Funeral service etiquette is respecting the choices that the deceased’s family have made to farewell their loved one. For many, especially young people, funerals are very rare events. They are solemn and often, very sad. You are attending to offer your condolences and support to the family and a final farewell to the deceased. Knowing how to act at a funeral is very important.
Ideally, arrive early to a funeral service and offer your condolences to the family in a quiet, respectful tone. If it’s necessary to introduce yourself, do so with some context around how you know the deceased. Apprehension about what to say to somebody who has lost a loved one is normal. You may be experiencing your own grief. If so, you shouldn’t be embarrassed if you become emotional.
You may be invited to a visitation prior to the funeral service to offer your personal condolences. These events can be either open to everybody or limited to family and close friends. If it’s the latter and you don’t fall into that category, honour the family’s request and don’t attend. To do so may cause unnecessary stress.
Take your seat before the family arrives. The first few rows of a church or funeral home are reserved for family and close friends. If you are close to the family of the deceased then it’s important to occupy those seats as a sign of support. If you don’t fall into that category, try to sit in the middle or towards the back of the church. When you talk between yourselves, do so quietly and respectfully.
How You Show Respect
If you happen to be late, sit at the back of the church or funeral home to avoid drawing attention to yourself and disrupting the service. Drawing attention to yourself could also include: Wearing clothing more suited to a night out than a funeral – if you are in doubt it’s best to err on the side of conservative, professional clothing. Bright colours or sequins should be avoided as should loud ties, baseball caps, board shorts and printed T-shirts for men.
Sydney funeral directors like Southern Cross Funeral Directors are very aware of the hot climate and provide water, and where possible fans or air conditioning. However, the heat should not influence the respectful and conservative way that you dress. You can take off your jacket or wear lighter clothing.
Exceptions to the ‘dress appropriately’ guide can apply if the family requests a particular colour, or style of dress in honour of the deceased. If the funeral is in a mosque or temple, for example, familiarise yourself with the requirements of the service, the dress code and cultural or religious practices.
Not being religious shouldn’t exclude you from participating in a religious service. Standing and sitting when requested and listening respectfully during hymns and prayers, even if you don’t want to join in, is another sign of respect to the deceased and his or her family.
After The Service
Wait for the family to follow the casket from the church. Guests follow the family and close friends out in an orderly sequence, row by row. If you follow the funeral procession to the graveside in your car, turn on your lights so you are identified as being part of the procession.