- No Social Media posts – unless or until the next of kin have done so. Please be sensitive as to who gets to inform others, and whether it’s public knowledge. This goes for all aspects of the bereavement, form the loss itself, to the details of the funeral. Let the family dictate who knows what and when. There may be others who haven’t yet heard, or they may want the funeral kept private. They may like things shared, but wait to be guided by them. It is not your news to tell.
- Keep your phone off! While attending the ceremony, please switch phones off. Nobody wants your mobile making a noise or lighting up during the service. Please respect everyone there by keeping your phone silent and out of sight. Certainly do not take any photos or videos unless you’ve checked with those closest to the person beforehand. Sometimes there are professional videographers and photographers. Sometimes others are livestreaming the ceremony from other locations. Or there may be certain guests appointed to photograph the event. But nobody wants the feel of the paparazzi at a solemn occasion. Please leave it to those who have been asked. They may want keepsake pictures of floral tributes and guests, but that is not your call. You can always offer.
- Dress appropriately. Those organising the funeral will let you know if there’s a specific dress code. For instance, if they would like you to wear the person’s favourite colour. I know of one funeral where everyone wore a Hawaiian shirt, because the gentleman had a penchant for them! Sometimes the guidance is a request for bright colours. However, if you don’t hear of any dress code, then assume it’s the traditional smart and sombre. Darker colours and a smart look is always a safe bet.
- When entering the venue for the ceremony, do wait outside until signalled. Please don’t try to go in; there may still be another service in progress, other mourners still leaving, or staff preparing the space. There are often waiting rooms and toilets on site. Some people wait in or by their cars. It may be prudent to bring a drink and even a snack to have while you wait. If waiting outside a chapel, please keep your voices at a respectful level. There is likely to be another funeral going on. When your ceremony is about to begin, the main mourners (usually immediate family) will either enter the chapel first, with everyone else then following behind, or the main mourners will want to come in last, with everyone else already seated. Attendees will be guided by the professionals. Do not sit in the front two rows of the chapel, as these are usually reserved for those who were closest to the person. At the end of the service, you will again be guided by the professionals. It may be the main mourners exiting first, which is then everyone else’s cue to follow them out. Or they may wish to have a last moment alone with their loved-one, in which case, the Funeral Conductor or Chapel Attendant will inform everyone else when it’s time to leave, and by which door. Don’t stand up or head out until instructed.
- Attend the Wake or reception afterwards, if everyone is invited. As with the funeral or memorial service itself, the person’s loved-ones are touched and pleased when people make the effort to come. Show your support by going on to the next venue, even if it’s only for one drink and to show your face. Others have gone to the trouble of organising something in memory of their loved-one, and are always gratified when these events are well-attended. If you have any stories or memories to share, then please do so. If it’s not possible at the time, then you can always put them in a card or letter for the next of kin. Receiving these memories and anecdotes, and how the person influenced your life, are precious to those who are sorely missing them.
- If sending flowers, they can be ordered in advance and sent to the Funeral Directors. Or you can send them to the family directly. You can even take them with you on the day; the Funeral Conductor will put them on the flower terrace (patio). The flower arrangements are usually grouped and displayed with a little framed card giving the person’s name, so that you can see which collection is for whom. If it is a burial service, then the Funeral Conductor will place the arrangements around the grave.
- If there is a suggestion of a certain charity, you can make a donation. There may be a collection box as you exit the chapel or venue, or there may be a link to donate online. You can sometimes send it to the Funeral Directors, if you prefer. If you are unsure, you can always ask the next of kin if there is a suitable charity they’d like a donation made to in memory of their loved-one. They may say that the choice is up to you. Some people have collections instead of flowers. Give whatever you are comfortable with.
- Children – should they attend? I have previously written a separate Blog called ‘Ceremony for Grieving Children’ but when it comes to whether they should attend, this is at their parents’ discretion. Children able to sit through the ceremony and understand it should be fine to attend, but still, it’s polite to check with the main mourners. If you have younger ones who may find it difficult, then perhaps be prepared for you (or someone you delegate) to take them out if necessary. However, the ceremony may be inclusive of little ones, and again, it’s best to ask those who have organised the event.
- Extra Support. If there are different cultures and customs at the ceremony, then this should not be an issue. If there are religious or spiritual aspects that are not of your faith, you can either join in, or simply bow your head quietly. If someone needs the ceremony interpreted, then contact the Funeral Directors beforehand. It’s possible that they can inform the Celebrant or whoever is leading the service, and hopefully get something in place. I’ve printed out scripts for those with hearing loss, so they could read along with the ceremony as it happens, and also emailed it to others for them to have translated into different languages. The script can also be sent to those who cannot attend in person. If a person is attending with a disability or condition, then the professionals can help. Again, ask the Funeral Directors to tell the Celebrant or Minister in advance, and let them know how they can make the individual in question as comfortable as possible. We want the ceremony to be accessible and inclusive for everyone.
The main guideline here is that, if you are unsure, then just ask. This is not just for those attending, it also goes for those organising a Funeral or Memorial. All of us working in the funeral sector will strive to accommodate your wishes for the ceremony. To create a personal and bespoke farewell, that reflects the character and personality of your loved-one. We are also available to answer all questions that anyone may have. Please let us know how we can help.
For the personal touch, get in touch.