5 Funeral Etiquette Tips You Need to Know

By: Myles O'Riordan
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Attending a funeral service is a stressful time; emotions are running high and it is often difficult to know how to best prepare and behave in order to be respectful of the deceased and their family. Below are five funeral etiquette tips to help you navigate these situations:

1. Arrive on Time

Arriving late to a funeral is a matter of respect for the deceased and their family, and it is your responsibility as a guest to make sure that you arrive on time. This means considering issues which may arise, such as traffic or construction along your route which might cause delays, and the availability of parking. Arrive no later than 10 minutes ahead of the appointed time.

If you can’t help but be late, be as quiet as possible. Do not hold conversations with other guests, and wait for an appropriate break in the service to enter the room to take a seat.

2. Turn off your cell phone

Ringing or buzzing cell phones are an intrusive distraction, and leaving your ringer or buzzer on during the service is extremely disrespectful behaviour. Not only does it indicate that you haven’t thought enough about the other people at the service to take a moment to turn it to ‘silent’, but it also indicates that you believe that your time is more valuable than the other guests’.

Do not answer your cell phone during a memorial service. If you have to step outside after the ceremony, by all means, but answering a call during the service and exiting -or worse, talking during the service- is about as disrespectful as you can be.

3. Dress appropriately

In North America, it’s considered appropriate to wear black to a funeral service. If you don’t have suitable black clothing, then you should still make a point to wear subdued, conservative clothes which is respectful to the event. Wearing jeans, or the same clothes you would run errands or walk your dog in, shows a great lack of consideration and care for the person who has died, and for their family.

Colours to avoid are red, yellow, orange, or anything with bright or loud patterns which look cheery. Wear neat, clean, well-ironed clothes. Men should wear a dark jacket and slacks, dark dress shoes, a white, plain or solid shirt, and subdued tie. Women should wear a dark or black suit, pant suit, or similar subdued outfit.

4.  Observe cultural, religious and other practices

When invited to a funeral service from someone who is from another culture or faith which you are less familiar with, ask someone about what to expect beforehand or so a quick search online to see what you can expect. Doing research will help you be more relaxed at the time of the event, and will allow you to participate and be fully present during the service.

5. Prepare young children to attend

If you choose to bring young children to a funeral, discuss it with them ahead of time and stress the importance of what they are attending. Before the service, practice time to learn how to whisper and sit quietly for long periods of time, so the child can demonstrate that they are mature enough to attend this important event. If your child is unable to sit still or refrain from talking, or is simply too young to restrain themselves, hire a babysitter to look after them so they aren’t disruptive during the service.

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