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Unit 3 – Funeral Etiquette Part 1

On the day of the funeral, the funeral cortege will either leave the funeral home or arrive at an agreed address at the time arranged.

The Funeral Director will green and escort their client and family to the limousine(s). Once everyone is seated, the Funeral Director will walk the cortege away from the house, before getting in to the hearse and travelling to the place of service.

On arrival at the Church or the Crematorium The Funeral Director will first go and speak with the minister or celebrant,   then he / she will return to the family when ready to proceed.

We aim to guide you through some of the common questions people have about what to do and what happens at a funeral. This is a general guide as customs and traditions differ. Your local funeral director will be able to help you if you have other questions or would like more information.

Should I wear black?

It’s very rare nowadays for people going to a funeral to be dressed entirely in black, although some people may think that bright clothing is not appropriate. Most people choose formal clothes like a suit, and men normally wear a black tie. The family organising the funeral may give specific instructions on what they would like people to wear at the funeral. The most important thing is to be comfortable and dress for the weather. Churches and cemeteries can be very cold in the winter.

Should I cover my head?

Some religions expect you to cover your head, for example, at Greek Orthodox or Jewish ceremonies. Always ask the funeral director for advice. If you want to wear a hat, that’s fine.

Can anyone visit the deceased in the chapel of rest?

Normally, only close family and friends visit the chapel of rest.

Who travels with the funeral procession?

The person arranging the funeral decides who will be in the car or limousines following the hearse. This is usually family and sometimes close friends. Most of the people going to the funeral will use their own cars and may choose to meet the procession where the service is being held.

Do people go into the church or crematorium before or after the coffin?

This depends very much on local tradition and the family’s personal choice. For example, in a church, mourners usually arrive and take their place before the service starts and then stand when the coffin is brought in, which is followed by the close family. At a crematorium it is more usual to enter after the chief mourners (family and close friends), who immediately follow the coffin. The front seats are reserved for the immediate family.

Where do the mourners sit?

Chief mourners usually sit at the front. Sometimes, if it is possible, the chief mourner or next of kin sits at the end of the pew next to the coffin. In a large church or chapel that is unlikely to be full, it’s better not to sit at the back. The clergy may have difficulty in making themselves heard and the close family may feel isolated at the front.

What happens at the end of the service?

At the end of the service the minister will leave and everyone should stand. At a church the coffin will be carried out. In a crematorium chapel the coffin may remain on view, be hidden by a curtain or be lowered into the floor. The chief mourners leave first, followed by everyone else. If it is a burial, the coffin will be taken to the grave, where the minister will speak before the coffin is lowered into the grave.

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