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Funeral Etiquette Part 1: What to Expect

Published: October 16, 2019

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When an individual passes away, there is usually some type of gathering held, often accompanied by a funeral or memorial service. To avoid offending the family and to help you feel a bit more prepared, there are a few funeral etiquette factors to keep in mind. It helps to first have an understanding of what to expect.

For visitations, wakes, and other remembrance events, there will likely be displays of photos and memorabilia for you to quietly look at while waiting to visit with the family. If a viewing is involved, the embalmed body of the deceased person is present in an open casket so people can see the individual one last time and say their own goodbyes. While you are not required to participate in viewing the body, it is an important part of the grieving process. No matter the type of service or gathering, there is generally a registration book you should be sure to sign so that the family can look back later to see who attended.

Not everyone has a structured service, but for those who do, it can range from completely unique to highly traditional. Religious and non-religious preferences often influence specific selections, but you can expect readings, speeches, and music. If the seating area includes rows, the front will most likely be reserved for family. Choose a spot you are comfortable in, turn off your cell phone, and be sure to have tissues nearby.

Following the service, there may or may not be an immediate burial. If there is and if the family invites all guests to the cemetery, make sure you follow the vehicle procession and drive responsibly. Be aware of your volume at the cemetery, and always avoid sitting or walking on gravesites.

Many funeral services conclude with a meal or a more lighthearted gathering. This is an opportunity to visit with other friends and family and to share stories about the person who has passed. While the atmosphere will likely be more casual, keep in mind that many people are grieving.

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