A funeral is an important way to celebrate the life of a loved one and it is helpful to know the proper etiquette for the occasion. Here are some of the areas where people typically have questions regarding how to behave at a funeral or memorial service.
These days you don't necessarily need to wear all black to a funeral, but you should avoid loud patterns or bright colors. Blues, grays, and neutrals are a good choice. Choose something conservative, tasteful and subtle, as if you were attending a wedding or a job interview.
The first two rows of seating are generally reserved for the family or very close friends of the person who passed away. You should be able to sit in any of the remaining rows. If you arrive late, please try to enter quietly and choose a seat in the back to minimize the distraction to other attendees.
Understand that the register book will likely be kept as a memento for years to come. You should sign with your full name, and relationship to the deceased.
It can be difficult to think of the right words to say to comfort a grieving family, but you can just keep it as simple as "I'm sorry for your loss." With technology and webcast services these days, you may also be able to leave a message of condolences on the decedent's memorial page.
If you happen to be attending a service in person, please look around to see whether there is a camera filming the service for those who cannot be there in person. If so, please make sure to limit your conversations and lower your voice if you are within earshot of the camera, unless you want anyone viewing the service from their computers or devices to also be able to hear your conversation.
Nobody wants their cell phone to ring or cause a disturbance in the middle of a service. Make sure to put your phone on silent or turn it off completely. A funeral is not the appropriate time to be checking your social media or looking at your phone. You should also refrain from sharing the service on social media unless you have approval from the family.
Young children may have a hard time understanding how to behave at a funeral or memorial service. Unless the funeral is for a relative or someone important in their lives, you may choose to leave young babies and toddlers with a babysitter so that you can be present for the service.
Many people are unsure about what is appropriate for an open casket viewing or service. It is customary to show your respects by viewing the decedent in their casket, and spend a few moments in silent prayer or paying respects. Viewing is not required, and you should only do what you are comfortable with. Sometimes a family member may be present at the casket to help escort you, but frequently you will be left to approach the casket on your own, should you choose to do so.
Gifts and tokens of remembrance are appreciated, but should not ever be expected. Typical gifts include flowers or a donation to a charity of significance to the decedent. You may also consider doing an act of service for the family at a later date, such as providing a meal, offering to clean the house, or any other task which may help relieve the burden from the family and allow them space to grieve. It is also appropriate to stay in touch with a card or other memento to let them know you are thinking of them.