Frequently Asked Questions About Funeral Etiquette

Grieving Woman
It's essential to maintain proper etiquette and good manners at a funeral. Rich Legg / Getty Images

Do you need to attend a funeral but don't know what is expected of you? Are you concerned that you'll embarrass yourself by committing a funeral etiquette faux pas? 

At some point in everyone’s life, funeral attendance is inevitable. However, due to their somber and often depressing nature, very few people like to talk about them. Not exactly the best party topic, discussion of funeral etiquette has been pushed down to a subject most people don’t bother researching until they absolutely have to.

Rather than fear going to a funeral, learn the basics of proper etiquette. These frequently asked questions cover many of the concerns most people have if they have never attended or haven’t attended a funeral in a long time. The most important thing to remember is that the primary reason for your presence at the funeral, memorial service, or visitation is to show your sympathy and support for the family members of the deceased.

Funeral FAQs:

  • What Do I Wear to a Funeral? Do you dress in black head-to-toe, or is it okay to add color to your attire? Learn today’s etiquette on what is appropriate for funeral attire.
  • What Is a Funeral Visitation? Learn the purpose of a funeral visitation as well as what to expect when you are there.
  • What Am I Supposed to Do During the Visitation? Before you go to the visitation or wake, learn what is expected of you.
  • Where Do I Go? This answers the question of where to go when you first arrive at the funeral or memorial service.
  • What are the Responsibilities of a Pallbearer? If you are asked to be one of the people carrying the casket, follow these tips.
  • Should My Child Attend a Funeral? Many people wonder about whether or not to take their children to funerals. The answer here should help with that decision.
  • What Should I Say to the Family of the Deceased? No words can express the depth of loss of a loved one. However, a few kind words will let the family of the deceased know that you care.

Since there are so many cultural and religious variations of funerals and etiquette related to attendance, you may need to do some additional research. Here are some articles that may provide additional insight.

Religious customs:

  • Catholic
  • Protestant Christianity
  • Judaism
  • LDS (Mormon)
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism

If the deceased was an atheist, the funeral may simply be a celebration of the person’s life. It may be a sad occasion, or if the person suffered during his or her final days, it may be more joyous of an event.

Before you go, be prepared for either mood. If you are a Christian, it is acceptable for you to discretely bow your head and pray for the surviving family members.

The main purpose of having etiquette rules for funerals, memorial services, visitations, and wakes is to have an element of order that provides comfort for the loved ones of the deceased. Each religion and custom has certain elements that are symbolic of something in their foundation. Since everyone will die someday, nearly every religion has some sort of tradition as a foundation to build from.

Many allow some flexibility to tailor funerals to suit the needs and desires of the family in mourning. If you have any questions or concerns, you may discreetly ask someone from the funeral home or the person officiating the ceremony. Most of them are used to answering questions.