Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Complete Guide on Proper Funeral Service Etiquette

You should act your best when at a funeral service. After all, you’re there to pay your respects and to sympathize with the family and friends of the deceased. It’s not just a matter of showing up. You need to show your respects by following proper funeral service etiquette.
This is easier said than done for most people especially if it’s their first time to attend a funeral service. This is especially true since there are different religions and cultures and their funeral services have different etiquette requirements.
What should you wear? What should and shouldn’t you say? What’s the proper etiquette when it comes to the funeral procession? How about funeral card etiquette?
In this complete guide on proper funeral service etiquette, we’ll answer these questions when it comes to Catholic, Christian and Muslim funerals.

Proper Etiquette during a Catholic Funeral
Here are the questions and answers on proper etiquette during a Catholic funeral:
  • What should you wear?
You can’t go wrong with black. The color black signifies mourning. For men, a black suit is typically worn at Catholic funerals. A black dress is best for women. As a general rule, you can’t wear too much black at a Catholic funeral.
Avoid wearing anything flashy like flashy jewelry. Dress modestly.
  • What should you say to the family?
Offer words of sympathy to show that you’re grieving with them. It’s also a good idea to offer words of hope. For example, you can say something like, “He’s in a better place now.” These words are best said at the vigil.
  • How to act during the funeral procession?
Follow the hearse and the family in the procession in your private vehicle. Don’t overtake them.
  • How about a funeral card?
The family should have funeral cards printed for a smoother funeral. It can include the order of service. For their part, the guests can refer to the funeral card to make sure that they get to pay their respects the right way and on time.

Proper Christian Funeral Service Etiquette
Here are some etiquette tips that you should follow during a Christian funeral:
  • What should you wear?
Just like in a Catholic funeral service, you can’t go wrong with black. Don’t wear anything celebratory. What you’ll wear should match the supposed mood of the funeral which is somber. On that note, you can also wear clothes in charcoal gray.
This is not to say that you can just wear a black t-shirt, black shorts and black flip-flops. Wear what you’d wear to an office, but it should be somber. On that note, a black or charcoal gray suit for men and a black or charcoal gray dress for women are ideal.
  • What should you say to the family?
Plan ahead on what you’re going to say to avoid saying something inappropriate. Keep it short and simple. Don’t blurt something without thinking if it’s appropriate or not.
You can say sorry for their loss. It’s also a good idea to say that you’ll miss the deceased. Say something comforting. Just make sure that it’s heart-felt and sincere. The last thing that you’d want to do is to say something robotic.
  • How to act during the funeral procession?
The procession forms and starts at the church. Cross and banners are carried by mourners as they carry the deceased towards the graveside. The Trisagion is often sung during the procession.
  • How about a funeral card?
A Christian funeral card typically has several bible verses. This is because the family of the deceased gets strength from these bible verses. For example, the Psalm 9:9 verse is a popular choice as it talks about the Lord being the “refuge in times of trouble”. Psalm 18:28 is another popular choice as it talks about the Lord providing light in moments of darkness.

Proper Muslim Funeral Service Etiquette
A Muslim funeral is very different from a Catholic and Christian funeral. Here are the things that you should keep in mind:
  • What should you wear?
If you’re a Muslim, you’re expected to dress according to traditions. What if you’re a non-Muslim? If you’re a male, attend the funeral service wearing a dark suit over a dress shirt and tie. Don’t expose the skin of your lower body so shorts are not welcome. Your dress shirt should also cover a good part of your neck. Don’t wear clothes that will attract attention so don’t wear anything too tight. This applies if you’re a female as well.
If you’re a female, remember that Muslims are very conservative so make sure that you dress conservatively. Make sure that your arms are covered and wear a dress with a higher than the usual neckline. It should also be longer than the usual.
While not a must, wearing a head covering will be appreciated by the Muslim family. In addition, don’t wear anything flashy like flashy makeup and jewelry.
  • What should you say to the family?
This is a bit tricky as Muslims have different religious beliefs and traditions. This means that you can’t refer to religious figures not recognized by Muslims. It’s best to play it safe and just offer words of sympathy.
Muslims also have their version of heaven and hell in the form of Jannah (paradise) and Jahannam (hell). You can refer to Jannah if you’re comfortable doing that. Just make sure that you don’t sound condescending and that you’re not trying too hard.
It’s common for guests to offer a reminder to the family of the deceased that life is trivial and everything belongs to Allah. But of course, you don’t have to say that if you’re not comfortable. When in doubt, stick to words of sympathy.
  • How to act during the funeral procession?
The funeral procession really depends on the region as they have different customs. For example, women are generally discouraged from joining the procession in Middle Eastern countries.
Generally speaking, Muslims believe that those who joined the procession will get rewarded by Allah. They believe that you will get a Qeeraat of reward if you join the procession and pray for the deceased and that you will get two Qeeraat of reward if you do so and join the procession until the body’s burial.
  • How about a funeral card?
If you’re the one organizing the funeral, a funeral order of service is a must especially if you have non-Muslims attending. This allows your guests to pay their respects the right way as they’re able to follow the flow of the program. This is especially true nowadays unlike before when only Muslims familiar with the rites and traditions attend the funeral.
If you’re a non-Muslim and you’re attending a Muslim funeral, make sure to grab a copy of the funeral order of service card and follow the program as best as you can.

General Etiquette Rules
As you can see, different funerals have different traditions and cultures. However, there are general proper funeral service etiquette tips that you should follow like the following:
  1. Wear proper clothes.
There’s nothing celebratory in a funeral. While it’s true that some families would rather celebrate the life of the deceased rather than mourn the death of the deceased, it’s still rude to show up in a colorful and celebratory outfit at a funeral. Stick to dark and somber colors. You can’t go wrong with black.
As a general proper funeral service etiquette tip, don’t show too much skin at a funeral. This is especially true at a Muslim funeral.
  1. Offer words of sympathy.
This is the best way to play it safe if you’re not familiar with the traditions and cultures. When in doubt, stick to words of sympathy and even encouragement. Make sure that your words are sincere and heart-felt.
  1. Join the procession and follow the flow.
The procession is your last chance to pay respects to the deceased. It’s a chance for you to accompany the deceased to his or her final destination. It’s just proper funeral service etiquette to join the procession.
  1. A funeral card can help.
If you’re the one organizing the funeral service, a funeral card with the order of service can help. If you’re a guest at a funeral service, grab a copy of the funeral card and follow the program.
You don’t have to worry if you don’t know how to make one. You can download a free template online and use that to make a funeral card with an order of service.

Pay Your Respects
It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a Catholic, Christian or Muslim funeral. The most important thing is that you pay your respects to the deceased and his or her family. Show sympathy as well while paying your respects and make sure that you show sincerity. It’s a challenging time for the family and one of the most effective ways for the family to cope is to see a lot of people paying their respects to the deceased.

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