Etiquette can be a tricky thing to get right, and at an occasion like a funeral where emotions can run high, the verbal and non-verbal cues you give off can have a significant impact on other attendees.
When you’re attending a funeral, you want to do everything you can to commemorate the deceased in a considerate and courteous manner as well as show sensitivity to other attendees who might be grieving like you. With that in mind, these four pointers on critical aspects of funeral etiquette could help you pay your respects to the deceased without causing discomfort to others.
Unless it’s an emergency situation, arriving late at a funeral can make it appear as though you’re not taking the funeral service seriously. At a practical level, arriving late could see you interrupting the service after it starts, whether you’re rushing through the door or looking for a seat.
Always allow enough time to drive to the venue and find a car park. You’ll want to arrive early — say, 15 minutes early — so you’re settled into your seat before the service commences. If you do encounter an emergency and you arrive after the service has started, always enter as quietly as possible, be discreet, and take a seat at the back to minimize disruption.
While the trend is for funerals to become more celebratory and positive in theme, it’s still vital to maintain a somber, respectful manner and stay focused on the proceedings. Always keep the purpose of the occasion in mind: you’re there to pay your respects to the individual who has passed away and his/her family. Stay serious and courteous, and avoid taking over anyone. If the people around you are noisy, ask them politely to be quiet.
If you’re a family member or friend who had a close relationship with the deceased, you might find it challenging to control your emotions at some stage. In that case, it’s fine to step outside and give yourself the space to have a cry if you think it could be disruptive or distracting to the service. Crying is fine; however, you don’t want to cause a big scene or make the other attendees uncomfortable.
Your attire is another non-verbal sign of your respect – for both the individual who has passed and for the occasion. As an attendee, you’ll want to dress appropriately and not go overboard. While the rules around funeral attire tend to be more relaxed than they once were, apply common sense when choosing your outfit for a funeral.
While you don’t have to wear all black and it’s fine to incorporate a bit of color into your clothing, it’s a good idea to avoid bright colors, loud prints, and glittery detailing. Jeans, leggings, and cropped pants are generally to be avoided. Sneakers, flip flops, open-toed shoes, sparkly jewelry, and other casual footwear and accessories should be avoided.
Dress conservatively — and not for a club, beach, or party — so you can show respect for the deceased person as well as the other attendees. Business or work attire should usually be fine for a funeral.
Examples of appropriate outfits for women include a dark suit with a skirt or pants and a skirt or pants with a shirt or blouse. Men can opt for a suit with a collared shirt, tie, and pants. Consider the culture of the family of the deceased as this can impact what’s appropriate attire and the colors you should be wearing. If in doubt, check with the family for advice on what to wear.
Never have a ringing or chiming phone at a funeral service; remembering to turn off your phone or set it to silent before you enter the venue. Nothing could be worse than having a loud phone ringing and interrupting a funeral service in a quiet place like a church and realizing it’s your own phone that’s gone off.
Other etiquette issues to take into consideration include the use of your phone itself. It’s best to avoid texting, surfing, and other phone activities when you’re at the funeral service. If you have an emergency and find you have no choice, step outside to use your phone instead of chatting, texting, or otherwise using your phone in the church, even if the service hasn’t started.
Using your phone too much or staying glued to your phone can give the impression you’re not focused on commemorating the deceased. Keep any phone checks quick and put your phone away in your pocket or handbag otherwise.
Additionally, keep in mind taking photos at a funeral service is generally to be avoided. By staying off your phone and concentrating on the service, you can show you’re there in solidarity with other attendees to honor and celebrate the deceased.
Staying respectful at a funeral
Whether you were close to the deceased or more of an acquaintance, it’s crucial to follow proper funeral etiquette and stay respectful. Funeral services can be rife with awkward interactions, with emotions running high and family and loved ones in a state of grief.
As such, keeping good etiquette in mind can help you navigate tricky situations and avoid making others uncomfortable. Behaving appropriately is a way to show respect to the deceased as well. If you’re dealing with feelings of grief you can’t quite process, applying these insights can help you stay focused on the service even if you’re finding it a challenge to keep your feelings in check.