Memorial Service Etiquette

Memorial Service EtiquetteFamilies who lost a loved one appreciate people who attend the funeral service and offer condolences. If you attend a funeral, memorial service etiquette is of the upmost importance. Especially if you have never attended a funeral before it is important to learn how to act at the funeral.

Below are answers to the most commonly asked memorial service etiquette questions. This will provide you with the basic information required to attend a funeral and act appropriately. However, even knowing the information below, the etiquette required will often be related to the type of funeral service and the family who organized it. It is important to consider the family and how they would like guests to act. Is the family traditional and conservative, or are they laid-back and carefree? Make sure to consider the memorial service etiquette listed below and the family’s beliefs before attending the funeral.

Memorial Service Etiquette

What To Wear

Traditionally, most people would wear black to the funeral service. This is because the color black symbolizes grief and sympathy. But today, the color of the clothes that an individual wants to wear no longer matters as much as it did in the past. At most modern funerals, guests are allowed to wear any color they want as long as it does not disrespect the deceased person’s family. Everyone attending the funeral should wear something conservative that does not attract attention. Typically, men wear a suit or khakis and a dress shirt, and women wear a blouse or dress. What you wear is dependent on the family’s values and the type of funeral. For example, a traditional religious funeral at a church would require more formal attire, compare to a less-formal wake at a person’s house.

How To Act

It is important to arrive at the venue early. It is recommended to show up at least 15 minutes before the funeral service starts. After arriving at the funeral home or church, it is advisable to find a seat right away. If the family is available you can offer your condolences to the family before proceeding to a seat. If the family members are accommodating several people, it is better to wait and speak to them after. It is also recommended to keep socializing with other people attending the funeral at a minimum until after the ceremony.

Children At The Funeral

If the children are still very young and wouldn’t really understand what is happening, it is advisable to not bring them to the funeral service. They can cause disruption to the service by crying, talking and moving too much. If the children are old enough, they can attend the funeral, but should first be educated about what will be happening at the funeral. It is important that they understand death and are not surprised by the funeral process.

Show Respect

The main rule in the memorial service etiquette is to be respectful at all times. Refrain from eating and drinking inside the church or the funeral home. Avoid chit chatting with other visitors, especially during the funeral service. Resist answering phone calls or responding to text messages. It is recommended to completely turn the phone off during the funeral.

Gifts and Flowers

Flowers are the most common and safest choice of gift for the family of the deceased. Flowers can be brought to the funeral or sent to the family. However, nowadays many families request memorial donations in lieu or flowers. Typically information on where to send flowers or donations is included at the end of the obituary. It is helpful to read this prior to attending the funeral so that you do not arrive with a large bouquet of flowers if the family requested no flowers.

 

It is important to understand memorial service etiquette prior to attending a funeral. The information above will provide you with the basic information you need to attend a funeral and act appropriately. In addition, it is important to consider the family’s religious beliefs and traditions prior to attending the funeral.

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  • James Sundquist

    My mom just passed away last week. We are doing a graveside private service and burial next week. But we want to give her a memorial service. But it might be several months before critical people we want present could come. Is there any etiquette or protocol how long you can wait after death to do a Memorial Service? What is the longest you did one after burial?

    Thanks
    James

    • YourTribute

      Hello James,

      I am sorry to hear about your loss. It is not uncommon to hold a memorial service for the person a month or more after their passing. In your case you are having the private service, which will give the friends and family in attendance a chance to say goodbye right away. The people who are unable to attend will appreciate you holding another service at a later date. Some religions hold one or more memorial services 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year after the death. However, I would recommend you have the service within a few months if possible.

      Best Regards,
      Jason

  • James Sundquist

    Dear Jason,
    Thank you for your wise counsel! You know we celebrate Memorial Day every year in memory of our Veterans who died in Civil War, WWI and WWII. And as a Christian we have a Memorial Service every time we have communion, and that is two thousand years since the Last Supper and Christ’s death burial and resurrection.