Funeral Etiquette Guide

White casket with flowers and pallbearersImage Source: Pixabay

When most of us think about etiquette, Emily Post and table manners may come to mind. However, death and funerals have their own set of etiquette rules. You may be unaware of what is considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior when it comes to funeral or funeral wake etiquette. This guide is designed to put you at ease, and fill you in on what to do (and what not to do) before, during and after a funeral.

The Basics of Funeral Etiquette

Phone Usage

Cell phone in handsImage Source: Pexels

At cultural and other events, we are reminded to silence our mobile phones. This is more important than ever at a funeral. It's best if you turn your phone off completely. Even a vibrating phone will be an unwelcome distraction during a somber funeral service.


The first question you should ask yourself is whether you should attend the funeral in the first place. In most cases, if you feel you want to be there, then by all means go. However, if you were not on good terms with the deceased and your presence would upset surviving family members and friends, then it would be best for you to mourn in private.

Arrival Time

Man checking wrist watchImage Source: Pexels

Another common question is what time you should arrive at a funeral. Whether it be a funeral or a wake, etiquette dictates that this is one occasion where you do NOT want to arrive fashionably late. Your best bet is to arrive early, but by that we mean 15 to 20 minutes early. This allows ample time for parking and going through the receiving line before the actual funeral begins. Don't arrive more than a half hour early, though, as the immediate family may be involved in last-minute arrangements.

Emotional Displays

As you greet the mourners and later as you listen to eulogies, you may wonder whether you need to keep your own emotions in check. When greeting the bereaved, you may be afraid of setting off their emotions if you begin to cry. While sympathetic tears can't be avoided, unless you are a member of the immediate family or one of a close circle of friends of the deceased, loud, mournful wails are probably not a good idea. The focus of attention should be on the deceased and immediate family.

When You Can Leave

If you're wondering whether it's okay to leave during a funeral service, in most cases the answer is a resounding no. However, if you need to quiet a crying or noisy child, or if you have a sneezing/coughing/hiccupping attack, you should leave the funeral.

Additional Funeral Wake Etiquette Resources

You no doubt have many additional questions related to funerals. Please review the useful resources below for further details.

Funeral Attire Etiquette

Is wearing black to a funeral mandatory? Are bright colors taboo? Learn the do's and don'ts of funeral attire.

What to Write in Sympathy/Condolence Cards

It's often difficult to find the right words in times of loss. With a little help, you can write a message that will provide comfort to the bereaved.

How to Give a Eulogy

If you have been asked to give a eulogy at a funeral, don't panic. These tips will make it easy for you to give a heartfelt, memorable eulogy.

Bringing Children to a Funeral

Is it acceptable to bring children to a funeral? What do you tell older children who are not welcome at a loved one's funeral? Find answers to these questions and more.

Condolence Gifts/Flowers Ideas

Should you bring a gift or flowers to the bereaved? If so, what are traditional choices? Read this before making a condolence call.

Ways to Be Supportive After the Funeral

What are the best ways to show your support after someone has died? Everyone reacts differently to death, so here's a guide to help you help others.

Wake vs. Viewing vs. Funeral: What's the Difference?

Is the wake the same as a viewing? Are these synonymous with a funeral? What is the difference (if any) between funeral and wake etiquette? Learn the similarities and differences of all three.

What to Say at a Funeral

After the passing of a loved one, you may be at a loss for words for what to say to surviving family and friends. Read this, and you'll no longer be tongue-tied during times of trouble.

Where to Sit at a Funeral

Does it matter where you sit at a funeral service? Find out here.

Choosing Music for a Funeral

How should you select music for your funeral? Read about emotion, meaning, beliefs, and planning ahead.

Religious Funerals

Every religion has specific traditions and practices when it comes to funerals. Find out what to expect at Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and non-religious funeral ceremonies.

Consider Planning Your Own Funeral

If you are attending a funeral, this difficult time allows the opportunity to consider what you would want for your own funeral and burial preferences. You can even plan it now, decades in advance, so your loved ones don't have to worry about it later. 

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