What Is Visitation and Funeral Etiquette?

September 1, 2022 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Like weddings, births and other events, funerals are also important to our social interactions. Because funerals are not considered happy occasions, there is sometimes awkwardness and uncertainty about the etiquette that should surround the event. This can be especially difficult if you do not have much, or any, experience with death.

This quick guide will help you familiarize yourself with funeral and visitation etiquette to help you get through this difficult time if you are planning a memorial service or are just visiting. 

Types of Services

Many people do not realize that different types of services can be associated with the passing of a loved one. Let’s look at each one individually so that if you are invited or required to attend a service, you know exactly which kind of service you will be attending. If you are planning the service, a funeral professional will be able to provide funeral assistance to help you determine which type of service would be best. 

Visitation – The visitation is usually the first type of event that will be planned following someone’s death. This is a period of time in which friends and family meet with the deceased person’s immediate family and often happens in a home or funeral home a day or two before the funeral. Most people dress casually but tastefully for the visitation.

The Viewing – The viewing is sometimes combined with a visitation, but it always takes place before the funeral itself.

A Wake – Some families have a wake. This is very similar to a viewing. Generally, a wake is slightly more religious with scriptures being read.

Memorial service – This is usually a gathering of family and friends to remember the individual. Many people organize this event following a formal funeral. Clothing should be modest and in subdued colors.

Should I Attend All Services?

There are no requirements to attend all services. However, if you were very close to the individual, the family may expect you to. Some simply choose which service to attend and consider that as their offering of condolences to the family.

How Long Should I Stay?

If you are attending a formal funeral, you will need to stay until the service is over. A formal funeral usually has a dismissal at the end, similar to a church service.

If you are attending a visitation or viewing, it is customary for visitors to come and go for a set period of time. You can arrive, pay your condolences, and leave when you like.

If you are attending a wake that has set starting and ending times, you should leave when everyone else does.

How Should I Behave?

Funerals can be just as different as the individuals they are honoring. When you arrive at any type of funeral service, you should take a moment to read the room. Is this a joyful occasion in which friends and family celebrate the deceased’s life with lighthearted laughter and stories? Or are family and friends in deep mourning? This will help you decide how you should behave while you are there.

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