who will sit in the seats or rows behind them.
As a guest who is not a family member nor a close friend, anywhere that is not in the first two rows would be an appropriate place to sit – unless the bereaved family specify otherwise. However, if the venue is large, make sure you don’t leave a large gap between the family and the back of the venue – as this could make the family feel isolated if they’re up at the front on their own if the service isn’t very busy.
Are children allowed at funerals?
This is to the discretion of the parents. Dependant on age and circumstances, children are allowed at funerals – but toddlers and babies may be disruptive and distract fellow guests away from the service or memorial for the deceased.
Taking older children to funerals is appropriate – as long as they are prepped beforehand on what to expect, as it may be a distressing time for them and likely not an encounter they’ve experienced before.
What to say to someone after a funeral?
At funerals, saying less is more. People often have a habit of overcompensating when speaking to someone at a funeral – wanting to show sympathy which could lead to upsetting the bereaved family and friends.
Simply, “I’m sorry for your loss” would suffice if you’re not sure what to say at a funeral. Similarly, “My thoughts are with you and your family” would also be appropriate.
What to do at a graveside service
If the deceased is being buried and the family have arranged a graveside funeral, ensure that when walking over to the grave that you be conscious not to step on other graves or headstones.
There will be a row of chairs lined up which is reserved specifically for close family members and friends. Otherwise, stand behind this row of chairs and allow room for closer friends and family members to stand close to the grave.
How should I sign the guestbook at a funeral?
Signing the funeral guestbook shows your support to the family or close friends of the deceased. Simply state your name clearly alongside a brief description of your relationship with the deceased.
This will let the bereaved family know you attended the funeral. In some instances, you can also leave a message of sympathy or condolence, depending on the nature of the guestbook.
Can you use your phones at funerals?
It’s best to keep your phone in your bag for the entirety of the funeral service, having made sure that your phone is switched off or on silent. If your phone does go off during the funeral, this would appear as disrespectful to the deceased and bereaved family.
You would not usually be permitted to take photographs at a funeral. This is only accepted if the bereaved family or organiser of the family has given you permission to do so.
Funeral gifts etiquette
Sympathy flowers are a common gift for funerals. However, often, the bereaved family or close friends may specify that they do not want to receive funeral flowers. Instead, they may ask for a donation to a specific charity. Donations could also be accepted for the arrangements of the funeral if the bereaved family are organising the funeral for their loved one. Contributing to funeral costs is an accepted part of funeral etiquette – and at the discretion of the bereaved family/organiser of the funeral.
If you do send flowers, you can either bring these with you to the service, send them directly to the funeral home beforehand or to the place the wake will be taking place. If you’re still unsure of whether to bring a gift, a simple sympathy card is a good way of showing the family you care.