Proper Funeral Etiquette

When you are invited to a funeral, you may not be familiar with the proper funeral etiquette required in such a somber, formal situation. Many people are worried that they will do or say something to upset the family members. Others are just uncomfortable and feel they don't know how to act. Here are some funeral etiquette tips so you can feel comfortable paying your last respects.

How to Dress: The movies always show everyone attending a funeral to be adorned in black; however, it's not necessarily required. Clothing should be conservative in both style and color, and dress clothing is considered appropriate. This means suits or shirts and ties for men and pantsuits or dresses for women. Generally, whimsical prints such as loud florals, polka dots or other wild patterns are not considered appropriate.

At the Viewing or Wake: When entering the funeral home, personal residence or chapel, it's appropriate to approach the mourners first and offer condolences. Sometimes they will be seated or standing before the casket while other times they may be in a little room off to one side. Head there first to offer quiet words of comfort. It is then appropriate to make your way to the casket, where you can quietly contemplate, say a prayer or silently pay respects to the deceased person. Afterwards, you can quietly and respectfully mingle with other mourners. Avoid loud laughter, over-the-top stories or obvious flirting.

Flowers: Depending on your relationship to the deceased, there are different levels of funeral flower etiquette. As a co-worker, you could organize a floral arrangement from the office. If it's a family member or friend, you can make arrangements for yourself. If the deceased's family has requested charitable donations in lieu of flowers, follow their wishes. If the deceased is an acquaintance, a simple card with heartfelt sympathies will do.

At the Funeral: When you attend a funeral, many elements depend upon the deceased person's religion or beliefs. In general, turn off electronic devices such as cell phones or pagers before entering the church or home. Arrive early, and seat yourself quietly in the middle or rear of the room: Most of the first rows will be reserved for close family members. Be respectful to those offering prayers or speeches, and never doze or snooze. You will likely witness moments of raw grief from family members of the deceased; be respectful and don't laugh, stare or joke about any displays of emotion.

Graveside Services: When the casket is taken from the church or funeral home, the audience should stand until it has left the building. Then, it's appropriate to make your way quietly to the graveside in a funeral procession. You should follow the car in front of you with your headlights on. This signals to other drivers that your vehicle is part of the procession. Drive slowly and respectfully.

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