Funeral Etiquette

Planning the right funeral for your loved ones can be the single-most difficult task, and yet it’s a ceremony that celebrates the life you shared together. Here are some basic elements of a traditional funeral service that will help guide you through:


Visitation, also called Viewing, normally occurs before the funeral or memorial service. Its primary purpose is to provide a designated time and place for family members and friends to come together to express personal condolences and expressions of sympathy. The casket or urn is usually present, and although that person has passed away, friends and family still remain.
Often, this time is used to exchange stories about the deceased and family members find themselves learning new things and understanding how their loved one made a difference in the lives of so many around him or her.
During a visitation, if the casket is open, you are welcome to view the deceased and observe a moment of silence for prayer or reflection.
Providing your name, address and other pertinent information within the registry is helpful to the family members who’d like to remember who came, but often find that a written reminder is extremely helpful during this trying time.

Remembrance Service

It’s a tribute to the life lived and reflects the deceased’s individuality. Immediate family members often determine the type of service, from religious to more secular services, and can vary even further depending on family tradition, religious denominations and personal preferences. Your presence at the funeral acknowledges your relationship to the deceased and provides support to other attendees. Significant part of the funeral include:

  • Pallbearers or casket bearers: It’s appropriate to ask close friends, relatives, business associates or fellow club members to serve as bearers. Six bearers are typical. If no friends and family are available for this position, the funeral director will appoint them for the family upon request.
  • Eulogy: Friends, family members or the clergy will provide a short speech about the abilities, positive attributes and commendations regarding the life of deceased.
  • Procession: A formal ride from the funeral home or religious service to the cemetery. The funeral director will organize the cars according to family preferences, and will alert participants of local traffic information.
  • Luncheon/Reception/Wake: Following the end of the final service, an announcement is usually made to inform service participants of directions and times.

Appropriate Dress

Black isn’t always required, but clothing should be respectful of the family and the somber occasion. In certain cultures, however, the wearing of black is still considered a traditional sign of respect.

Memorials, Flowers, and Cards

Showing an expression of sympathy can be done in a number of ways, but the most important aspect is to make sure that you’ve clearly identified yourself to the family. 

  • Memorials or Donations: A family may prefer a contribution to a charity in the deceased’s name instead of flowers. The funeral director can answer questions about the family’s charity preference, and can provide donors with “In Memoriam” cards to inform the family when a donation has been made. 
  • Flowers: They’re always appropriate. You can send them to the family’s residence or to the funeral home.
  • Cards: It means a lot to the family members to know that they’re in your thoughts. In the Catholic faith, a Mass card is a valued expression of sympathy. It indicates that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged.

Thank You Notes

It’s appropriate for family members to formally acknowledge those who sent flowers, messages or provided assistance during the days after their loved one passed away. The funeral director can provide printed acknowledgement cards, or can order special cards at the family’s request.

Grief Recovery

Everyone grieves differently, and it’s important to give your friends and loved ones the time they need. Making yourself available to listen, provide a helping hand, keeping in touch are all ways you can help.

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Funeral Etiquette

Frequent Questions

Grief Support

Social Security Benefits

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