A short guide to funeral etiquette

19 June 2017

While every funeral is different in tone, style, organisation and procedure, here are some golden rules to follow to ensure that your presence at a funeral is a welcome one.

Most and least extravagant funerals

Be punctual

Punctuality is scarcely more important or more appreciated than at funeral services. Indeed it would be difficult to recover from scuttling in halfway through a service. Arriving on time is a basic and extremely important sign of respect for both the deceased and the bereaved, make it a priority.

Switch off your phone

So dependent are we these days on our smart phones that it seems they have an application in almost every aspect of our lives. Funeral services, however, are generally the exception. There are few sights more lamentable than someone scrolling through the pages of their social media account at an important event and it screams divided attention and disinterest. A funeral is a time to remember the deceased and show your support for the bereaved.

Dress smartly and appropriately

While black is traditional, recent trends in funeral services have moved towards ‘celebrations of life’ whereby the deceased or bereaved specify in advance that mourners wear colour. A general rule is to dress smartly and inoffensively. A funeral service is not a time to make a fashion statement or express your creative individuality through your outfit. It is a time to reflect on the life of another and smart but not particularly notable clothing ensures the focus of your conversation will be on the life of the deceased.

Look back with fond memories

A funeral service and subsequent wake is a good time to reflect on your personal relationship with the deceased by exchanging positive memories and fond anecdotes of the person you knew. Funerals are extremely personal events and therefore stories about your individual relationship with the deceased will usually be well received and of interest to the bereaved. Common sense is of course advised here, remember some stories of the deceased may not be appropriate for the grieving family.

Offer to help where you can

It is likely the family and the funeral director have all the arrangements in hand, particularly if the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan in place, but smaller gestures can be well received. By making sure the bereaved know there are people around them who care and want to lend a hand, the logistical burden of a service can be eased.