Simple Funeral Etiquette

As the visitation, funeral or memorial service for a friend or loved one nears, it is common to wonder about funeral etiquette. Because these occasions are not normally frequent, remembering accepted ways to dress, behave and interact with others might be challenging. At Stillinger Family Funeral Home, we want to help you understand that funeral etiquette is a combination of common sense, good taste, empathy, and above all, respect for the family of the deceased. With that in mind, here are some simple funeral etiquette tips:

Dress with Respect

While it’s possible that a family might request mourners to dress in a certain fashion as a way of honoring their loved one (in a beloved sports team’s colors, for example), it is usually true that no special guidance is provided. In that case, simple rules apply. It is not normally required that attendees wear dark clothing nor formal suits, but it is important to be clean and neat and respectful in your attire. Business casual attire is usually acceptable, as is anything more formal. But remember to remove your hat and sunglasses indoors.

A man serving as a pallbearer should wear a tie and perhaps a dark suit. If you are participating in the service in any way and are uncertain what to wear, ask someone in the family or a staff professional with the funeral home.

Act with Respect

Simply put, don’t be loud and draw attention to yourself. Be respectful and reverent. During visitation, wait for an appropriate opportunity to approach and offer your condolences to family members. Be aware that others also want to pay their respects, so don’t monopolize the time of family members. If you want to spend more time with them, offer to meet for coffee sometime in the weeks ahead. That will give you the opportunity for deeper discussions and let them know you care about their continued well-being.

During a funeral service, sit quietly and pay attention to the tributes being offered. Find moments during the service to quietly recall and remember the deceased in a way that personalizes the experience.

If you have a cough or cold, or if your personal grief becomes overwhelming, be prepared to exit quietly to the lobby or vestibule. And remember that if humorous memories or tributes are shared, it’s okay to laugh along with others in attendance.

Explain the Occasion to Children Beforehand

It is often appropriate for children to attend funerals and visitations. However, this can be a new experience for them, and they might not understand what is happening, what it all means, or how to act. Take time before the service to tell them what they need to know in order to act appropriately. Remember that kids have short attention spans and their boredom might lead them to find relief and release. They might become loud or want to run around. Be respectful of others in attendance, and if your child becomes unruly, be prepared to leave suddenly. In some cases, especially for younger children, it might be appropriate to have the child stay with a sitter during the services.

Showing Up

When attending a visitation or funeral, be on time. If you must show up late, enter as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, preferably near the back of the room and using a side aisle. Never interrupt or get in the way of a processional, recessional or special ceremony (such as a military or organizational tribute). Wait for a prayer to end before entering the room. And please don’t bring coffee or drinks inside.


If you are a close family member, the seating near the front of the room is for you. If you are a close friend, you may choose to take a seat in a row close to the front, but normally behind the family. If you were a more casual acquaintance of the deceased or a friend of a family member, sit a little farther back.

Cell Phones

Turn your cell phone off or set it to silent mode (not on “vibrate”). Better yet, leave your phone in the car while you are in the funeral home or chapel. If you keep your phone with you, avoid any temptation to check email, voicemail, or texts. Do not use your cell phone camera during the service. If you want to get a picture of the gathered family or a group of friends who don’t normally get to see one another, ask permission and then quietly assemble the group away from the casket and other mourners.

Again, funeral etiquette is mostly about common sense, good taste, empathy and respect. Follow these simple rules and you will honor the deceased, show your respect to those gathered, and find comfort in your own experience.

To learn more about Stillinger Family Funeral Home, contact us at (317) 462-5536.

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