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Funeral Etiquette

Do you need to attend a funeral but don’t know what is expected of you? You’re not the only one.

Before you find yourself faced with the need to attend a funeral or visitation, arm yourself with knowledge of proper funeral etiquette so you don’t commit a faux-pas. While each funeral is different, there are some things most of them have in common.

At some point in everyone’s life, funeral attendance is inevitable. However, due to somber and often depressing nature, very few people like to talk about them. Not exactly a common party topic, discussion of funeral etiquette has been reduced to a subject most people don’t bother researching until they absolutely have to.

Rather than letting the fear of attending a funeral get the best of you, learn the basics of proper etiquette. These frequently asked questions cover many of the concerns most people have if they have never attended or haven’t attended a funeral in a long time.

The most important thing to remember is that the primary reason for your presence at the funeral, memorial service or visitation is to show your sympathy and support for the family members of the deceased.

  • What is a funeral visitation? A funeral visitation gives people an opportunity to show respects to the family.
  • What am I supposed to do during a visitation? You’ll speak to the surviving family members and offer your condolences.
  • Where do I go? The first few rows at a church or funeral home are typically reserved for family members. If you aren’t in this group, choose a seat behind the reserved section. The pews are often marked with small signs.
  • What are the responsibilities of a pallbearer? The main responsibility of the pallbearers is to carry the casket from the coach to either inside a church or to the gravesite. This is a position of honor.
  • Should my child attend a funeral? Many people wonder about whether or not to take their children to funerals. The first thing you need to consider is whether or not the child can behave throughout the service. If your child has never been to a funeral, explain the basics before you leave the house. There are special considerations if the deceased person is a family member or relative. Every case needs to be handled on case-by-case basis.
  • What should I say to the family of the deceased? No words can express the depth of loss of a loved one. However, a few kind words will let the family know that you care.
  • Are sympathy cards appropriate? Not only are they appropriate, but they also add another layer of comfort to the family of the deceased.
  • Is it appropriate to bring food to the family of a deceased? In many cultures, food shows your respect and consideration for those who suffer grief from the loss of a family member.
  • Should I send flowers to the funeral or memorial service? It’s best to send flowers to the funeral home or to the home of the deceased’s immediate family.

Since there are so many cultural and religious variations of funeral etiquette related to attendance, you may need to do some additional research. There are differences among different faiths and how they conduct funerals.

Important to Remember:

The main purpose of having etiquette rules for funerals, memorial services and visitations is to have an element of order that provides comfort for the loved ones of the deceased. Each religion and custom has certain elements that are symbolic of something in it’s foundation. Since everyone will die someday, nearly every religion has some sort of tradition as a foundation to build from.

Many funeral directors allow some flexibility to tailor funerals to suit the needs and desires of the family in mourning. If you have any questions or concerns, whether you are planning a funeral or attending one, you may discreetly ask someone from the funeral home or the person officiating the ceremony. Most of them are used to answering questions.