Everything You Need to Know Before Attending a Funeral for The First Time


Attending a funeral for the first time can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect. How to act depends on the family’s customs and the type of funeral. If it’s the funeral of a close family member or friend, you will likely be more familiar with the customs and traditions than if it’s an acquaintance.

When planning to attend a private funeral for a friend, have an invitation. If you don’t, call the funeral home for more details. Here is all you need to know when attending a funeral for the first time:

Know What to Bring

It’s not necessary to bring anything when attending a funeral unless requested. However, if you want to, flowers are often popular. Check the funeral home’s website for any restrictions on flowers or decorations. Also, consider sending a card or note of condolence to the family before or after the service.

When wondering which funeral arrangement is most appropriate, lilies, roses, orchids, and carnations are the most popular. The choice depends on your relationship with the deceased, the style of the funeral, and personal preferences. Pick a flower with a special meaning if you were very close friends. Red roses, white lilies, and purple orchids have special significance.

It’s also thoughtful to send flowers to the family before the funeral. Attach a card with a meaningful message acknowledging the loss and expressing sympathy. The effort shows that you are thinking of them during such a difficult time.

Dress Appropriately

Ask what the family considers appropriate attire, or check out their website for more information. Most families prefer attendees to dress conservatively, so avoid wearing bright colors or anything revealing. Adding a touch of black is always respectful. Consider the family’s customs, religious beliefs, and the type of service when choosing your outfit. For instance, if attending a religious service, it’s appropriate to adhere to the customs of that faith.

Be Respectful During the Service

Arrive at the service on time and respect the family’s wishes. If requested, turn off your cell phone before entering the service. You don’t have to feel obligated to stay for the entire service if it’s too overwhelming. You can always leave and return when you feel ready. Many families appreciate the effort of attending a funeral, regardless of how long attendees stay.

When paying your respects to the family, keep it brief and don’t discuss any complex topics. If you don’t know what to say, just express your condolences. When the service is over, thank the family for allowing you to attend and express your sympathy. Offer any support you can provide during this difficult time.

Follow the Outlined Protocol

Most funerals will include specific protocols to follow. Familiarize yourself with these protocols beforehand to know what is expected of you. For example, if the family has requested a moment of silence or if cameras and recording devices aren’t allowed, respect these wishes.

Standard protocols include standing during specific service sessions, refraining from talking, and displaying respectful behavior. Following these protocols ensures that everyone attending can comfortably pay their respects.

Don’t Sit in The Front Rows Unless You Are Family

Sitting in the front rows is inappropriate unless you are a close family member or friend. Respect those closest to the deceased by allowing them to sit closer. If you know the immediate family, you can offer your seat or help them with seating arrangements. When in doubt, sit towards the back of the service.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Posts

In today’s digital age, be mindful of your social media posts. Avoid posting photos or videos from the service without permission. Respect the family’s wishes to keep the event private. Also, avoid sharing your thoughts about the service or the deceased.

Limit Distractions

Distractions such as talking during the service, taking photos, or recording videos are very disrespectful in this setting. Never take phone calls unless you step out of the service.

Also, listen attentively to the eulogy when it’s read. Not doing this is disrespectful to the family and those in attendance. Don’t make a scene even if you disagree with what is said. It’s also rude to be on social media or chatting when the service is proceeding. Turn off your phone or silence it.

Only View the Open Casket if Invited

Viewing an open casket isn’t mandatory and should only be done if invited or encouraged by the family. Even when asked, it isn’t necessary as it’s a personal experience. If you do get invited, approach the casket with respect and reverence. If you’re not comfortable doing it, don’t feel obligated.

Remember That Each Family’s Needs Will Be Different 

Each family’s situation will be different and should be respected. Follow the family’s lead on how to behave during the service. Some families may prefer a more somber atmosphere, while others may be more comfortable with a relaxed environment. Knowing the family’s wishes and respecting them is vital.

Don’t Be Afraid to Grieve

It’s also important to remember that funerals are a time of grieving. Don’t be afraid to express your emotions and show respect to the deceased. Crying, hugging, and kind words are all acceptable ways to show support. When overwhelmed with emotions, stepping outside for fresh air is alright.

Show Respect When Your Religious Views Differ

You don’t have to agree with the religious views of those attending the funeral service. However, be respectful when expressing your opinions, and don’t disrupt the service. You don’t have to sing, pray, or take part in any activities that make you uncomfortable. However, bowing your head respectfully or remaining silent throughout service is always appreciated.

Be Compassionate

A funeral is a time of solemn remembrance and supporting those affected. Be mindful and respectful of the deceased and the grieving family. Above all, be compassionate during this difficult time for family and friends. Show your support and be there for the family if they need it. They will remember your kindness even after the service is over.

Finally, avoid forming any negative opinions about the service or family. All funerals are different, and everyone deserves respect during this difficult time. Following these etiquette guidelines is a simple way to show your support and care.

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