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Posted on November 24, 2021 by jhcadm

What Should You Bring to a Funeral?

Attending a Funeral In-Person

Unless you work in the funeral industry, funeral etiquette is not something most people need to think about on a regular basis. And while that is a good thing, it can ultimately be a bit stressful when you want to show your support for a grieving family but aren’t quite sure how. This is only made more complicated by the fact that we’ve been in a global pandemic for nearly two years and in-person funerals in the United States have been limited to only immediate family.

What Should You Bring When Attending a Funeral In-Person?

The obvious answer is: yourself. As odd or obvious as this answer may sound, it’s important to remember that your presence is vastly appreciated. By physically being present, you are demonstrating your love and care for the family. And while this may not always be possible at this time, showing up when you can will go a long way to show your support.

Tip: If you are showing up in-person, dress attire should fall somewhere between business casual and formal (dresses, slacks, suits, etc.) unless otherwise instructed by the family.

Flowers, sympathy cards, custom keepsakes, and donations are all appropriate gifts to bring to a funeral. While a gift is certainly not required, it can be a thoughtful way to communicate your love for those grieving. Flower and plant arrangements can often be sent to the funeral home prior to the service. Depending on the individual funeral home, donations are often another way you can provide support to the family. At James H. Cole Home for Funerals, guests can donate online to help offset the cost of the funeral, or they can donate to charity in honor of the deceased.

Many families will have a memorial table of some kind with photographs and tokens to help celebrate the life of the deceased, from medals and awards to a favorite coffee mug. Bringing any photos and/or small memory items you may have is a great way to celebrate the deceased by sharing wonderful memories with friends and family.

If you know if the family is having a repast or some other kind of less formal gathering after the funeral service, you may consider bringing food to pass. This way, the family can focus less on organizing the gathering and more on the grieving process.

Tip: Funerals are often very physically and emotionally draining, so having food available can be a great help.

Practical Items

There are a number of practical items that are always good to have at a funeral service in order to be prepared for any sudden need. Tissues and, these days, hand sanitizer are essentials—especially if you’ll be hosting a funeral service with individuals outside of your immediate family in attendance. While the funeral home may provide these items, it’s always a good idea to bring extras just in case.

For services that are followed by a traditional burial, an umbrella and walking shoes are important depending on the location and size of the cemetery as well as its proximity to the funeral home. Dress in layers that can be added or removed depending on the weather. If you will need to walk a considerable distance for any reason (whether or not you’ll be driving to the cemetery), make sure you have what you need to stay comfortable and dry.

Virtual Services

If you’re unable to attend a funeral service in-person, many funeral homes are continuing to offer virtual livestream attendance. However, if you’re interested in additional ways to show your support for the family, many of the previously-mentioned options are available virtually (such as sending flowers and making donations).

Tip: Rather than send flowers to the funeral home, you can also choose to send them directly to the family’s home.

If you’re unable to attend the service on the day it’s held but want to be able to do something additional for the family, you might consider assisting them with various chores. Cook them a hot meal, help clean the house, go grocery shopping – things that the family may be struggling to do during their time of loss.  Families are often overwhelmed during the funeral planning process. Showing support in the weeks that follow, especially as most contact and support generally dwindles, can be immensely helpful.

Funerals Are NOT a Good Place For…

When it comes to funeral services, there are certainly items that you should not bring (or should, at the very least, be conscious of prior to attending). As previously mentioned, clothing should lean formal unless otherwise specified. As a rule of thumb, we recommend avoiding clothing items such as jeans, t-shirts, crop tops, shorts, and athleisure. Unless a dress code (or lack thereof) is specified, it’s best to default to business casual.

Use of phones and electronics are also frowned upon during visitations and services as these can be quite noisy and disruptive. If you plan to bring these items with you, they should be turned off and/or silenced during the service and usage should be limited to outside the funeral home only. This is respectful for all grieving families and individuals who may be at the funeral home that day.  

Finally, it’s recommended that young children not attend unless they are directly related to the deceased. Because everyone grieves differently, it’s important to keep the funeral home atmosphere as quiet and neutral as possible. Young children, through no fault of their own, don’t always understand this concept, which can make this a difficult environment for them. If you do need to bring your young children, keep in mind that you may need to leave early or step outside should they become disruptive.

Have questions about what’s appropriate to bring to a funeral? Want to know how you can give to a funeral of a loved one, but not sure where to start? Our dedicated team of funeral directors is here to help. We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have. Contact us to learn more.

Posted in Funeral Industry, General Topics