Coffin at a funeral service in a cemetery

Proper Visitation and Funeral Etiquette

By: Lauren Griffith

Visitation and funeral etiquette are important to know but not often discussed ahead of a loved one passing away. When it comes time to attend a visitation or funeral, there is proper etiquette to follow and essential information to know before attending.

Stuhr Funeral Home staff often get asked questions such as “What should I say at the funeral or visitation? Do I need to attend both the visitation and funeral?” and more.

Stuhr’s team of funeral professionals has some insight to help you navigate proper funeral and visitation etiquette.

What should I say at the funeral or visitation?
Instead of focusing on the right things to say during these events, it’s necessary to remember one’s presence during the difficult time of a funeral, and visitation is more important.

Martha Archibald, Managing Director of Stuhr Funeral Home’s Mount Pleasant Chapel, says, “Many times, people wonder what the right things to say are during a funeral or visitation. The truth is you don’t need to say much at all other than expressing your condolences, and you can keep your remarks brief. Your presence is the most important thing at that moment.”

Funerals and visitations are not times to catch up with folks you may not have seen in a while. It’s respectful to keep your condolences and loving remarks brief, as many people are coming to express their love to the family and friends of a lost loved one, and you need to be mindful of their time as well.

Do I need to attend both the visitation and the funeral?
When deciding whether to attend a funeral, visitation, or both, try your hardest to attend what you can. Many folks have work or prior engagements during a weekday and may only be able to attend an evening visitation.

If you can make it to both events, that’s wonderful. But even just attending one will mean a lot to grieving family and friends.

Should I bring anything to the events?
While bringing a comfort meal or gift to your loved ones who are grieving is a nice gesture, it’s not necessary to bring anything to a funeral or visitation.

If you want to give something, people sometimes send flowers to a funeral or deliver food before the visitation. A card is appropriate to give to the family after a funeral, and cards and letters of sympathy and condolences can also be sent to the homes of those who are grieving.

What should I wear to a funeral or visitation?
People often think dressing in all black is the only attire for a funeral or visitation. While wearing black is the traditional funeral attire, it’s not always necessary.

Coffin at a funeral service in a cemetery

However, attire does need to be both conservative and respectful. This is not a time to make a fashion statement or stand out. You may choose to wear black to the funeral and conservative casual clothes to the visitation.

What should I do with my children?
It’s up to the parents whether or not they bring their children to a visitation or funeral. Many parents use this as an opportunity to teach their children about death and allow them to begin their own grieving process. Children need to feel included when something as monumental as a death occurs and having them attend a funeral can be a necessary life experience for them.

Parents should use their discretion on whether or not a child is too young, restless, or not ready for such an event. The last thing you want is to be disruptive while people are in mourning and trying to honor the life of a loved one.

How can I continue to support my loved one after a funeral?
If your loved one has recently lost someone, it’s essential to attend the funeral and visitation. It’s even more important to be there for them when things quiet down a few weeks after the funeral, whether providing meals, sending a card, or checking in over the phone.

Martha Archibald says, “Follow up with your friends who have recently lost someone. Call and check in on them and invite them to open-ended plans so they aren’t pressured to participate but feel included and cared for during this time.”

It’s also vital to give your loved one space and time to talk about their lost loved one as they’re grieving. Mention fond memories and thoughts of them, and keep their name alive in your conversations. There may be some tears, but your friend needs to feel like their lost loved one is still important and cared about in others’ lives.

Day-of Reminders
As you prepare to attend a funeral, be mindful of when the funeral and visitation begin. Plan to arrive early, find a seat, turn off your cell phone, remain quiet and be respectful throughout the event.