Funeral Etiquette

Many of us do not attend funerals regularly, so it can be hard to know what to say and do to comfort friends or family in their time of need. This part of our website contains answers to frequently asked questions about funerals, visitations, and expressing sympathy.

What is the difference between a Visitation, a Memorial Service, and a Funeral Service?

A formal visitation provides a time and place for you to offer the family your expression of sorrow and sympathy. Visitation is typically held at the funeral home, and the deceased is typically present so that you can pay your last respects.

A memorial service is a service without the deceased present. The deceased is present at a funeral service. The same rules of etiquette apply.

What is appropriate dress for visitations and funerals?

It is no longer necessary to wear black when you go to a funeral. Dress should be conservative and should be selected to indicate dignity and respect for the family and the deceased.

Should children attend the visitation and funeral?

Children who were close to the deceased should be given the option to attend visitation and the funeral service.

How do I know when visitation hours are?

Visitation hours are listed in an individual's obituary. Click the Obituary button on the left side of this page, and select their name from the list. Visitation hours may also be listed in the newspaper obituary, or you may call us at 1-888-788-7823. It is appropriate to visit any time during the established visiting hours. If prayer services are to be held, it is important to be prompt.

How long should I stay at a visitation?

The amount of time you spend at a visitation is discretionary. Once you have expressed your sympathy to each member of the family and spoken a few moments to those you know well, it is acceptable to leave, although you may wish to stay longer.

What should I do when I attend the visitation?

When you arrive, go to the family and express your sympathy. If you were an acquaintance of the deceased, but not well-known to the family, immediately introduce yourself. Conversation about the deceased is natural, as is crying.

If offered by the family, it is customary, but not mandatory, to show your respects by viewing the deceased and, if you desire, spending a few moments in silent prayer.

Always sign the guest book using your full name (i.e., Mrs. John Doe), and if you were a business associate of the deceased, note your company affiliation.

What do I do when I arrive at the funeral/memorial service?

When you arrive, quietly take a seat if the service is being held in a church or chapel. The first few rows are usually reserved for the immediate family and the casket bearers. There may be an opportunity during the service for you to share some words about the deceased. If the ceremony is being held at the interment site, seating is usually only available for the immediate family.

What is a private service?

This type of service is by invitation only.

What other expressions of sympathy are appropriate?

Notes, cards and emails to the family are always appreciated, especially if you were unable to attend the funeral.

Flowers can be a great comfort to the family and may be sent to the visitation/funeral service or to the home of the family.

If the deceased was Catholic, a Mass card or arranging for a Mass to be celebrated for the deceased is also appropriate. The Mass offering card or envelope is available from any Catholic parish.

Gifts of food are also welcome.