Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiquette For

Distant Relatives and Friends

Upon Receiving the News

When learning that a relative or friend has died, you should express your condolences and offer assistance as soon as possible. Only very close friends of the deceased and the immediate family are expected to visit the family before the funeral. Let the family know if you will be attending the funeral. It is important to keep the conversation brief taking in account their emotional state and that they will be receiving numerous similar calls.

Sending Funeral Flowers

Unless the family asks that donations should be made in lieu of funeral flowers, you should honor their request. Many people consider it obligatory to send flowers unless there is a prohibitive note in the newspaper notice.

Memorial Gifts

» Food for the Family

Food is always a welcome gift as there are always visitors around that need to be fed. Make sure to prepare dishes that require little preparation.

» E-mail

E-mail is only appropriate from those who are not intimate with the family such as a business associate.

» Phone Calls

All calls should be as brief as possible.

» Mass Cards

If the deceased was a Catholic, some people will send a mass card instead of or in addition to flowers. Catholics and non-Catholics can arrange for a mass to be said for the deceased.

» Donation to Suggested Charity

Usually the family will designate a specific organization or charity. Remember to provide the family’s name and address to the charity so they can send proper notification. Often the funeral home will offer a direct link to the charity requested by the family.


Though it is no longer necessary to dress in black, do show respect when picking out your funeral attire. Conservative suits or dress-clothes, in dark, respectful colors are most appropriate. It is advisable to avoid floral or busy patterns.

Paying Respects

It is traditional for friends to visit the funeral home prior to the day of the funeral service. The obituary search in the newspaper will have the details as to the day and time for visitations.

Casket Viewing

Before or after the service, friends will often approach caskets for a final farewell.  It is not obligatory and is totally left to your discretion.

Attending the Service

It is suggested that one arrive at the funeral home at least ten minutes before the service begins. Funeral services usually start on time and it is considered rude to be late. Enter quietly and be seated. Do not conduct an animated discussion in the chapel; the mood should be somber. Do not try to talk with bereaved family members if you arrive early. The first few rows are reserved for family members.

At the conclusion of the service, you will want to leave promptly and wait in your car if you plan to follow the procession to the Cemetery.  Remember to turn your headlights on so you can be identified as being a part of the procession. The headlights are to be turned off once you arrive at the cemetery. Attending the graveside service is optional and is usually determined by the relationship between the individual and the bereaved family.

Immediately After the Funeral

Immediately after the funeral, the family sometimes invites the attendees to join them for food or a reception at their home or designated place. This gives everyone a chance to talk and provides some time to relax and refresh. Sometimes friends or church members will take it upon themselves to prepare food ahead of time and relieve the family of this task.

Additional Funeral Etiquette Guides

Funeral Etiquette for Immediate Family Members

Famous Funeral Poems

Funeral Poems of Sympathy

Sympathy Cards

Sympathy Card Comments

Sympathy Quotes

Thank You Notes

Wording for Condolence Cards: