Funeral etiquette guide

20 October 2015

Here, we take a look at funeral etiquette, such as how to travel and what to wear.

Funeral director hands


Many people find themselves unsure about whether they should wait to be invited by close friends or family members of the deceased. In reality funerals are open to anyone, just make sure that it is not listed as a private ceremony.

It may also be best to show some courtesy by contacting the family of the deceased to let them know you are sorry for their loss; that you would like to attend the funeral and how you knew the deceased. The call or contact may be a comfort to them to know that their family member was well regarded and they will look forward to seeing you at the ceremony.


If the ceremony is to be a religious one then be aware of any customs that you may have to uphold to show respect. The best advice you can get on this will be from the funeral director themselves so give them a call for advice. For example, in Jewish and Greek Orthodox ceremonies you will be required to cover your head.

How to travel

If you are not sure whether you will be part of the procession to the funeral then just enquire with whoever you know might be organising the ceremony and ask what is happening on the morning of the funeral and enquire who will be travelling with the procession.

It’s safe to assume that this will be immediate family. Find out the start time of the ceremony and meet the procession at the location the service is being held.

Bringing children?

It’s usually best to not bring very young children to a funeral as they can disrupt the service and it may mean you will miss sections of the memorial. If older children want to go then it is fine to take them, just be aware that they may get upset. Prepare them for the day and let them know what to expect. Again check with the deceased’s family before making any plans.

What to wear

Obviously everyone knows the tradition of wearing black to funerals, though this is becoming rarer these days. Some may think that bright clothing is not appropriate for funerals so it’s best to stick to muted colours such as blues, blacks and greys.

Most people will wear formal clothing such as suits, especially men. Again double check what the family has requested that people wear to the funeral, some families prefer to have colourful clothing.

How to act

When you arrive at the service know that the front few rows of seating are normally reserved for ‘chief mourners’; so family and close friends. Don’t isolate yourself at the back of the room, sit a few rows back so the family do not feel isolated.

Don’t be afraid of crying at the funeral, if you need a moment then step out quietly and return when you are ready. Again if you’re not sure whether you will be following the coffin in to the ceremony or taking your place before the coffin enters it’s best to ask the funeral director as it’s often decided by tradition or the family’s preference.