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Social Expectations: a Primer on Funeral Etiquette
Most of us are uncertain about what to do at a funeral. We see it all the time. In fact, I think Funeral Directors are the only people who are truly comfortable in this social setting. After all, we’ve had a lot of practice.
We’ve put together this section on funeral etiquette to share everything you need to know to help you do the right thing before, during and after the service.
What to Do
Offer Words of Condolence
Offering comforting words to the family is usually the easiest thing you can do. It's also something the family will appreciate and remember. If you're attending the service, offer your condolences in person or share a story or special memory about the deceased. If you can't be there, send a card or share your message using the Book of Memories online memorial tribute page.
Sign the Register
When you sign the register at the funeral home, be sure to list your name and your relationship to the deceased. The register is something the family will have forever, and they will appreciate knowing who you are and how you knew their loved one in years to come.
Send a Gift to the Family
Appropriate gifts include flowers, a donation to a charity (oftentimes the family will have a preferred charity), food or a service. You can send your gift to the family's home or the funeral home. Please ensure you include a signed card with your gift so the family knows who sent it. However, please take a few minutes to recognize that certain faiths have proscriptions about what should be sent to the bereaved. If you’re unclear, check with a close family relative or friend.
Stay in Touch with the Family
Depending on your relationship with the family, you may choose to stay in touch in person, by telephone or online. The grieving process can be long and difficult, so don’t just walk out of their lives after the funeral service. You will serve the family well by letting them know you're there for them during the days, weeks, and months follow the death of their loved one.
What to Wear
Historically, people wore black or only somber colors to a funeral. Today it's acceptable to dress in a wider range of colors and clothing styles. In fact, we’ve seen services where the family asked everyone to dress in pink, or in colorful Hawaiian shirts and shorts. But, these unique events aside, a good rule of thumb is to dress as you would at church or a job interview.
Have other questions about funeral etiquette? Contact us. We’ve got the answers you’re looking for – after all, we’ve been to hundreds of funerals. So call – we’d love to help you get through what can (but doesn’t have to) be a challenging social situation.