Funeral Etiquette

Like everything in society, funeral etiquette has evolved over time.  While common sense is your best guide, here are a few dos and don'ts of funeral etiquette.


Express your condolences 

It’s not easy to come up with the right words for someone who has just lost a loved one.  Simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family,” can be enough.  If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.

Dress appropriately 

Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral. You should still dress fairly conservative in business casual wear. Sometimes families invite attendees to dress in something specific (favorite color, sports team jerseys, etc).

Arrive prior to the service start  

A general rule of thumb is to arrive 20 minutes prior to the start time. This allows time to sign a guestbook and find a seat before the family enters. Coming late may disrupt the service.

Sign the register book 

The family will keep the register book as a memento for years.  Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased. Feel free to leave a message. You can also leave a message on the Tribute Wall of the online memorial page. Give a gift – You don’t need to go overboard with your gift - it is the thought that counts.  Suitable gifts include: flowers, a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date.  A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking dinner for them, offering to clean up their house, or any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with death.  Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.

Keep in Touch

You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care.  With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse.  The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support. If you are thinking about them or they are brought to your mind, that is a good reminder to check in.

Allow children to grieve  

When it comes to children attending funerals, this decision is best made by those who are in care of the children. Funerals are an important part of the grieving process, so the decision for them to be there should be carefully weighed. Children grieve differently than adults, but they still need opportunities to express their feelings, talk about their loved one, or say goodbye.  It is important that someone have the time to walk through the process with the child as they can experience different emotions. It is a good idea to talk with children beforehand about what behaviour is expected and to gently remind them throughout the funeral if necessary. 


Bring your cell phone 

Your phone ringing will be highly distracting. Turn any ringers or notifications off.  Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car. A funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages.

Be afraid to remember the good times 

Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process.  Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases, it's exactly what the deceased would have wanted.