When you are attending services at funeral homes, you and everyone else are walking into opportunities to make potentially regrettable mistakes. It’s not that you or others are intentionally committing these mistakes. Instead, you may simply not know exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable at funerals.
Here some things that you should be aware of when you’re attending funerals so that you can avoid making the most common mistakes:
There are implicit rules about appropriate conduct and dress at funerals. These are based on tradition because they are considered to be respectful to the deceased and to the bereaved family. Although it is unlikely that anyone will tell you that you are guilty of one of these unintentional errors, they can cause embarrassment to the grieving family and they can seem disrespectful to their loved one and to them.
With social media so deeply integrated into our daily lives, taking pictures at any event is almost second nature. However, one thing you should avoid when you are attending a funeral is taking any pictures of the grieving family or of their loved one who has died. This can be challenging for you, because funerals often bring together family members who are not often in the same place at the same time. If you want to take family photos, ask the family first and take the photos somewhere else besides where the funeral service is being held.
You should avoid using your cellphone while you’re in the funeral home. While we seem to be tethered to our smartphones, you should not use it out of respect for the deceased and the bereaved family. There is nothing more important than where you are and why you are there.
The best thing is to leave your phone in your car. That will remove the temptation to answer a call, answer a text, or post messages on social media. However, if you do bring it into the funeral home, put it on vibrate so that it doesn’t ring the funeral service.
Avoid wearing clothing that is bright or revealing when you’re attending a funeral service. Black is the traditional color that is worn at funeral services (unless you’re instructed otherwise). If you don’t have any black clothes, then gray, navy, or dark brown clothing is acceptable to wear.
A funeral is a somber occasion. When you wear bright clothing, it suggests that you think the funeral is a casual event and that you don’t have respect for the grief that the family is experiencing. Additionally, bright clothing draws the focus away from the family onto you, which is also considered disrespectful.
Whatever clothing you choose to wear should be modest. Sleeveless dresses or blouses should be worn with a sweater or jacket. Your clothes should not be tight.
If you’re attending a funeral where the deceased person has a different cultural tradition than that of most American funerals, talk with the family member beforehand to find out what would be appropriate for you to wear.