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Funeral Etiquette: Helpful Tips, What to Say and Rules You Should Follow 

Funerals are rarely a happy or joyful time in our lives, and can even be extremely stressful. As a funeral guest, you want to do everything possible to honor the individual that has passed by providing comfort and solace to their family. This can leave you in a position of discomfort, where you are unsure which actions or words could be taken the wrong way. Instead of avoiding funerals, take this time to learn a bit more about funeral etiquette and finding the right words to support your friends and family members during this difficult time. Sometimes doing the right thing means waiting to express your feelings at a time when the family members are better able to control their emotions or sending a heartfelt note after the service.

Helpful Funeral Etiquette Tips

Should you bring gifts to a funeral? Are there limitations in how you should dress? These are a few of the questions that you might consider as you are preparing to attend a funeral service or visitation. These funeral etiquette tips will help ensure you do not detract from the experience for loved ones or other mourners.

  • Avoid wearing bright colors, provocative clothing or open-toed shoes. It’s also important to consider the climate and whether or not you’ll be attending a graveside ceremony. Spike heels may not be the best option for walking through a cemetery. While many people consider that black is the only option for clothing, any dark clothing or subdued shades are appropriate. Steer clear of bright prints or anything that would draw attention to you during the service.
  • Sending flowers and plants is one way that individuals can show their support for the deceased, but non-traditional options such as giving a donation to their favorite charity are also acceptable. While flowers are lovely, families can be overwhelmed with arrangements and unsure what to do with them after the ceremony.
  • While gifts are not necessary, do take the time to send a thoughtful card to family members before or after the funeral and always sign the guest book. This written memory of your care and compassion during a difficult time can be one of the most important ways to show your support.
  • Prep children to understand the ceremony and what will be happening. If you don’t feel that little ones will be able to restrain themselves during a memorial service, the best option may be to leave them with loved ones or sit near the back so you can sneak out if your child needs a break.
  • If there are ushers at the service, please follow their requests carefully as they have been coached on how to help everything move smoothly.

While it should go without saying, be sure to silence your cell phone before entering the funeral home. If you simply must take a phone call, step outside or into a different room to avoid distracting other mourners.

Finding the Right Words to Comfort Friends and Family Members at a Funeral

Have you ever thought to yourself “What do you say at a funeral? I’m not sure I can find the right words to comfort a grieving family member.” If so, you’re not alone as many individuals struggle with finding the appropriate sentiments during this highly emotional time. Short condolences are often best, with longer or more involved stories best saved for future conversations.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as you’re planning how to pay your final respects:

  • Express compassion for the family members with soft, positive language “I am so thankful to have known your loved one. They will always have a special place in my heart.”
  • “I am so very sorry for your loss.”
  • If you do not know the family well, share your relationship with the deceased: “I enjoyed working with him for over 20 years. He always made positive contributions to the team and spoke highly of his family.”
  • “I always enjoyed listening to her stories. She lived a fascinating life!”

Just as there are some phrases that can be comforting, a funeral or visitation is certainly not the time to bring up old family feuds or to recall angry moments. Stories that are questionable or even slightly off-color are also not the best idea in this situation — even if your loved one would have found the story delightful. Not everyone will hear these stories in the context and positive light that they are meant, so stay positive, natural and warm with your conversation at a funeral. Other topics that are best avoided include:

  • Questions about the cause of death, as even the most delicate questions may be too personal to discuss.
  • Any mention of the level of grief family members exhibit. We all grieve in different ways — some more openly, while others are very private with their feelings.
  • Telling a family member that their feelings will pass over time, or that a spouse will find someone else to love.

When in doubt, keep your remarks positive and loving and avoid difficult topics during this emotional time.

Rules You Should Follow When Attending a Funeral

While there aren’t lists of hard and fast rules every guest should follow at a funeral, there are some recommendations that will help ensure that you and other guests are at ease. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the funeral is not about you, so be cautious of any activities that might call attention to you during the memorial service, visitation or burial ceremonies. These are often quite dignified experiences, allowing friends and family members to privately experience a final farewell for their loved one. Depending on the type of service, funerals can be intensely personal or an active celebration of life — there truly are no “right answers” when it comes to funerals. What is important is that you do everything possible to support the family members who experienced a loss.

Whether you are attending a funeral for the first time or preparing a plan for your own funeral, the friendly and knowledgeable staff at San Tan Mountain View Funeral Home are here to answer your questions at 480-888-2682 or via email to [email protected]. Our family has been providing solace and compassion to others for more than 50 years, and we have a full suite of services including cremation to ensure that you and your loved ones are treated with the dignity that you deserve.

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