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For most people, a funeral is an uncomfortable situation. If you have never attended a funeral before or even if you have been to a few, each one will be different and what may be protocol at one funeral may not apply to another. Knowing where to sit and how to act can be daunting but there are a few social guidelines that are universal when it comes to funeral and burial service etiquette.
A funeral is not an event where you should arrive late. A good rule of thumb is to arrive around 15 minutes early, this will allow for you to interact with other guests before the service begins. If you do arrive late, quietly take a seat in the back for minimal disruption. If you need to leave early, sit in the back and try to get an aisle seat.
If you are unsure where to sit, remember that the first couple of rows usually are reserved for members of the immediate family and very close friends. At a graveside service, chairs may be set up near the grave, although depending on the number of people in attendance most guests may need to stand. Again, generally chairs are reserved for immediate family members and elderly guests. If there are seats available, you should feel free to sit.
While it isn’t essential to wear all black to a funeral, try to avoid bright, loud and fun colours. Understated elegance is key. Err on the conservative side as you do not want to appear disrespectful by your attire. Do not wear anything that you would not wear in an office environment, this means no flip flops, ripped denim, tracksuit pants, super short hemlines or plunging necklines. It might also be a good idea to check if there is a dress code specific to the cultural or religious beliefs of the deceased.
Often the officiant, usually a religious leader or a funeral celebrant, will recite prayers or readings during the funeral service and/or before the casket is lowered into the ground if at a graveside service. If the prayers or readings are intended to be sung or read by the group, or if there are prayers that follow a call and response pattern, you should participate if you feel comfortable. If you don’t know the prayers or readings, or you do not wish to participate, standing quietly and respectfully is acceptable. You do not need to force yourself to say a prayer, or take part in a religious practice that you are not familiar with. A funeral is all about paying your respects to the deceased, and this can be done by simply standing and listening to the ceremony.
It may seem obvious, but keep your mobile phone on silent and put away for the majority of the service. Even better, turn it off. Using your phone during a funeral may be seen as insensitive and disrespectful and is therefore inappropriate. If you absolutely need to answer a text or make a phone call, do so outside. Additionally, a funeral is not the time or place to take photos unless you have been specifically asked to do so.
Funeral service etiquette does not require you to view the body at an open-casket service. If it will make you uncomfortable or overly emotional, then it is completely fine to keep your distance.
Children under the age of five may not necessarily understand what is happening, so it may be more appropriate to leave them at home with a babysitter if possible. Babies and toddlers may also require more of your attention and distract you from being present at the funeral. Children over five should understand that it is a sombre occasion and that they must behave respectfully. In some cases, the bereaved may not want children to attend and you should respect their wishes.
Funerals can be an unpleasant experience but just remember that the reason you are there is to pay your respects and honour the life of the deceased individual. If you take a conservative approach, be sensitive and act appropriately you will ensure a great send off for your family member, friend or loved one.
Perth Cremations are Perth’s premier funeral directors. If you need to plan a funeral or just need general funeral advice, our compassionate team is on hand to discuss your needs 24/7 and to make sure you are happy with the plans every step of the way. Contact us today.
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