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Funeral Etiquette for Guests and Family Members

Funeral services can make people nervous because it’s a highly emotional event – you want to celebrate the life of the loved one, yet are coping with grief. Brainard Funeral Home offers the following general funeral etiquette to make you and your loved ones more comfortable.

  • Acknowledgments. Send acknowledgments to let people know how much you appreciate their expressions of kindness. While timeliness is… don’t pressure yourself to get these done. You may also insert a public thank you in the newspaper.
  • After the funeral. Survivors often feel alone in dealing with their feelings. It is important that they know you are still there. Keep in touch.
  • Attire. Colorful clothing is no longer considered inappropriate attire for funerals. However, show good taste and dignity in your choices out of respect for the family and the solemn occasion.
  • Children at funerals. At a very early age, children have an awareness of and a response to death and should be given the option to attend visitation and the funeral service. Brainard Funeral Home can advise you on how to assist children at the time of a funeral and can provide you with additional information and literature.
  • Eulogy. A eulogy may be given by a member of your family, clergy, a close personal friend or a business associate of the deceased. The eulogy is generally brief, offers praise, recognition of the deceased’s accomplishments, and reflects upon the life of your loved one.
  • Flowers. Flowers are a beautiful way of expressing sympathy. Be considerate of the family’s wishes as expressed in the obituary, as there are cases when memorials are preferred expressions of sympathy. The funeral home will know the family’s preference. Brainard Funeral Home will be certain the family receives all cards that accompany the flowers.
  • Funeral Procession/Cortege. Funeral attendees may accompany the family to the burial site. The procession is formed at the funeral home or place of worship. Brainard Funeral Home staff will advise you concerning traffic regulations and procedures.
  • Funeral Services
    • A Private Service is by invitation only. It can be held at a place of worship, a funeral home or family home. Respecting the family’s need for privacy, you can still let them know you care by sending a sympathy card, a memorial donation or flowers.
    A Memorial Service is held without the body present, and may take place in a variety of locations, including the funeral home, church, a park or family home. Typically a memorial service includes flowers and pictures and perhaps an urn.
  • Honorary Pallbearers. These people are chosen in honor of the memory of their association or friendship with the deceased. However, they do not actively carry the casket.
  • Mass cards. Mass cards are given by Catholic and non-Catholic friends and can be obtained from any Catholic parish or Brainard Funeral Home. They offer an arrangement of a Mass for the deceased and can be a valued expression of sympathy.
  • Memorial donations. Donations can be made to a specific cause or charity in the name of the deceased. Many memorial gifts are often tax-deductible. Brainard Funeral Home staff is familiar with the donation process and can explain your options, as well as furnish donors with In Memorial cards, which are given to the family.
  • Music. While some religious establishments have rules concerning the music that can be used, funeral homes have no such rules and work with you to customize the music. There are no set rules about the number of songs to be used in a service.
  • Offering Condolences. Many feel awkward when offering condolences to family members, but doing so is a means of providing comfort and support to the family.
  • Pallbearers. Friends, relatives, church members or business associates are examples of those whom you may want to include as pallbearers. You will need a minimum of six people capable of lifting the casket. Pallbearers should arrive at the funeral at least 20 minutes prior to the service to receive instructions. Although a suit and tie are not required, show good taste and dignity in your choices out of respect for the family and the solemn occasion.
  • Photographic displays. Shown at the funeral or reception, these photographic arrangements are a touching means of sharing a visual life story of your loved one and serves as a great conversation piece for attendees.
  • Receptions. The reception can be held immediately following the funeral service or upon returning from the cemetery. An invitation to the reception is extended on behalf of the family, usually at the end of the service. A gathering of family and friends for fellowship and refreshments is often held at the church or a family’s home. A small, simple reception including coffee and desserts may be held at the funeral home. Others may choose to host a luncheon at a reception hall.
  • Sympathy cards. Even if you are only an acquaintance, sending a card is appropriate. The card should be in good taste and in keeping with your relationship to the family of the deceased. Writing a personal note of sympathy is very meaningful. Express yourself openly and sincerely.
  • Telephone calls. Calls to a family member(s) are an opportunity to offer your services and let the family know you care. If they wish to discuss their loss, listen, and don’t hesitate to share favorite memories about the deceased, as well as comforting thoughts.
  • Visitation service. Visitation offers friends and family a means to express sorrow and sympathy. Sympathy can be expressed by clasping hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence. If the receiving line is lengthy, be brief to allow others their chance to talk with the family. Use your own judgment on how long you should stay at the funeral home or place of visitation. Respect the calling hours of the visitation, as the family needs privacy before and after the visitation. Be aware of any scheduled religious or fraternal service to be held. Friends and relatives should sign the register book. A person’s full name should be listed. If the person is a business associate, it is proper to list your affiliation, as the family may not be familiar with their relationship to the deceased.

Grieve loss, celebrate life. For more information, contact Brainard Funeral Home at 715-845-5525.

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