Funeral Etiquette Part 2: Common Questions

Who Should Attend

When an individual passes away, family, friends, and coworkers usually attend the funeral to pay their respects. At the same time, it is essential to remember that funerals are not only about the deceased; if you are close with the person’s loved ones, consider being present to offer condolences and show support.

Many people wonder whether or not it is appropriate to bring children to a funeral service. While it is important that a child doesn’t feel forced to attend, it is also important for them to have an opportunity to say goodbye and be a part of the tribute. Prepare children ahead of time by talking openly about the situation and what the service might be like.

What to Wear

The traditional attire for mourning is formal and black. However, families now often prefer that the service or gathering be seen as a celebration of their loved one’s life, so there is not necessarily a typical style anymore. Some families ask that guests dress according to a certain theme such as wearing camouflage for an avid hunter or purple for an enthusiastic Vikings fan. When in doubt, it is still safe to choose subdued colors and dress modestly.

What to Say

Knowing what to say to someone who is grieving might feel intimidating, but simply let the family know that you are sorry for their loss and that you are thinking of them during this time. If appropriate, introduce yourself and tell the family how you knew the individual who passed. You might consider sharing a favorite memory you have with the person or mentioning what you will miss the most about them. Avoid making any comments that minimize their loss or compare levels of sorrow. Also, don’t bring up the cause of death unless the family speaks freely about it.

What to Give

A sympathy card is a great way to share your condolences with the family, especially when your time interacting with them at the funeral or visitation might be very limited. Some people include a gift of money for the family or add a note that a donation was made to an organization in honor of the one who passed. Sending sympathy flowers to the funeral location prior to the service is also a very common option, as is bringing a meal to the family during the days or weeks following the service.

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