Funeral Etiquette

Have you ever been unsure of certain aspects of a funeral? Do you have questions, but you aren’t sure whom to ask? Questions such as whether you should attend a wake, what to say, what to wear, whether or not to send flowers? We would like to answer these questions in hopes of helping you in deciding what action is best for you to take as it pertains to funerals.


Should I attend a wake?
Many people avoid going to funeral services because of the emotional nature of them. If you aren’t sure whether or not you should attend a funeral, we recommend you do try. The family will appreciate your presence and kind words.


Often times there are calling hours or a “wake” prior to the funeral service. If you knew the deceased person or someone who was close to the deceased person, you should really try to attend. The funeral or memorial service is typically attended by family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and all others who had a relationship with the deceased. It is acceptable to attend the wake, and not the funeral, if you did not have a relationship with the deceased.


I never know what to say when I attend a service. What should I say?
If you are having trouble coming up with what you will say, you should remember that the most important thing is your presence. Expressing sympathy can be done in a variety of ways, including sharing your thoughts on how kind the deceased person was, sharing a story or fond memory of the deceased, letting the family know how much the deceased meant to you, and how much he or she will be missed. Speak from the heart.


What should I wear to a funeral service? Do I have to wear black to the funeral?
In the past, it was tradition to wear black to a funeral. This has since changed. Dark colors are acceptable. Dress in conservative attire, such as suits, ties and dresses. Colors should not be bright and clothing should not be revealing.


Should I send flowers?
It’s almost always acceptable to send flowers, regardless of your relationship to the family or deceased, unless the obituary notice specifically says not to or if the family is Jewish or of a faith background where flowers are not part of the religious tradition. In some cases, a family will request that a donation to a charity be made in lieu of flowers, in which case, you should respect their wishes.


Many florists offer special arrangements for funerals. If you are unsure where to purchase the flowers from, most funeral home websites offer a list of florists in the area that they recommend.


You should order flowers as soon as you’ve heard of the passing as flowers will need to be delivered to the funeral home on the day before or day of the wake and service. Make sure to write a message on the card, and stay away from clichés; instead, write a sincere message from the heart.


Even if you do not do everything perfectly, the family will appreciate and be comforted by your presence and the fact that you care enough to be there. Don’t worry about the exact words you use, and instead listen to and speak from your heart.


If you have any other questions pertaining to funerals and funeral etiquette, please post a comment below.

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