Funeral Etiquette Tips

It's natural to feel a bit nervous or uncertain about attending a funeral, especially if you've never been to one before or haven't attended one in a long time. Don't let your nervousness about the event prevent you from coming to pay your respects and offer support to the grieving family. Below we answer some of the funeral etiquette questions we're asked most often.

If you have any questions about what to expect at a funeral you will be attending, you can reach out to a family member or even the funeral director for clarification before the service. We work closely with the families we serve, and we're always available to answer questions about the ceremony, appropriate attire, whether children are welcome, and other concerns you might have.

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What Do I Wear to the Funeral?

Unless instructed otherwise by the family, your safest bet is to dress conservatively. Stick to dark colors such as black, gray, navy, or dark purple, and avoid any ostentatious or overly showy styles. Whatever you wear should be clean, pressed, and in good repair as a show of respect to the family.

Should I Bring My Children?

In general, our opinion is that if children want to attend the service, they should be allowed to. Kids grieve, too, and they should have the opportunity to pay respects to a person who was a part of their lives. Death is a part of life, and seeing the cultural ceremonies surrounding it can be a healthy part of growing up. Infants and toddlers who are too young to understand or who can't stay quiet during a ceremony are perhaps best left with a caretaker, but it's ultimately up to your discretion and the wishes of the family.

Family walking together after a funeral.

What Do I Do at the Viewing?

A viewing usually occurs before the funeral. It may take place the night before, or it may happen on the same day prior to the ceremony. Viewings are sometimes private but may also be open to the public. You are not obligated to attend the viewing, but you are welcome to if you wish to pay your respects. When approaching the casket, it is customary to pause for a brief silent prayer or contemplation. It is also generally appropriate to lightly touch the deceased's hands or kiss their forehead if you would have greeted them this way in life.

What Do I Say to the Family?

Grief and loss are difficult and emotionally complex, and no one really has the right thing to say that will make the situation better. It's best to keep your condolences brief and heartfelt. If you were close to the deceased but not the family, it is customary to introduce yourself by first and last name and clarify how you knew their loved one: “I'm Jill Smith, I worked with your mother for many years. She was a wonderful person and friend. I'm so sorry for your loss.”

What Do I Do During the Service?

Remember that the focus of the event should always be on the family's grief and the memory of the deceased. Avoid doing anything that might cause a scene or detract from that. Arrive early to avoid disrupting the service. Turn off your cell phone or leave it in the car. Don’t take any pictures unless specifically requested by the family. If you find yourself overwhelmed with emotion, overcome with a coughing fit, comforting a crying baby, or otherwise potentially disruptive, excuse yourself outside so the service can go on without interruption.

Even if you’re uncertain what to do or say, don’t let your doubts keep you from coming to pay respects. Showing up and offering your support is the most important thing you can do. Your presence alone will be a great comfort to the family.


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19415 Lee Highway, Abingdon, VA

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