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Burial Etiquette

Knowing the basics of burial etiquette can help you deal with a difficult time, while also making a sad time easier for others to handle around you as well.

Funerals are sad times, aren’t they? Even when funerals are planned out, there is still a lot of boo-hooing and crying, and a lot of black suits. Sometimes it feels like things are just a little too heavy and you want to crack a joke, but should you? What are the basics of funeral etiquette and how should you behave so that you don’t get kicked out of the wake?

Wearing black is a good start, but that’s only the beginning of your burial etiquette lesson.


When You’re at a Wake

The wake can be a downright creepy occasion. You are generally viewing the body during this time, in all of its embalmed glory. This is not fun. It is not helpful for the grieving process, but some people need proof the person actually died. And so, wakes are held. To make sure you are on your best behavior, you should talk to the spouse or to the relatives of the deceased at some point, offer your condolences as well as to help if they need anything. If you have a memory to share, that would be a good time too. If you do not want to look at the body, don’t. But if you do, make sure to make it quick so that you don’t hold up the line if it’s a bigger funeral. (And for heaven’s sake, don’t talk about how good/bad a job the embalmer did. Leave that for the car ride home.)

During the Funeral

When you’re at a funeral, you should be wearing black or at least dark colors and staying completely silent. If the priest or the officiate wants you to say something, they’ll tell you. If the funeral is a full mass and you’re not a Christian, participate as you can, but don’t feel like you need to go up for communion if you don’t want to. However, don’t heckle those who do.

After the Memorial Service or Funeral

Sometimes, the deceased will have set up a burial life insurance policy that includes a luncheon or other gathering after the service. If you are invited to come, and all who go to the funeral are, you will want to stop by, pay your respects and then leave. You don’t need to stay all night or drink up all the free beverages. Just linger for as long as feels comfortable, then get out. The only reason you should stay longer is if you are helping to clean up.