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Helpful Tips for Proper Funeral Etiquette

Funerals are rarely a happy or joyful time in our lives and can even be highly stressful. As a funeral guest, you want to do everything possible to honour the individual that has passed by providing comfort and solace to their family. This can leave you in a position of discomfort, where you are unsure which actions or words could be taken the wrong way. Instead of avoiding funerals, take this time to learn a bit more about funeral etiquette and find the right words to support your friends and family members during this difficult time. Sometimes doing the right thing means waiting to express your feelings when the family members are better able to control their emotions or send a heartfelt note after the service.

Should you bring gifts to a funeral? Are there limitations in how you should dress? These are a few of the questions you might consider as preparing to attend a funeral service or visitation. These funeral etiquette tips will help ensure you do not detract from the experience of loved ones or other mourners.

  • Avoid wearing bright colours, provocative clothing or open-toed shoes. It's also important to consider the climate and whether or not you'll be attending a graveside ceremony. Spike heels may not be the best option for walking through a cemetery. While many people consider that black is the only option for clothing, any dark clothing or subdued shades are appropriate. Steer clear of bright prints or anything that would draw attention to you during the service.
  • Sending flowers and plants is one-way individuals can show their support for the deceased. Still, non-traditional options such as donating to their favourite charity are also acceptable. While flowers are lovely, families can be overwhelmed with arrangements and unsure what to do with them after the ceremony.
  • While gifts are not necessary, do take the time to send a thoughtful card to family members before or after the funeral and always sign the guest book. This written memory of your care and compassion during a difficult time can be one of the most important ways to show your support.
  • Prep children to understand the ceremony and what will be happening. If you don't feel that little ones will be able to restrain themselves during a memorial service, the best option may be to leave them with loved ones or sit near the back so you can sneak out if your child needs a break.
  • If there are ushers at the service, please follow their requests carefully as they have been coached on how to help everything move smoothly.

While it should go without saying, be sure to silence your cell phone before entering the funeral home. If you must take a phone call, step outside or into a different room to avoid distracting other mourners. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

13 Helpful Tips for Proper Funeral Etiquette

When a loved one is no longer with us, it is important to take the time to celebrate their life. However, there are many factors to consider regarding etiquette for a funeral, such as what to wear, where to sit, and whether or not it is appropriate to attend a certain person's funeral.

To help you answer these questions, we've outlined the top 13 most asked questions about attending a funeral, along with a guide to the ten most popular sympathy flowers so that you can adequately show your condolences. This guide will show you the fundamentals of proper funeral etiquette so that you will know how to communicate properly with the deceased person's grieving family while exuding dignity and respect during the funeral service.

Should I attend this funeral?

Since funerals aren't usually an "invite-only" event, it can be difficult to decide whether or not you should attend. If you knew the deceased, it is an opportunity for you to remember their life and pay your respects. If you did not know the deceased but are close to the family, then it is a way for you to show them your support.

You should not attend a funeral if you feel that your presence will make the family uncomfortable or a private event.

What do I wear to a funeral?

Although wearing black is not a requirement for all funerals, you should opt to wear conservative clothing. You'll want to appear dignified and respectful, so stay away from bright colours and patterns, which can send the wrong message to the mourning family.

Where do I sit at a funeral?

The first and second rows of seats are typically reserved for the close family and friends of the deceased. All other attendees should sit in the remaining rows. If you arrive late, be respectful by sitting in the back as to not disturb others. Once you are seated, it is important to remain seated for the duration of the service.

What should I say at a funeral?

Less is more. Do not feel the pressure to overexert your condolences onto the grieving family by saying more than is necessary. A simple "I'm sorry for your loss" or "My thoughts are with you" are sufficient enough to express your support. Those who are suffering from the loss may also feel isolated. Acknowledge their pain by saying something like, "This must be so hard for you," to show that you care for them, which will help them feel less isolated.

When should I arrive at a funeral?

A good rule of thumb is to arrive 10-20 minutes early to allow for a few moments to interact with other guests before the service begins. If you arrive late, do not walk down the centre aisle to take your seat. Instead, use the side aisle to find a seat near the back to avoid interrupting the service.

What if I don't share the deceased family's religious beliefs?

Don't force yourself to say a prayer or take part in a religious practice that you are unfamiliar with. A funeral is all about paying your respects to the deceased, which you can simply do by standing and listening to the ceremony taking place in front of you.

Should I bring a gift?

Gifting a bouquet of sympathy flowers is ideal for expressing your condolences and would be much appreciated by the family. You can either bring a bouquet with you to the funeral or can choose to have it delivered to the funeral home beforehand. In addition, you can also send flowers to the residence where the post-funeral reception will take place.

Other thoughtful gift ideas include sending the family's home a gift basket. If you're close to the family, consider bringing over a homemade meal to their home. Suffering a loss is already a lot to handle, and chances are, the family or spouse of the deceased would appreciate the extra help. If you aren't close to the family but still want to share your condolences, a thoughtful card is a great way to comfort them.

Are kids allowed at a funeral?

It is okay to bring children to a funeral if they are well-behaved, especially if they are interested in attending and were close to the deceased. Toddlers and babies should be left at home with a babysitter as they may require more of your attention and distract you from being mentally present at the funeral.

How should I sign the guestbook at a funeral?

Clearly state your first and last name, along with a brief description of your relationship to the deceased. Signing the guestbook is another way to show your support for the grieving family by letting them know you attended the service.

Is it okay to use my smartphone at a funeral?

Please keep your smartphone on silent and put it away for the majority of the service. Using your phone during such a sensitive time may be seen as an invasion of privacy for the grieving family and inappropriate. If you need to answer a text or make a phone call, please do so outside.

In addition, a funeral is not the time or place to take photos unless you have the family's permission to do so.

What is a funeral processional and a recessional?

A funeral processional is when the casket is brought in. The officiant leads the processional and is followed by pallbearers who carry the coffin. Next to walk down the aisle are the family and kin to the deceased, followed by close friends who will take their seats in the first few rows, marking the start of the ceremony.

A recessional marks the end of the funeral service. Again, the officiant leads the way, followed by the pallbearers who carry the coffin out. They are followed by the family and friends of the deceased. Typically, one member of this group will give their thanks to the remaining guests at the ceremony. Finally, the processional forms, in which funeral attendees make their way over to the gravesite where the deceased will be laid to rest.

What do I do at a graveside service?

When making your way to the gravesite, avoid walking directly on other graves, memorial stones, and plaques.

Once you arrive at the graveside memorial, you will see chairs lined up. These are reserved solely for close family members of the deceased. If this does not apply to you, stand behind the chairs and allow room for otherkin or close family to stand near the grave. Dress conservatively, and if you are wearing a hat, remove it during the service.

What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial?

Both funerals and memorials are held to celebrate a deceased person's life and to allow those who knew them the chance to pay their respects. A funeral takes place when the deceased person's body is present. The funeral service may either be an open or a closed casket ceremony and involves a professional and a recessional. It is an opportunity for family and close friends to take one last look at the deceased before the body is buried or cremated.

A memorial takes place when the deceased person's body is not present. Family members and friends come together at an appropriate location, like a church or event hall, and give speeches to celebrate the deceased person's life. There are several reasons why a deceased person's family may choose a memorial service over a funeral, including if the body has already been cremated or if their ashes have already been scattered.Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.


If you're attending a traditional Catholic funeral for the first time, there are a few things you should know before you arrive. The process is quite involved, and for those who aren't familiar with the traditions surrounding Catholic funerals, it can be a bit overwhelming. We've put together a list of tips and advice to help you prepare to attend a Catholic funeral service, to make this difficult time a bit easier.

Confirm the Details

The family members of the deceased will have a lot of things to tend to during this time. Therefore, they may or may not be able to reach out to everyone with the service details. The obituary listing should be available online through the funeral home they have chosen, where you can find the details of the dates, times and locations for each part of the service.

If you have any questions about any service details, you can always contact the funeral home directly. While it may be tempting to reach out directly to the deceased's immediate family members for details, it's best not to bother them too much during this time, as they are likely very busy with planning for the funeral services. They will appreciate your consideration in taking it upon yourself to confirm the important dates and times of services.

Dress Appropriately

Deciding what to wear to a funeral and/or wake can be a bit stressful. Most of us don't have a specific outfit tucked away in our closets for such occasions. However, it's also important to realize that you're not the only one who is suddenly scrounging for the right thing to wear to a sad event. Therefore, there's no reason to stress too much if you don't have the perfect suit or dress.

The main thing to keep in mind is to be tasteful and appropriate. Nothing too bright, but it also doesn't have to be too dark, either. While suits and jackets aren't required, you will not look out of place if you decide to go that route. On the other end of the spectrum, it's best to avoid wearing jeans or overly casual clothing. However, because "jeans" today come in many forms, some very nice-looking versions may be acceptable, depending on the anticipated crowd. You'll never go wrong, though, if you err on the side of overdressing versus under-dressing.

Keep jewellery basic, and avoid anything overly flashy or fashionably risky. It's simply not the time for that. Shorts, t-shirts, or other beachwear are also not recommended. And, while kids typically get a free pass for most events, this is one time when it is best to try to dress children in dressier attire, if possible. Overall, use your best judgement. If you're not sure whether something is appropriate, ask a friend or family member to confirm.

Expect Multiple Events

Including the actual burial services, there are typically three main events that make up the entire Catholic funeral process. Before the day of the burial, there will be an awake or vigil service, where family and friends of the deceased and their family members can gather to pay their respects and provide support to those grieving.

On the day of the burial, there will be a funeral liturgy, which is usually combined with a traditional Catholic Mass, at a church chosen by the survivors of the deceased. Close family members and friends will often meet before the Mass at the funeral home for prayers and to set up the funeral procession (the line of cars with Funeral flags) before heading to the church. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

The last event is the Rite of Committal, which occurs at the cemetery after the body has been placed in its resting place. During this time, the family and friends say their final goodbyes, and flowers are often placed on the casket by individuals at the end of the service.

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