Avoid sending bouquets
“Flowers are lovely; however, a lot of people get overwhelmed with them,” Cunningham says of this well-intentioned gesture. Instead of settling for a humdrum flower arrangement that will wither in a few days, opt for a more personalized gift, like a donation to a favorite charity or a tree planted in the name of the deceased. Doing so will show your support for the grieving family, and they will be thankful that you took the time to pay such a thoughtful tribute.
Encourage the kids to get involved
As a general rule of funeral etiquette, children under age seven should not attend a funeral service. However, Cunningham recommends handling each individual case differently, depending on the child’s relationship with the deceased and his or her personality. A child who will cry during the ceremony (especially an infant or toddler) should be left at home with a sitter, but older children can play a meaningful role at the service. “It’s a good thing to help children fear death less and see what generosity is all about by participating in some way,” Cunningham says. Kids can also enjoy singing during the service, or even coloring a picture for the grieving family. If they’re engaged purposefully, children can be a thoughtful, comforting presence at any funeral ceremony.
Offer to take pictures
Snapping a few pictures at the service could capture positive memories if done tastefully. Although you should never take a picture of the deceased or take any pictures at all during the ceremony, “I am not against the funeral selfie,” Cunningham says. The Emily Post Institute recommends finding a time before or after the service (and away from the mourners) to snap a quick photo with relatives or friends who have been reunited for the event. And if you have the chance to take a few respectful pictures of the flowers or place of worship, be sure to offer your photos to the family too. “The grieving family doesn’t have time to fool with that during the ceremony,” Cunningham says. “If you can document anything that triggers positive memories, I’m sure they will appreciate it.” Otherwise, it is proper funeral etiquette to keep your smartphone turned off and in your pocket or purse until you get home. Here’s what you should know about proper etiquette for dealing with death on social media.
Wear dark, subdued clothing
“Wear black” might be the most frequently heard piece of funeral etiquette. Although black is the safest bet to wear to any funeral, that doesn’t mean you have to be shrouded in it; any dark, subdued shade will do. Outside of color, the most important rule to follow regarding funeral attire is to avoid drawing attention to yourself. “You’re there as someone honoring another, and it’s not about you,” Cunningham says. Abstain from provocative clothing or open-toed shoes like flip-flops. “Try to gauge your attire according to the preferences and inclinations of the deceased,” Cunningham says. Mimicking his or her taste is a thoughtful way to pay tribute to his or her life.