If you are soon to attend a funeral, you might be concerned about what is expected of you as a guest. Knowing the proper funeral etiquette can help to put your mind at ease during this difficult time, so you have one less thing on your mind.
What to wear to a funeral?
The outfit you wear to a funeral can be a sign of respect or sometimes a tribute to the person who has passed. Traditionally, many choose to wear black when in mourning, but some funerals will request alternative dress codes. We have a full guide here on what to wear to a funeral, but here are our top tips for choosing appropriate attire:
- Think about the location and weather.
- Follow whatever colour code have been requested in the invite.
- Dress comfortably and modestly.
- Choose smart, clean and comfortable shoes.
Remember that if you’re not sure about the dress code, don’t be afraid to ask the organiser of the funeral for their advice.
What do you need to bring with you?
You may not need all of these items, but before the day, it is useful to consider what you are bringing with you to avoid forgetting anything. As a guest at a funeral, we would recommend bringing:
- A sympathy card for the family.
- Items for the weather (perhaps sunglasses or an umbrella depending on the time of year).
- A paper copy of any speeches or stories you may want to read.
- Flowers or a gift (see below).
What to do during the service?
Each service is unique, but most will, to some degree, follow similar etiquette rules. As with our dress advice, don’t be afraid to ask the organiser of the event if you are unsure about anything.
When choosing your seat, it is customary for the immediate family and very close friends to sit in the very front rows. The rest of the space is then filled with all other guests. You may find it comforting to sit with those you are closest to, or perhaps you’ll want some space to grieve. Do whatever feels right for you.
What to say at the wake?
The wake is a time to spend time with family and friends and share fond memories of the person whose life you are celebrating. Usually this is held in a sperate location and is a less formal setting. For more information on what a wake is, click here.
Depending on how close you are to the one who was lost, you may wish to say a few words and share some memories with those attending the wake, but there is no pressure if this doesn’t feel right for you. If you would like to speak at the wake, contact the funeral organiser and let them know, so they can make sure you get your chance to speak.
Should I bring a gift or donation?
This is often declared on the invite. Whether the family wish for donations to be made in lieu of gifts, or nothing at all, it is important to respect the wishes of those holding the funeral. If welcome, you may wish to bring a card for the family or flowers to place on the day.
If the family are collecting for a donation, then bringing a small amount of cash will avoid any hassle on the day.
Understanding what is expected of funeral etiquette will help to alleviate any anxious feelings before the ceremony. It is a difficult day, but taking the time to properly prepare yourself can help to make the experience less overwhelming.