Funeral Etiquette - Tips and Advice

Category: Etiquette


It’s never easy to prepare yourself for the day of a funeral, and whilst your thoughts on the day will primarily be taken up by how you are feeling, you may also be wondering about certain aspects of funeral etiquette, from what to wear, to what happens at the end of the service. Having these things sorted can help ease any stress and give you peace of mind that you’re on the right track.

Here are some tips to ensure the most respectful experience.
Funeral etiquette in the UK means that unless the family has requested a private service, a funeral is open to anyone who has known the deceased. It can often provide closure and the opportunity to say goodbye to a dear loved one.

Do I have to be invited to attend a funeral?

Funeral etiquette in the UK means that unless the family has requested a private service, a funeral is open to anyone who has known the deceased. It can often provide closure and the opportunity to say goodbye to a dear loved one.

What should I wear?

Black is appropriate but not always compulsory. In fact, certain religious or cultural circumstances dictate more colourful attire. And these days, many dress in muted or neutral colours, or even in a particularly personal way to celebrate their lost loved one.

If you’re not too sure what to wear, a good way to uphold proper funeral etiquette is to tastefully cover up. Think long sleeves, mid-length dresses and buttoned up collars.

Should I send flowers?

Flowers are a thoughtful way to pay your respects to the deceased.

And whilst ones for the casket are chosen by the immediate family, funeral etiquette dictates that close friends or relatives can choose a personalised wreath, whilst friends can choose a flower arrangement. Just ensure these are delivered to the funeral ahead of time.

What time should I arrive?

Check the traffic or public transport, and plan to get to the venue with enough time to spare. You don’t want to run the risk of turning up late and potentially disrupting the service.

If you do arrive late, see if you can join the service from a side aisle. And if there is a processional, ensure that the coffin and mourners have entered first before going inside.

How do I ensure to convey considerate thoughts?

If you are struggling to express your feelings and offer condolences in a manner you feel comes across as sincere, try compassionate words, such as:

  • Please accept my most heartfelt sympathies for your loss
  • I am deeply sorry to hear about your loss.
  • My thoughts are with you during this difficult time

And try to avoid asking common greeting questions, such as “How are you doing?” It can appear as a little lacking in empathy.

Where should I sit?

It’s a safe assumption in most funerals that the first row or two of seats are reserved for the immediate family of the deceased, so funeral etiquette dictates you should work your way from the back of the room forwards. If you find this leaves the immediate family a little isolated, move a few pews forward.

Should children attend?

When it comes to funeral etiquette, who should attend is an important question, especially when it comes to children.

The choice will be down to the parent or guardian, although many families will choose not to bring small babies or toddlers due to the unpredicted nature of any noise of disruption. If you decide to bring older children, make sure to prepare them in advance so they know what to expect on the day.
When the service finishes, the minister will leave and everybody should stand to pay their final respects. This can often bring about a time of great emotional release.

What happens at the end of a service?

Depending on the type of service, the coffin will either remain on view, be hidden by a curtain or carried out. Immediate family and close friends will leave first, followed by other mourners.