Like any other formal event in our society, there are some unwritten rules when it comes to how you should behave at a funeral. Those rules have changed over time, but here’s what you should remember when it comes to proper funeral etiquette in the 21st Century.
What to Wear
There was a time when people were expected to wear all black to a funeral. Black is still considered the color of mourning in the United States, but it’s not necessary to wear it from head to toe to a funeral anymore. This doesn’t mean that you should dress however you want, however. You still need to show respect for the deceased, so showing up in an old t-shirt and some tattered jeans is definitely not appropriate.
When you go to a funeral, dress conservatively. Stay away from bright colors or anything too revealing. When in doubt, err on the side of dressing in a more formal outfit. This will help show proper respect to the deceased and their loved ones.
What to Say
When it comes to what to say at a funeral, always remember that less is more. Offer your condolences to the deceased’s family with a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts are with you.” The idea is to show that you care and that you’re thinking about those who are grieving. You can ask if there is anything you can do to support them if they were close to you, but it’s usually best to keep it simple. It says a lot more than you might think it does.
Where to Sit
The first two rows are usually reserved for the deceased’s family. If this doesn’t include you, you can sit just about anywhere else. If you come in late and the service has already started, take a seat near the back where you won’t be too much of a distraction.
When to Arrive
As a rule, you should arrive at least 10 minutes before the service begins. This will give you time to mingle with the other guests, offer your condolences, and ensure that you find a good place to sit.
What Not to Do
We’ve talked about what you should do when you go to a funeral, but not so much what you should not do. First of all, don’t keep your cell phone on during the service. It will be a huge distraction if it goes off, and playing with it is just disrespectful. If you must use your phone, try to find a quiet time before or after the service someplace where nobody will hear or see you. The bottom line is that if your phone is going to be an issue, just leave it at home.
You should also be careful about going to a funeral if you have small children with you. There’s nothing wrong with bringing children to a funeral, but they need to know how to behave themselves. If they are going to run around, scream, or otherwise be a distraction, consider hiring a babysitter and leaving them at home.
Finally, know when it’s not appropriate for you to go to a funeral. If there was a lot of bad blood between you and the deceased or between you and the deceased’s family, you might be better off staying home if your presence is going to cause an issue. The whole point of a funeral is to honor the memory of someone who has passed away; you don’t want to do anything that could detract from that or be seen as insulting to their memory.