Funerals are not always sombre affairs. Nowadays, such occasions usually call for a celebration of life.
Even so, do you still need to wear black? To answer this question – and others which you may have – here are some basic etiquette tips for the modern-day funeral.
Do I need to attend?
Unless you’re a family member, or a close friend or relative, it’s not usually expected for you to attend the service. In which case, you may wish to decide based on how you feel about the person who’s passed away.
What’s the etiquette with mobile phones?
Most will know it’s respectful to turn off mobiles (or, at least, to put them on silent and off vibration mode). Yet, at times we forget. If you do, and your mobile rings, it’s courteous to quickly turn it off. You can always return the call afterwards.
Can I take my children?
As a respect to the family, so that the funeral service is not interrupted, it’s best to leave infants and young children in the care of another at home. Nowadays, it’s more acceptable for older children – especially those who are old enough to understand what’s going on and, as a result, are more likely to behave – to attend. It can also beneficial for them to share in the occasion and ritual of a funeral; however, it’s not expected that they must attend.
What do I wear?
Formal black attire is no longer considered obligatory, but you can still be respectful in the way you dress. So, while wearing colour is acceptable, it’s best to steer clear of tight or revealing clothing, and, indeed, an outfit that is considered overly casual – such as shorts and a polo shirt. Some funerals may have a dress code; for example, a 1950s theme or dressing all in red. If there is one, do your best to honour it, as it’s respectful to the family, and may also be one of the deceased’s wishes for celebrating their life.
What do I say?
Normally, it’s customary to say something such as, “I’m truly sorry for your loss.” You may also wish to mention something short and sweet about the deceased. For example, “I loved the way your father always made the time to take his grandson fishing each month.” In this way, you presence becomes supportive and heartfelt.
What should I not say?
It may be considered rude to ask details about how the deceased passed away. Also, saying “I know how you feel” may be regarded as insensitive, since each person experiences grief in their own way.
What should I do at the end of the service?
While it’s not compulsory to stay for the refreshments afterwards, you may wish to express your condolences to the family and sign the guest book before you leave, as a matter of respect and kindness.