Attending a funeral for the first time, or for more times than you can count, can be a bit daunting. Funerals are sensitive and emotional events, and behaving respectfully and thoughtfully is very important. However, in this day and age of funeral selfies, ringing smartphones and relaxed attitudes, funeral etiquette may not be very obvious to everyone. If we can’t silence our phones for a movie, how are we expected to do so at a funeral?!
In the past, we put together a very simple list of The Do’s and Don’ts of Funeral Etiquette, but we felt that it was time to update our original list, and provide a more detailed guide on how to prepare for and behave at a funeral. Keep in mind that this list reflects many norms and behaviours at more traditional funeral settings. Today, some funeral homes encourage you to use your phone to leave condolences in real-time. Celebrations of life may also do away with dress codes and cultural traditions. Do not be afraid to ask questions before attending a funeral to know what to expect.
Funeral Etiquette – Don’t Do This
Don’t Be Late
This is perhaps one of the most basic, but important “do’s” on this list. Being late is rude in any situation, but when it comes to a funeral, being late can be both incredibly disrespectful and disruptive. The last thing you want to do while others are grieving is to draw attention away from the service by arriving late. So plan ahead, and be on time. Or better yet, aim to get there early!
DON’T Sit in the Front Rows
During the service, the first few rows are typically reserved for the family of the deceased. So when you arrive, it’s always best (and most polite) to ere on the side of caution, and to take a seat in the rows near the middle and back of the room (unless you are a family member of the deceased, of course).
DON’T Bring a Date
Unless your partner also knew the deceased, it is generally considered to be in poor taste to bring a date to a funeral. Funerals are not occasions for romance, and unless your date is your long-term partner, it’s more respectful to go solo to a funeral. Not to mention that a funeral is a terrible date idea…
DON’T Ask Nosey Questions
We understand you may be the curious type, and have a number of questions bubbling up inside you. For instance, if you don’t know the exact cause of death, or what is going to happen to the deceased’s beloved pet, or their enormous fortune, or their extensive library, or their vintage Mercedes… it doesn’t matter. Keep those questions to yourself. A funeral is neither the time nor the place for such inquires.
DON’T Be Afraid to Grieve
Funerals are obviously the perfect time for expressing feelings of grief and loss. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the loss of a loved one, it can be an overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable experience. But just remember that everyone experiences grief differently, and being with others who are experiencing a similar feeling of loss is a very healthy and constructive way to engage with death.
DON’T Be Afraid to Speak to The Immediate Family or Spouse of the Deceased
There is nothing more alienating than people avoiding speaking to you because they don’t know what to say and feel awkward. You should try to refrain from speaking in platitudes however. Instead of saying “Im sorry for your loss” or “let me know if you need anything”, share a nice memory you have of the deceased. Funerals are a time to reflect on the life of that person and –depending on the person/situation/mourner– the family will generally appreciate hearing those nice words. A story can present an opportunity for reflection and possibly even laughter.
Funeral Etiquette – What to Do
DO Dress Appropriately
Something that stumps a lot people is what they should wear to a funeral. Funerals are typically semi-formal events, and it is important to dress in a way that is respectful and appropriate. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wear a full suit, but it also means you shouldn’t wear shorts and a t-shirt. For more specific pointers, take a look at Qeepr’s guides on what to wear to a funeral for both women and men.
DO Express Your Condolences
One of the best ways to be respectful at a funeral is to express your condolences to the family and close friends of the deceased. While everyone at a funeral is experiencing loss, it is those closest to the deceased who are likely suffering the most, and would most appreciate words of comfort and support. However, knowing what to say can be difficult. If you are struggling to find the right words to show you care, take a look at Qeepr’s guide to simple messages of sympathy for some ideas.
DO Respect The Traditions of The Family
Different communities and different cultures have different traditions when it comes to funerals and mourning. When attending a funeral, it is important for you to be conscious of the fact that there might be traditions observed during the funeral that you are not familiar with. If this is the case, the best thing you can do is keep an open mind, be respectful, and follow along as best you can. Funerals are not the context for being critical of the traditions of others, so do your best to act respectfully.
DO Listen Closely to The Eulogy
One of the most important things you should do when at a funeral is give your undivided attention to those are speaking. We get it, some people are difficult to listen to, even if the event is as important as a funeral. But even if those speaking are inaudible, or just plain boring, it is incredibly rude not to pay attention. So do your best to stay focused on the eulogy or speeches being given. At worse, think about the essay you need to write, solve some difficult math equations in your head, or count ceiling tiles. But don’t look at your phone or try to strike up a conversation with your neighbour. This point leads perfectly to the final “do” of this list…
DO Turn Off Your Phone!
This is an important point that people forget about all the time! TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! There are few things more jarring, rude, and just plain annoying as hearing a jingle going off at full volume during a eulogy. Not to mention that it’s incredibly disrespectful to the deceased and their family. So, to be on the safe side, we suggest that you turn off your phone before you even get to the funeral. This way, you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn it off, or about causing a rude disruption during the service.
Thanks for pointing out that being late is not a good practice since it will draw attention to you during the service. I will keep this in mind once our neighbor has found a funeral home to take their loved one. I just have a habit of being late at events because I usually take time to prepare myself.