When a close friend or relative passes away, you may find yourself visiting a funeral home to help make arrangements or attend the service. If it’s your first time visiting a funeral home, you might not be aware of the proper funeral home etiquette. To help you know what to expect, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding funeral homes and the appropriate etiquette to follow.
Funeral home FAQs
Before covering proper etiquette, we’ve first addressed a few funeral-home-related questions.
What’s a funeral home?
A funeral home is an establishment that provides funeral, burial, and cremation services. Typically, when a loved one passes, close relatives of the deceased will have a meeting with the funeral director to make funeral arrangements. The funeral director will oversee every stage of the process, such as caring for the deceased and helping the family with logistics and funeral planning.
What should I wear to a funeral home?
What you wear will depend on your reason for visiting the funeral home. If you’re meeting with the funeral director to make arrangements for your loved one, you can wear whatever you’re most comfortable in since this is a casual meeting.
If you’re at the funeral home for a visitation or viewing, dress respectfully, but you don’t have to dress as formally as you would at the funeral. When attending a funeral at a funeral home, you’ll want to dress modestly. It’s usually a good idea to wear somber colors like black, brown, or grey unless otherwise noted.
What’s a funeral visitation?
Sometimes, the family of the deceased will choose to host a visitation before the funeral at the funeral home. The visitation is an opportunity for extended family, friends, and acquaintances to visit with the immediate family of the deceased and offer their condolences.
When attending a visitation, introduce yourself to the family and express your sympathy, but keep it short. The family will want to make time to speak with everyone during the visitation, so try to avoid engaging them in a long conversation unless that’s what they need.
What’s a funeral viewing?
When a family loses a loved one, they may request the funeral home to host a viewing so friends and relatives can say their final goodbyes. The viewing usually occurs a few days before or on the day of the funeral. During this occasion, the deceased is present in the room, either in an open or closed casket. Even if the family plans to cremate their loved one, they can still host a funeral viewing before doing so.
The funeral viewing is your chance to view the body and say a final goodbye or prayer before the burial. You aren’t required to visit the casket during the viewing. If you decide to do so, it’s proper funeral viewing etiquette to wait your turn. Spend a few minutes with the body, silently saying a prayer or a few words. Some visitors will kneel by the casket, while others prefer to stand.
The funeral viewing may last for hours, but visitors can come and go as they wish and aren’t expected to stay the entire time.
What’s a funeral?
A funeral is a formal ceremony that typically takes place after the visitation and viewing, either immediately afterward or days later. Funerals can occur at home, a place of worship, or at the funeral home. At the funeral, friends, and family gather to celebrate the deceased’s life, giving speeches and joining in prayer.
To follow proper etiquette at the funeral, arrive on time. Put your phone on silent and don’t use it for the duration of the service. When interacting with other guests, introduce yourself and express your sympathy.
Funeral home etiquette
Now that you know more about funeral homes, let’s discuss funeral home etiquette.
Etiquette for the family
Close family members will meet with the funeral director to plan funeral arrangements. While there’s some etiquette associated with family traditions, ultimately the relatives can decide what customs they’d like to follow.
That said, immediate family members are usually expected to attend whichever gatherings they decide to host. At the funeral, close relatives sit in the front few rows. Sometimes, family members will take turns giving speeches, but it’s not required. After the service, funeral attendees often gather around the family to offer their condolences, but if the family doesn’t want this, they can opt to be escorted away.
Etiquette for sending flowers
If you’re interested in sending flowers to a funeral home, etiquette says to first consider the deceased’s religion and culture, as some traditions don’t accept or display flower arrangements.
Next, consider your relationship with the person who has passed. If the deceased had a favorite color or flower this is a beautiful time to send an arrangement that speaks to that. Flower arrangements can be sent directly to the family or the funeral home.
Funeral home etiquette during COVID-19
Most funeral homes follow COVID-19 protocols that align with state and local health guidelines. If you’re planning a funeral, the funeral director will make you aware of any protocols, and if you’re visiting a funeral home for a service, be sure to follow posted guidelines. When in doubt, it’s proper to avoid services if you’re feeling sick or have been knowingly exposed to the virus.
Above all, it’s important to be respectful. If you’re still uncertain about funeral home etiquette, ask the funeral director for more guidance.