There is no college course that explains the etiquette for funerals, but everyone at one time or another will be expected to attend a service. You can’t always be prepared for someone’s passing, so it’s important that the proper etiquette for this situation is something you already know. We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions taken from years of working in the funeral industry for you to prepare yourself now for that unexpected date in the future.
When do I send flowers and where should they be sent? If flowers are delivered before the visitation or open house, send them to the location of that event. If they will be delivered after the visitation but before the funeral, send them to the funeral home—the funeral director will make sure they end up wherever the funeral is actually taking place. If flowers are being sent after the services, it is appropriate to send them directly to the home of the next of kin. One thing I like to do is send flowers 3 weeks after the funeral as a reminder that I am still thinking about the family and I recognize that they are still grieving.
What if the family has requested a charitable donation in lieu of flowers? It is most polite to follow the family’s wishes in this case, but sending a card or note that is more personal to offer condolences to the family would be welcomed and appreciated.
Do I have to wear black to the funeral? It is no longer expected for funeral guests to wear only black to funeral services. However, I do encourage guests to dress modestly and conservatively. If for no other reason, consider how delicate people’s feelings and nerves are when they’re grieving and choose your outfit with others’ feelings in mind. Dress like you are going in for a job interview—even if you feel uncomfortable, even if you are so emotional that it’s hard to get out of bed, remember that this funeral is not about you. Dressing respectfully is a way to support the family of the deceased and honor the dead.
I want to go to the funeral, but I am feeling very emotional and crying a lot. Should I stay home? This is a tricky question but an important one to ask yourself. If you are an immediate family member of the deceased, people will not be shocked that you are very emotional. The funeral and visitation services are attended by people who want to show their support to you, and staying home from these events should be avoided if at all possible. If you are not a family member, but you are possibly too emotional to be in public, remember that people are gathering to support you as well. However, a funeral is about the family of the deceased, and if you cannot be present without distracting from the event’s purpose, your presence will be more negative than positive.