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Funeral Etiquette

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Funeral Etiquette
Susan Quilty

Funerals are difficult for everyone. It is often hard to know what to say or how to behave at the funeral. These days, funeral etiquette is less formal than it once was, but following some simple guidelines will help ease awkwardness.

Funeral Dress

It is no longer expected that family and friends dress in black at a funeral, however dark, somber tones are still appropriate. Funeral dress should be conservative and tasteful.

Formality of funeral dress varies from one family to the next. However, very casual clothes or sports attire should be avoided. Simple, conservative clothes that do not draw attention are a respectful choice for family members and guests alike.

Sending Flowers

Sending flowers is appropriate in some traditions, unless the newspaper announcement states that the family has requested memorial gifts in lieu of flowers. Contact the funeral home or check their Web site for information on where to send flowers. Ask the florist to print your name and full address on the floral card so the family will not have to look up your address when sending thank you notes.

Memorial Gifts

Families may request that memorial gifts to a particular charity or organization are sent in lieu of flowers. When sending the memorial gift, be sure to tell the organization that the gift is being made in the name of the deceased. Often the organization will send a list of donors to the family so they can thank you for your support.

Visitation or Calling Hours

Many families will hold visitation or calling hours prior to the funeral service. This is often held at the funeral home and may be the day before or just prior to the funeral. Visitation or calling hours allow family and friends a chance to say goodbye prior to the funeral.

When visiting, be sure to sign the guest book and keep conversation with the immediate family brief, especially if there are many people there paying their respects. Simply expressing sympathy for their loss is appropriate. You may have the opportunity to approach the casket, however it is not required that you do so.

Funeral Service
Where the funeral is held will often depend on the family's religious beliefs or traditions. If you are not of the same faith, simply follow the service quietly and respectfully. You will not be expected to join in on the religious aspects of the service, such as accepting communion at a Catholic mass.

To show respect for the family, do not arrive late to the service. Plan on arriving 10 minutes early, as the service will likely start right on time. Keep conversations before the service low and avoid talking during the service. If you have young children who begin to cry or make noise, take them out to avoid disturbing the other mourners.
Funeral Procession

Family and close friends may choose to take part in the funeral procession. This is the line of cars that drive together from the funeral to the cemetery. Often the immediate family will ride in a limousine following the hearse and other cars will follow. The funeral director will give instructions and provide identification tags, often small flags, to attach to the cars. Cars in the procession should turn their headlights on.

After the Funeral

While a bereaved family may draw strength from their extended family and close friends, do not plan to visit at the family home unless an invitation has been offered. The family may choose to host a luncheon or buffet after the services or they may prefer to have some time alone.

Funerals are always difficult, but keep in mind that the function is to pay respect to the deceased and offer support to the family. Simply attending the services is a strong sign of support. Do not let the fear over what to say or how to behave keep you from paying your respects.