Funeral Etiquette

Like everything in society, funeral etiquette has evolved over time.  While common sense is your best guide, here are a few dos and don'ts of funeral etiquette.

Do:

  • Express your condolences – It’s not easy to come up with the right words for someone who has just lost a loved one.  You don’t need to be a poet. Simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family”, is enough.  If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
  • Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt aren't acceptable either. You should still dress to impress. Try to avoid any bright or flashy colors. Wear what you would wear to a wedding or a job interview.
  • Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years.  Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased. Feel free to leave a message.
  • Give a gift – Suitable gifts include: flowers; a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date.  A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking dinner for them, offering to clean up their house, or any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with death.  
  • Keep in Touch – You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care.  With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse.  The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support.

Don't:

  • Bring your cell phone – Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance. Turn any ringers or notifications off.  Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car. A funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages.
  • Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process.  Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases, it's exactly what the deceased would have wanted.
  • Overindulge - If food or drink is served, don't over-do it.  Remember that you won't be the only attendee.  If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two.