There are many questions that come to mind when we attend a funeral.

What to wear, what to bring or what to do or say, the list goes on. Upon hearing the news about a loved one passing away it can be easy to forget the basics of funeral etiquette.

Funeral etiquette can vary depending on different cultures and religions so there really is no universal guide for the correct customs while attending a funeral. However, there are certain social graces that can help you navigate through a funerary service.

Before the service – what to wear?

There is no uniform policy when to comes to dressing for a funeral, but it should be known that a funeral is a time to show your respect which should be reflected in what you wear. Dressing in a formal and conversative way is much more appropriate than wearing something bright with obnoxious patterns. In western funerals, it is common to wear all black or dark coloured clothing which may be a suit or business dress. But there may be some situations where the family will request a certain dress code that honours their loved one such as dressing in their favourite colour or in a football jersey. Here is it important to fulfill the wishes of the family.

Upon arrival – what to say?

It may be difficult to string together the perfect words to say to offer your condolences and grief. The best advice is to express your sympathy in a short, simple, and sincere manner. With many people attending a funeral, the family may not be able to give you a lot of their time and attention, so be mindful of that. It is also important to be conscious of your conversations with other guests. A funeral isn’t a time to play catch up with your old friends or share stories about your personal life. Keep your conversations with others quiet and make more of an effort to listen or shares stories about your loved one.

During the service – what to do?

Usually, the best thing to do during the service is to watch, listen and follow. In terms of seating arrangements during a funeral service, consider how close your relationship was to the person and make your seating decisions from that. Generally, immediate family sit in the front rows, followed by extended family and close friends, with acquaintances and co-workers towards the back of the venue or whatever seating is left available.

There are also other important things to consider:

  • Turn your mobile phone off or on silent, and never check it during the service while the funeral director or family are speaking
  • Photography isn’t advice during a service, try and respect the family during this time by avoiding photos
  • If you are attending the service with young children and they are not content, take them outside to avoid disrupting the service

 As mentioned before, there is no universal handbook of the right funeral etiquette, however following these general cues may help you through a difficult event. If you are ever in doubt, it won’t hurt to check with the funeral director or family themselves.