The Basics of Funeral Etiquette
Emily Post once said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others." Much of what we know today about etiquette comes from this woman, who published her first book of etiquette in 1922. When you use those words as your guide, the rules of funeral etiquette become easier to understand.
Christina Ianzito, in "How to Write a Eulogy," offers these suggestions; many of them come from Garry Schaeffer's book, A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy:
What to Wear
Tradition has always required a certain level of formality in dressing for a funeral. However, today's end-of-life services are so varied — ranging from the traditional funeral to the often more relaxed celebration of life — that it's challenging to know exactly what's expected of you.
The advisors on the Emily Post website tell readers that "attire isn't limited to just black or dark gray. Remember, though, that it is a serious occasion and your attire should reflect that, especially if you are participating in the service. At the very least it should be clean, neat, and pressed as for any other important occasion."
What to Say
No one expects you to say more than a few words and bereaved family members are often unable to give you their full attention anyway. So, keep it short and make it sincere.
"I'm so very sorry for your loss" may work very well. If you have time to add to those seven words, you might want to share a personal story about a time you shared with the deceased. But, watch closely for signs that your audience needs to move on to receive condolences from other funeral guests.
When speaking to other funeral guests, speak quietly. This is not a time to discuss business or share stories about your recent vacation. Instead, focus on sharing and listening to stories of times spent with the deceased.
What to Do
If you're unsure about what actions to take when being led by a pastor or celebrant, simply follow along. If you're not comfortable, don't draw attention to your unwillingness to participate. Be discrete and respectful of others.
Always leave your cell phone in the car or at the very least, turn it to vibrate mode or turn it off.