The Do’s and Don’ts of Attending a Funeral
A funeral is the last place you'd want to make an embarrassing etiquette mistake. Modern Manners Guy has 3 do's and don'ts to keep in mind.
I recently had the unfortunate experience of attending the funeral of a dear old childhood friend who passed away due to an illness far, far, far too soon. But as sad as it was to be there, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else except with him, his family, and our friends on that day. But since my friend was a real character, and always up for a good laugh, I couldn't help but hear his voice in my head during the proceedings. He kept pointing out some of the odd things that were going on in the crowd.
So as an ode to my good friend, here are the 3 do's and don'ts of attending a funeral:
Do: Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
Don’t: Show up exactly on time or late.
You don’t want to walk in and have the entire room turn to you during an emotional eulogy. This didn't happen at my friend’s funeral, but I've been to one where this actually did occur. It was terribly embarrassing for the late-comers. I talk a lot about being punctual, and this advice cannot be overstated in this situation. What on your calendar that day could be more important than a funeral? What could possibly make you arrive late? Don’t let it happen. If you’re worried about traffic, leave super-early. Period. No questions.
Do: Bring members of your family who can handle the solemnity of the occasion.
Don’t: Bring a baby. And moreover, if the baby starts to cry (and it will), don’t keep it in the room where the ceremony is happening!
This actually happened at my friend’s funeral. Young parents brought their baby and kept him there during a crying fit. It was like the baby had a sick sense of humor because when the most emotional parts of the speeches came, he cried louder, ruining key moments of the occasion. Don’t get me wrong, I have two young kids (one is an infant) and I understand that it's not always easy to find a sitter. But if you have to bring a baby to a funeral, please be respectful and leave if/when it starts making noise. And definitely make sure to bring a bottle.
Do: Offer your condolences to the family of the deceased.
Don’t: Overly try to flag them downto let them know you were there.
I know it's important to make sure the family knows you were there and that you are respectful, but if you cut the line, butt in front of others, or flag them down like you’re waving a tow truck to your broken car, then you’re just rude. In addition, don’t expect them to chit-chat like nothing is going on, or to care about that hilarious story about how you almost spilled coffee on yourself in the car on the way over. If there’s no polite way to speak with them at the event, drop an email or give a call later on. It's thoughtful and they will appreciate it.
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