How to be a pallbearer

Picture of a pallbearer man in a suit at a funeral

If you’ve been asked to be a pallbearer, you’ll probably have questions about what to expect. We’ve answered the most common questions, so you can feel prepared for your role.

What is a pallbearer?

Pallbearers carry or escort the coffin during the funeral and burial or cremation service. They’re sometimes also called coffin bearers. You’ll usually be expected to carry the coffin in a slow and steady procession.

There are actually three main types of pallbearer:

Pallbearers

Regular pallbearers are family or friends of the person who has died. They’re chosen by the family.

Professional pallbearers

These are usually provided by the funeral director. They will carry the coffin if family and friends don’t feel able to. They are also be used at very formal funerals.

Honorary pallbearers

Honorary pallbearers follow directly behind the coffin but don’t carry it. The family might ask you to do this role if you were close to the person who died, but aren’t able to carry the coffin.

How many pallbearers are needed at a funeral?

There are usually 6 to 8 pallbearers at a funeral. However, it does depend on the size and weight of the coffin.

Can women be pallbearers?

Yes. It’s a common misunderstanding that only men can be pallbearers. Actually, anyone can be a pallbearer as long as they feel able to do it. Today, female pallbearers are becoming more and more common. Although they’re not new – in 1768 there were female pallbearers at the royal funeral of Princess Louisa-Anne.

Do you have pallbearers at a cremation?

Yes, you can have pallbearers at any part of the funeral where the coffin will need to be carried, including the cremation.

What should a pallbearer wear?

Usually you’ll wear a suit in a black or dark colour. However, less traditional funeral clothing is becoming more popular. So it’s best to ask the family or funeral director what the pallbearer dress code is.

You’ll also want to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes in case you’re walking across uneven ground.

Will I have to carry the coffin?

Not necessarily. It depends on what the person planning the funeral chooses. Traditionally it was popular for pallbearers to carry the coffin on their shoulders. Today it’s common to carry the coffin by the handles on the side or to escort it on a bier, which has wheels to make it easier to move. The funeral director will recommend the safest option, based on the route and the people carrying the coffin.

If you’re asked to be an honorary pallbearer you won’t need to carry the coffin at all. You’ll just walk behind it.

What’s the correct way to carry a coffin?

It’s natural to feel nervous about carrying a coffin. There are actually a few different ways to do it, depending on the weight, the number of people carrying it and the route that you need to walk. You might carry it by the handles, for example, or use a bier which has wheels to make it easier.

The most important thing is to carry it safely and steadily. On the day, the funeral director will be on hand to tell you how to carry a coffin and to make sure it’s done with care and respect.

funeral bearer carrying coffin at funeral

Do I need to arrive early to the funeral?

It’s a good idea to arrive at the funeral early so you have time to talk to the funeral director and other pallbearers. You’ll agree things like:

  • How to carry the coffin (on shoulders, by the handles or on a bier)
  • Where you will stand when you’re carrying the coffin
  • The route you’ll walk along

You’ll also want to practise walking along your route so you know if there are any steps or other things to be careful of.

Should I be a pallbearer?

Being a pallbearer can be tough physically or emotionally. Before accepting the role, have a think about if it’s right for you. You might choose not to be a pallbearer if:​

  • You don’t feel you’re physically strong enough to carry the casket​
  • You have a physical condition that could be harmed by heavy lifting (e.g. back problems or pregnancy)
  • You’re worried that you may feel too emotional on the day ​

If you do decide to be a pallbearer, remember that the funeral director is usually on hand on the day to help the pallbearers carry the casket in a safe and steady way.​ They’ll also answer any last-minute questions you have about what to do.

Is it rude to turn down being a pallbearer?

It can feel difficult to turn down being a pallbearer. But if you decide it’s not right for you, it’s important you tell the person organising the funeral as soon as possible. Most people will understand your decision – after all, they don’t want someone carrying the coffin if they don’t feel up to it.

If you want, you could offer to help out with another part of the funeral instead. This means you can still show your respect and your support for the family.

Got more questions about what to expect at a funeral? Learn more about what to wear to a funeral or read our guide to funeral etiquette.

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Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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What is a Direct Cremation?

A Direct Cremation is an alternative to the traditional funeral. This involves the cremation of the deceased without a funeral service. A Direct Cremation is generally the most economic option because costs of the coffin, preparation of the body, funeral service and expensive transportation are not included. However, many people choose Direct Cremations for reasons other than expense, for example:

  • - Wanting to have a memorial at a different time to the cremation
  • - Expressed desire from the deceased to not have a ceremony
  • - Individuals with relatives who face big physical or geographical challenges in coming together for a ceremony

The prices quoted for Direct Cremations include:

  • All charges, meetings and paperwork for the cremation
  • Collection of deceased and care prior to cremation
  • A simple coffin and urn for the ashes
  • Cremation fees and delivery of ashes to the family
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Attended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees for an Attended Funeral, which is where family and friends have a ceremony or service for the deceased person at the same time as they attend their burial or cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Taking care of all necessary legal and administrative arrangements
  • Collecting and transporting the deceased person from the place of death (normally within 15 miles of the funeral director’s premises) into the funeral director’s care
  • Care of the deceased person before the funeral in appropriate facilities.
  • Providing a suitable coffin
  • Optional viewing of the deceased person for family and friends, by appointment with the funeral director
  • At a date and time you agree with the funeral director, taking the deceased person direct to the agreed cemetery or crematorium (normally within 20 miles of the funeral director’s premises) in a hearse or other appropriate vehicle

In addition to the Funeral Director’s fee, there will be third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements) to cover the other aspects of a funeral (such as the crematorium or burial fees). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to provide these for you.

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Unattended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees and the crematorium fee for an Unattended Funeral, which is where family and friends may choose to have a ceremony, event or service for the deceased person, but they do not attend the burial or cremation itself. This is also known as a Direct Cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Funeral Director's fees
  • Crematorium fee (for an unattended funeral) as selected by the Funeral Director

In addition to this fee, there might be additional third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to explain these for you.

If you wish to attend the funeral, you should view the “Attended Funeral” price instead.

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Why is this price Estimated?

We work hard to ensure the Funeral Director Fees we display are accurate and up to date. However, unlike with our partners, we cannot guarantee this price is correct today.

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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Funeral Choice charity donation

To redeem the £20 charity donation all you have to do is select the charity from the dropdown list in the Make Contact form. Once you have confirmed arrangements with that funeral director send us an email to info@yourfuneralchoice.com confirming the service has been arranged. After we receive this email we will make the donation to the chosen charity and confirm back to you.

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