How To Observe Funeral Etiquette

There is no standard rule on how to observe funeral etiquette. But one thing is for sure—that traditions of your culture or religion may not be appropriate if your colleague, a friend, or a family of your friend or colleague dies. The general rule is to be respectful for the deceased and to be sympathetic to the bereaved family’s feelings. And observing funeral etiquette is just a way to do that.

A person’s religious beliefs dictate what is appropriate or not during the funeral. Below are funeral etiquette based on religion:

  • Roman Catholic. Most funerals of the Roman Catholic include the wake, funeral service, and prayers. The wake lasts for some days, depending on what the family has decided. A funeral service is also held on the burial day. It can be done in the funeral service or at a church. Prayers will be offered also at the graveside. Non-Catholic people are welcome during the funeral but they are not invited for a communion. Sending flowers, food, and donation to the family is okay. Offering something during the mass is also appropriate. Wearing all-black is traditional for Roman Catholic, though other dark colors are okay. Just don’t wear red or bright and happy colors because some Catholics find it disrespectful.
  • Protestant. The funeral customs vary from one family to another. But the funeral is usually held at a church or a funeral home. You can send condolence notes to the family, send flowers, view the deceased’s body, bring food for the family, or give monetary donation to the church or charity. Wear formal dress during the funeral and preferably white or other dark colors.
  • Muslim. Islamic custom requires Muslims to bury the dead as soon as possible. The funeral service will follow after the burial and this will last for three days. You can visit during those days or observe the burial and attend the service right after it. Men and women should sit separately. Women are expected to cover their arms and heads. During the funeral, show your sympathy by listening to the family’s grief. You may bring food for the family but do not bring flowers or gifts.
  • Jews. The funeral service should be conducted within 24 hours after the death. Wear dark-colored clothes. Men wear jacket-and-tie and they will be given a head covering. Women should wear dress, skirt, or blouse. Do not wear or give anything that symbolizes other religions. Giving donations or gifts is okay but never give flowers.
  • Hindu. The funeral should be held within 24 hours, usually at the family’s home. The body is kept there until the cremation. You may visit the family before the cremation and bring flowers. Guests and the family leave the body for the cremation and will gather for a simple meal and offer prayers. There is a 13-day mourning, too. You may visit during this period and bring fruits or gifts.
  • Buddhist. They believe in reincarnation, so for them, death is the transition of the soul to another body form. During the funeral, you can view the body of the deceased and bow in front of the casket. While the Buddhists are doing their ritual, you may sit or stand as directed. Temple ceremonies, however, will require you to be seated on the floor for the meditation. Men are expected to wear tie while women should wear a skirt or dress.

If you are still not so sure how to observe funeral etiquette, then it’s best to consult a close friend of the family, preferably, someone who practices the same religion. Remember, being sympathetic is not enough. You should do your homework and act appropriately for the funeral.


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