Here are some general guidelines to help you understand how to be courteous while paying your respects during a funeral or memorial service.
What to Wear
The type of service you will be attending will influence how you should dress. You may also want to ask about the dress code prior to attending if you are able to do so. Typically you will want to dress in a respectful manner and lean toward wearing more conservative clothing, avoiding bright colors and loud patterns. Dressing as you would for a church service or a job interview is a good guideline. Muted tones in blue, gray and black are almost always appropriate. You should also consider the weather if there are any outdoor events, such as a graveside service.
Religious and Ethnic Customs
There are many different religious, ethic or even community traditions and customs you may need to be aware of for certain services. If you are unsure of what will be expected, we are happy to help you find resources or answer any questions to help clarify how you should participate or what to prepare for.
What to Say
People frequently feel uncertain about what to say to provide comfort to a grieving family. A sincere expression of sympathy or support is always appropriate and you can keep things very simple. “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I am thinking about you” often goes a long way toward comforting people and can be very meaningful.
If there is a viewing or a service with an open casket, it is customary to take a moment at the side of the casket to say a silent prayer or pay your respects to the deceased. Sometimes a family member will escort you to the casket or you may approach by yourself. The family may also form a line near the casket so you may express your condolences to them, as well. It is not required that you view the deceased and you should do what feels the most comfortable to you at the time.
Signing the Register
Take a moment to sign the guest register book, being sure to identify yourself and how you knew the deceased. You should include your full name so that the family knows who left the note, and a short memory of the deceased if you have one. You should also share a memory or story on the electronic memorial or obituary page created for the deceased, if there is one.
Flowers and Gifts
Letting the family know they are in your thoughts by sending flowers or a gift is a wonderful gesture. You should check the obituary prior to sending any gifts to see whether they have included any requests regarding flowers and gifts, such as donations directed to a specific charity or organization in lieu of flowers.
Turn Off Your Phone
If you are able to, you may consider leaving your cell phone in the car during the service to avoid causing a distraction to other attendees. Please make sure you have silenced your phone or turned it off if you must bring it in with you. A funeral is not the appropriate time to be on your phone, and you should avoid posting anything regarding the event on social media out of respect for the privacy of the deceased and the family.
A trip to the cemetery should be a peaceful opportunity for you to pay your respects and remember the person who has passed away. Here are some tips to help you have a good experience when visiting a cemetery.
Follow the Rules
Please take note of any posted rules, which are usually listed near the entrance to the property. Some cemeteries have restrictions on the types of floral arrangements or other memorial items you may leave. You should also observe any cemetery hours that are posted.
Respect the Grave
It is considered disrespectful to touch or walk on any monuments or headstones. Doing so can cause damage to the monuments, especially if they are older. Do not take or remove anything from a gravesite, such as tributes, flowers, or any items that have been left by mourners.
Be Respectful of Services and Other Mourners
Please be aware of other mourners and try not to cause any disruptions. This is especially important if there is a funeral service or procession taking place while you are visiting. Please give people their privacy and try to respect their space.
Speak Softly and Politely
Try to keep your voice down when having conversations and understand that your sound may carry farther than you think. Also keep your cell phone silenced or turned off, and avoid having any telephone conversations while you are visiting out of respect for other mourners.
Look After Your Children
Please keep a close eye on your children and prevent them from running, yelling, playing or climbing on any graves or monuments. You might consider whether your children are of the appropriate age for a cemetery visit if they are unable to follow these rules. It might be better to visit without very young children, if possible.
Don’t Leave Trash Behind
Remember to take any garbage with you when you leave, or put it in any designated trash receptacles if they are provided at the cemetery. This helps keep the cemetery a clean and peaceful place for others to enjoy.