Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Etiquette for a funeral service.

A military funeral service in a church.

There is always a reverent etiquette surrounding death and grief. The traditional rites, choice of clothing, and condolences are ways of showing respect to the person who died and to remind us that he or she had a life worth remembering. They also are our ways of offering support to those who miss them the most.

Simple Rules.

Wherever the funeral service or memorial is taking place, basic common sense etiquette takes precedent. Sit quietly and don't get up during the service. The exception is when you have a bad cough or you have to quiet a crying or disruptive child; in both cases, quickly and quietly go to the foyer or lobby. If a eulogy or tribute to the deceased is sprinkled with humor, it's fine to laugh, but do it quietly.

Appropriate Clothing.

The nature of funerals and memorial services varies so widely today that funeral attire isn't limited to just black. The exception may be when you're a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer, in which case a dark suit is the usual attire unless the family requests something else. Funerals are somber events and your attire should reflect that, especially if you are participating in the service. All attire should be clean, neat, and pressed as for any other important occasion.

Arrivals & Departures.

When attending a service, always be on time and enter the house of worship or site where the funeral will be held as quietly as possible. Wait to be escorted to a seat by an usher or funeral home attendant. If there are no ushers, remember that the seats closer to the front are designated for family and very close friends. Colleagues and acquaintances should sit in the middle or towards the rear of the venue.

If you arrive late, enter a row from a side aisle, never the center aisle. If a processional has begun, wait outside instead of trying to squeeze past those who are a part of the cortege and are waiting to walk down the aisle.

Funeral Processional.

When the service is held in a church, the casket or urn is brought in as part of a processional. The Officiate or Celebrant and the choir will lead the funeral procession. Directly after come the honorary pallbearers, two by two, preceding the casket. Pallbearers are assistants from the funeral home or chosen by the family to carry the casket. The family comes next, chief mourner(s) first, walking with whomever he or she chooses. Close friends may follow, completing the procession. 

The family and pallbearers occupy the front rows, with friends filling vacant places on either side. The service begins when everyone is seated.
At memorial services and at a funeral where the casket or urn is already present, there is no processional. In these cases, the service starts after the family and officiate enter and are seated.

About Children.

Children should be encouraged to attend the ceremonies surrounding the death of a family member or close friend to whatever degree they feel at ease. Children learn through these experiences that death is a natural part of life and that wakes are observed when someone dies.

Always consider a child's age before taking them to a funeral, memorial service, or a visitation. Young children can become restless or have trouble staying quiet, so you may choose to have them stay at home with a sitter, or inquire if the funeral home has a “children’s room”. Many do.Older children should sit with their family quietly. 

The children should wear clothing that's age appropriate and similar in style to that worn by adult family members. Generally, children do not wear black. They also should not show up in street wear.
Should children attend funeral services?

The Recessional.

A recessional ends the service, whether a processional took place or not. It's common practice for one or more of the relatives to stop at the back of the church or outside to briefly thank those who have attended the service, with perhaps a special word to close friends.

If the deceased is to be buried following the service, the site of the interment will be announced. A processional of hearses followed by cars will form to drive to the cemetery. Everyone attending is welcome to follow the family to the grave site service unless the burial is private--that is, attended by immediate family only--but no one is obliged to attend. 

The after-service protocol for a cremation or mausoleum interment is the same as that for a burial. The casket is placed graveside at the cemetery, with flowers that were sent to the funeral home or house of worship placed around it. The Officiate or Celebrant says the prayers common to the rite of burial, and a eulogy may be given as well. At the end of the service, attendees may leave as they wish.
Professional Pallbearers "shoulder" the casket.

Nancy Burban 2013

Funeral fund


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  2. I agree that there should always be a reverent etiquette when dealing with a funeral service. I think it's so important to know the simple rules that you have listed and make sure that your children know them as well. This way, everything can be much more respectful for those who are mourning for their loss. I'll have to remember to go over these with my own kids before we visit a funeral.

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