How do you decide if you should go to a funeral, or not?
Funerals can be tricky, they are often delicate situations for the family of the deceased and the guests of the service. Many of us have felt out of place at a memorial service or open house when we don’t know if we should have come. When is it appropriate to show up to a funeral? What about people who have multiple services, who is invited to which one? Most commonly, invitations are not sent out for funerals like they are for weddings, so how do you know if you are invited?
Who Should Attend: Traditional Funeral Service
A traditional funeral service usually includes a viewing or visitation period, a funeral program, transportation to the cemetery, and the burial/cremation at the gravesite. The very first event of the day is usually an intimate gathering of close family and friends to view the body in its casket. The time for this event is usually not made public, so as to keep the group small. This moment can be anywhere from ten minutes to multiple hours as family members mourn their loved one privately. This is often the first time the body is displayed after embalming, and loved ones take this opportunity to weep over and touch the deceased. Unless you are explicitly invited to come early to the funeral home for this intimate time, it would be inappropriate to show up.
The first public service, often called a viewing, is held shortly after this family mourning time. Traditional viewings are open-house style, and they usually last 4-6 hours to guarantee that as many people as who desire it can come and pay their respects. Viewings are usually spread across multiple rooms, and many families choose to stand near the casket in a kind of receiving line. If you wish to pay your respects to someone you knew, but you do not know the family of the deceased, an open house is the perfect time for you to express your grief. You can stay as long as you like, talk to as many or as few people as you wish, and view the deceased and bid them goodbye. You can choose to introduce yourself to the family, and perhaps ask them if they would mind if you came to the funeral services as well.
After the visitation open house, the funeral will take place. This service is often the next day after the viewing. The traditional funeral service starts at a certain time, is often held at a church building, and follows a program with speakers and musical numbers. This is not an open house–do not show up late or leave early; funeral guests are expected to stay for the entire program, and are often invited to lunch with the family afterwards. All funeral guests are invited to this luncheon, more often than not, but that invitation will be made clear at the actual funeral, so you’ll know if you should attend.
The trip to the cemetery and the interment service are often more intimate than the previous gatherings. Usually, family, extended family, and close friends accompany the hearse to the grave site and stand around the plot as the casket is lowered. If you have the desire to attend this final part of the funeral, don’t underestimate the power of asking permission. Since funerals can be delicate times for families and loved ones, it’s better to be safe than sorry!