Funeral Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

A funeral is an opportunity to say farewell to a loved one and offer support to their family and friends, but their increasingly celebratory nature means funeral etiquette has also evolved.

The wishes of the departed and their family is of the utmost importance, and understanding proper funeral etiquette will help avoid any faux pas.

funeral etiquette


Funeral etiquette once dictated everyone wear black or dark clothing, which is still appropriate for traditional services. However, it has relaxed over the years and celebratory services are frequently awash with colour at the request of the deceased through their funeral plan. Consult the family, or dress in smart, neutral attire if you’re unsure.


Funeral etiquette recommends you enter the funeral service after the coffin, family, and close friends. You should sit a few rows from the front, but close enough so you don’t leave the family isolated.

Children may attend, but many families avoid this, particularly if the children are young or the service is long. And it’s best to prepare them for what will happen if they do attend.


Religious funerals heavily feature their customs, and funeral etiquette dictates they are respected even if you do not share the same beliefs, perhaps by bowing your head during prayer or wearing a yarmulke (Jewish skull cap).

Flowers or charity donations?

Funeral etiquette says flowers should be sent as a mark of respect, but people are increasingly requesting a donation is made to their preferred charity instead. An amount equivalent to what you would have spent on flowers is suggested. 

Offering sympathy

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns over funeral etiquette is what to say for fear of upsetting other mourners or to appear uncaring by saying nothing at all. A few words of sympathy, a simple gesture, or share a memory about their loved ones is always appreciated.

If you’ve been considering your funeral wishes, call one of our helpful advisors on 0800 411 8688 or contact us to discuss how a Capital Life funeral plan can help you make the necessary arrangements in advance such as: Wills, Inheritance Planning, Probate and LPAs.