Whilst funeral services are much less bound by tradition than they once were, if you haven’t been to a funeral for many years or have never attended one before, you may be wondering what the commonly accepted etiquette is, what to wear and where to sit.
The arrangements for funerals are not enshrined by law and as result; funerals can be held almost anywhere at all. There is a common misconception that funerals have to take place in a church or crematorium, however this is not the case and family and friends are now much more likely to be involved with planning a funeral. With all this in mind, many funerals nowadays are a celebration of a life well lived and pretty much free from convention, rather than an entirely sombre occasion.
Funerals are generally not by invitation and are usually open to anyone who knew the deceased. Remember that a funeral service is an opportunity for friends and family to say goodbye and as such is likely to be attended by anyone who wishes to come.
Many people still choose to wear black as a dress code to funerals as they feel that this is traditional and will be seen as a mark of respect by the bereaved relatives. However, due to the informal nature of many funerals, the majority of mourners these days choose to wear clothes that they feel comfortable in. When making arrangements for a funeral, it is becoming more usual for mourners to be encouraged to wear bright clothes, for example, or to follow an informal ‘dress code’ such as team colours at the funeral of a loyal football fan.
When to enter the church or crematorium
When it comes to church funerals, it is usual for the mourners to enter the church and take their seats before the coffin and close family arrive. However, the protocol at crematoriums is slightly different and it is usual for the mourners to wait outside until the coffin and close family have arrived. When deciding on where to sit, the front rows of the church or crematorium are usually reserved for close family members but unless the church is very small, there’s no need to sit right at the back.
At the end of the funeral service
Once the funeral service is over, it is usual for the congregation to stand and for the funeral celebrant or minister to leave the church or crematorium. If the funeral has been held in a church, the coffin will either be carried out by pall bearers or wheeled out by the funeral directors, ready to be taken to the hearse for the burial. However, if the service has been held in a crematorium, the coffin will either remain on view or may be hidden by a curtain. The close family and next of kin will leave the church or crematorium first. For church funerals, it is usual for close family and friends only to attend the actual burial.