A Guide to Funeral Etiquette

| End-of-Life Resouces

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For some of us, attending a funeral may not have been something we’ve done before. If you’re looking to learn about funeral etiquette, please read our post.

For some of us, attending a funeral isn’t something we’ve thought about too much. But, when someone passes away, and the funeral date is given to you, it can be a distressing time. Whether it’s someone close to you or a distant relative, attending a funeral is one way to pay your respects and say your goodbyes. However, when you attend a funeral, there’s no rules or guides provided to you, and if it’s your first funeral, it can be a little daunting. So, that’s where we come in to help.

We’ve spoken to S. Stibbards & Sons, funeral directors in Wickford and Essex, about proper funeral etiquette. Established for over 150 years, they’ve experienced and seen how funeral etiquette has changed over the years. In this guide, we’ll provide you with information on funeral etiquette, so you can alleviate even a minor amount of stress from the day. Here is your guide to funeral etiquette.

What to Wear

Now, as you may know from various films or TV shows, it is customary for those attending a funeral to wear black or dark colours. This is a tradition that dates back to ancient Rome, where dark togas would be worn as part of mourning. It is something that stemmed from when the Romans came to England, and since has been kept as a part of funeral tradition. However, in this modern age, some find the wearing of black to be outdated. Alternatively, those organising the funeral (the family, not the funeral director) may ask attendees to wear something different. Whether it’s a small gesture of including their favourite colour in their attire or even wearing a football shirt (of a club the deceased supported), it’s not uncommon for these small things to be included as part of the service proceedings.

The family organising the funeral will be able to inform you of any information on alternative attire. However, it is generally considered that attendees should dress formally and adhere to any requests of the family. For other religions, they may ask you to dress within the keepings of their faith. As we’ve said above, if there are any special attire the family has requested, you will be able to find this out from them.

The Chapel of Rest

Most of the time, the only people that will attend the chapel of rest, prior to the funeral, is the close family of the deceased. The chapel of rest is where the body of the deceased is held, prior to the funeral proceedings. Some request to see the body at the chapel, which if you do, you can ask the family of the deceased if you can visit the chapel of rest before the funeral. However, it is entirely up to the family of the deceased or the person organising the funeral.

On the Day

  • The Procession

On the day of the funeral, the proceedings will begin with at either the home of the deceased or one of the family members’ homes. The funeral planner will have arranged limousines or transport to follow the hearse, and usually close family or close friends will travel with the hearse. If you are not travelling with the procession, you will be expected to arrive at the location of the funeral service, prior to the hearse and family arriving – as you will be expected to wait outside before the coffin is carried in. Either you will enter before the coffin is carried through, and stand at is it arrives, or once the coffin has been carried through, and the family have followed, you will be invited in to find a seat.

  • The Funeral Service

Usually, the family of the deceased will occupy the first few rows, with the next of kin sitting near the coffin, at the end of the row of seating. Throughout the service, there will be many songs or hymns, tributes and sometimes prayers, dependent on the order of service. This will all be outlined and printed for attendees in an order of service. The funeral officiant, should there be one, will navigate through the service making sure everything runs according to the order of service – inviting those giving eulogies up to speak and leading the proceedings of the funeral service.

For those with young children or babies, having them sitting throughout the entire service without them crying or fussing is rare. If you’re thinking about bringing toddlers or babies with you, it might be ideal to make sure that they will not make too much noise disrupting the service. For other children, it may be worth explaining to them how the service works and how they should behave.

Following the service, if there is a burial, the service may take place outside or the coffin may be carried towards the grave for burial. After the burial, normally the wake will follow at a different venue.

  • The Wake

Funeral attendees will arrive at a venue for the wake, where there will be light refreshments and drinks. This is sort of an informal part of the service, where everyone in attendance can gather together to remember the deceased. Some choose to host the wake at their own home, or a family members home or at a hired venue with catered services.

This is a general guide to funeral etiquette. We hope this has provided some insight into the funeral proceedings.


| End-of-Life Resouces

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