While it may seem like common sense, modern times have blurred what used to be clear guidelines for appropriate funeral dress. Some traditions have held their ground, such as wearing black, but there now tends to be a bit more leeway than those traditions allowed decades ago.
It is generally acceptable to wear almost any dark or subdued hue, especially navy blues and greys, along with black. These colors will not call too much attention to yourself, keeping the focus on the deceased. Also, bright and festive colors could be seen as offensive for being too festive. Wearing the right hues will show respect to the seriousness of the mourning process.
Additionally, you’ll want to choose the correct style of clothes. A great rule of thumb is to ask yourself if your funeral clothes would be appropriate for a church service or an office setting. If not, you might want to reevaluate your outfit. And anything that seems too casual or revealing, like flip flops, jeans, short skirts or spaghetti straps, most likely is.
Arriving at a funeral can be nerve-racking, and you don’t want to seem lost or out of place. Keep in mind that the setting is usually quiet and somber, and most people will be conversing in a whisper. The first thing you will want to look for is the funeral guest book. This is where you will sign your name and the names of any other members of your family who attend the funeral with you. It will provide the family of the deceased with a record of who attended.
There will also undoubtedly be a funeral program. This will provide the deceased person’s full name, dates of birth and death, surviving family members, pallbearers and songs or poems that will be performed. There may also be prayer cards available, which, along with the program, can be taken and kept as a keep sake in memory of the deceased.
While gifts are not required to attend a funeral, it is generally bad etiquette to show up empty-handed. Fresh flowers are a traditional gift, and the most common varieties to bring to a funeral include roses, carnations and lilies.
Sympathy cards are also a nice way to show your condolences, and much like other serious occasions, they should include some kind words and a monetary gift or gift card.
Also, food is a thoughtful way to offer condolences. It takes the pressure of cooking away from those who are grieving and is a great way to show that you care. Prepared casseroles, salads and desserts are ideal for this situation.
If you want to give the family of the deceased something more personal than flowers, there are a few creative options that would be acceptable:
Not every situation is the same, and different relationships dictate different levels of appropriate conversation. If you were close to the deceased, the best thing you can do is mention something personal that you will miss about them, such as, “I will miss his sense of humor” or “He always had a way of making everyone smile” or “She had the most generous heart”.
Additionally, you should offer your emotional support to their family. In your own words, let them know that you are here for them should they need anything.
If you weren’t very close to the person who passed away, you can simply offer your condolences with a phrase like “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “She will be missed by everyone who knew her” or “You and your family are in my prayers”.
Most people are conservative with their words at funerals, and there aren’t many words that the grieving family wouldn’t appreciate. However, there are some phrases that, although meant to comfort, often come across as cold, apathetic or even rude. Any indication that their death was “meant to be” or that God will use it for good seems flippant at best, and saying that you understand how they feel by delving into your own story of loss is out of place and egocentric.
Knowing how to handle a funeral in unprecedented times can be tricky. Social distancing has changed the way we celebrate, mourn and gather. But there are a lot of ways to display proper funeral etiquette during COVID-19. People have gotten creative, and funeral homes and clergy have covered every detail to make sure that you can pay your respects safely.
When all is said and done, it is important to be able to show your loved ones and friends that you appreciate all they have done to support you in such a difficult time. Sending out thank you cardsis easy and effective, and for an even more touching gesture, you can have them personalized.
Although these times are difficult and strange, we have hope that we can soon return to what mourning our loved ones and comforting those close to us should look like. Until then, and for more details, check out this post to help you navigate the unfamiliar process of attending a funeral during a pandemic.