There are many emotions involved with attending a funeral, but the thought of going can make a first-time funeral attendee nervous. You might receive an invitation to a funeral for someone you knew, and you do not know what the next steps are. Even if you did not receive a formal invitation, you might wish to attend a friend or extended family member’s service that you have learned about. If you are unsure about what you should and should not do at a funeral, here are some basic funeral etiquette tips from Robinson Funeral Home to guide you.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
In most cases, a funeral is a quiet, subdued, and respectful affair. The focus should be on the individual being remembered and the family. Often, dark and modest clothing is common attire for mourning or grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a much different type of event from going out for the night with friends or on a date, for example.
You may also want to consider if you will be attending a graveside service, the time of year, and the weather forecast. You do not want to be caught outside in the rain or snow in the middle of winter in a short-sleeved outfit.
Some funerals and memorials may choose to have a color theme and invite guests to dress in clothing to match the theme. When picking out your clothing, keep in mind that the event is not about you. Choose something comfortable and appropriate for the occasion and any specified theme.
Sit in the Appropriate Area
Unless you are an immediate or close family member of the person, you should only sit in the designated area for friends and extended family. This would usually be the middle or rear pews in a traditional funeral home. The front pews are often marked as reserved.
When you arrive at the funeral home, there will likely be a family member and funeral director near the entrance, along with a guestbook. You should greet the family member and offer your condolences for the family’s loss. You can then sign the guestbook, which is usually just your name and how you knew the loved one. Then you can find a seat in the area for friends and extended family.
Bring a Gift If You Want
You may wish to send a gift to the family for the funeral. A bouquet of flowers is common but not required; the chances are high that the family will have a lot of flowers for the funeral. Be sure to plan your gift if it will require delivery before the day of the service.
The family may sometimes request a donation to a charity or some other gift option in lieu of flowers. This information may be included with the obituary or invitation. You can also choose to provide a gift other than flowers and present it to the family or have it delivered to the funeral location or the family directly.
Offer To Take Photos for the Family
You may wish to provide support for the bereaved family. Something as simple as offering to take photos during the funeral can be a kind gesture, but be sure to always ask for permission first. The family will let you know if something like photos would be appreciated. Keep in mind that there may be portions where it is not as appropriate to take photos if there are religious elements to the service. You should ask if there are any times when photos should not be taken to be safe.
Put Your Phone on Silent
Funeral and graveside services are often quiet and contemplative. Your phone should be put on silent, and you should put it away during the service. Refrain from checking for text messages or playing games during the funeral. If allowed, only use it outside of the service or for taking pictures.
If having the phone will be too much of a temptation, you may wish to leave it in a safe place until the funeral is over.
Be Respectful During Religious Elements
Some funerals contain religious elements associated with the beliefs of the loved one. For example, it is common for Hindu funerals to wear white and for certain prayers to be recited when the casket is carried. At many Christian-based funerals, hymns are sung, and prayers are given. You do not have to ascribe to these religious beliefs to attend the funeral as a guest.
If you are not comfortable performing some religious rituals, such as reciting prayers, that is okay. You should not feel obligated to participate. However, remember to be respectful and quiet during these parts of the service as they may be important to the family and other friends gathered there.
Consider Leaving Young Kids at Home
If your children are well-behaved and can sit quietly during the service, it is usually fine to bring them unless the invitation specified not to bring children. However, unless your children knew the loved one particularly well, it may be better to leave your children with a sitter at home.
Bringing your children to the service is allowed, and if you are unable to leave them at home, try to occupy them with quiet activities during the funeral if they are starting to get antsy. If they start to get loud, it is polite to take children out of the room until they can be quiet again.
Share Memories If the Opportunity Arises
There are times at a funeral where it can be appropriate to laugh, smile, and reminisce. Sometimes families will ask attendees to share a story or memory of their loved one. If the opportunity arises and you have a memory or story to share, this can be a great way to support the family members.
If the opportunity to share during the service does not come up, you can share it with the family later either through a card or by talking to them after the service. If the guestbook has a place to write down memories of the loved one, you can share it there as well.
Support the Family Throughout the Year and on Anniversaries
Bereaved families often get a lot of support before and up to the funeral, but the outreach of friends and other loved ones tends to dwindle over time. You can show additional support to the family by checking in with them long after the funeral and even letting them know that you’re thinking of them on anniversaries related to their loved ones. Something as simple as a card can let family members know they are not alone and their loved one is not forgotten.
While this can seem like a lot to remember, attending a funeral for the first time really comes down to being respectful and extending support to the family, as well as remembering the loved one. By following the tips above, you should be able to attend a funeral service with confidence. For more information, contact Robinson Funeral Home online or call us at 864-859-4001.