While there’s no right thing to say to someone mourning the passing of someone of significance in their lives, there are quite a few wrong things to do. One of the most important things to keep in mind is customs can vary from family to family and from culture to culture. Take flowers for example, a gift of funeral flowers can be a nice way to express your concern, however you’re safer going with a standalone arrangement, than something intended to adorn the casket of the deceased. That’s a personal choice for the family to make.
Here are some other things of which to be aware.
Dress Modestly – You’re there to blend in, not stand out. While dressing in black is no longer mandatory, lime green is a bad idea. Revealing attire is something of a no-no as well. The same goes for your accessories. Keep things simple, subdued and respectful and you’ll be fine. While we’re on the subject, do your best to ensure everything you wear is clean, pressed, buttoned, zipped and tucked.
Be On Time – Again, you’re there to blend in, not stand out. Arriving late, when everyone is seated and the ceremonies have begun will pull attention away from the proceedings and focus it on you. In fact, be early if at all possible. That way, you’ll have time to chat with people you may not have seen in long time. Also, finding a seat may be difficult if the deceased had a lot of acquaintances. Arriving early can help ensure you a place to sit.
Choose Your Seat Carefully – Generally the first few rows on either side of the aisle are reserved for family and vey close friends. If you’re invited into one of those areas, accept the honor; otherwise go for something more toward the middle of the venue. It’s also a good idea to position yourself to slip out without disturbing other people if you think you’ll need to leave before the ceremony ends, or you’ll need to visit the restroom during the ceremony.
Observe Religious Customs – This isn’t the time to flaunt your atheism. You don’t have to speak the prayers, but if the family’s religious rituals require head coverings, wear one. If you are uncomfortable with any aspect of their rituals, it may be smart to skip the ceremony and attend the repast where things are generally more casual.
Think Before Bringing Children – Toddlers and infants are unlikely to be quiet for an hour or more. Older children, who are communicating with words rather than actions, are usually okay during a prolonged ceremony. However, each case should be judged carefully and independently. Again, the focus of attendees should be on the ceremony, not on you trying to get your unruly child to behave.
This isn’t an “Insta” Moment – Phones should be off, or set to silent and put away during the ceremony. The family will have made arrangements to stream the funeral if they want it on the Internet. You’re not doing anyone any favors by choosing to do so for them. Along the same lines, refrain from making photographs during the ceremony, it’s not your place to do so.
Long story short, the best impression to make at a funeral is to make no impression at all. Funerals, unless specifically stated otherwise, are somber occasions given to quiet reflection. These tips will help you ensure you do nothing to disrupt the sanctity of the proceedings.