Family Line Up for a Funeral: Correct Order & Etiquette

Published September 22, 2020
Family receiving guests at a funeral

Have a family line up for funeral visitations, services, and receptions planned so no one is left wondering where to stand during the event. Planning this ahead of time takes the pressure off everyone involved. Know the typical order to stand in for lineups, processionals and seating, and learn more about funeral etiquette for immediate family members involved in the process.

Family Line Up for Funeral Receiving Line

What is a receiving line at a funeral? At the funeral or the funeral reception, the family may choose to receive mourners' condolences in a line. A traditional receiving line may be in the following order:

  • Surviving spouse or life partner
  • Children (may be oldest to youngest)
  • Parents
  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Grandparents

Of course, this lineup may change depending on circumstances and the family's preferences. For example, some family may only have children of a certain age in the lineup, and others may include spouses of adult children (or not). If you are not sure who the mourner is when you receive them, introduce yourself and your relationship to the deceased loved one, and they will likely return with their connection to the deceased.

Single or Divorced Parent Family Line Up Option

If the closest next of kin is a single parent, then the lineup would stay the same as mentioned above. However, if it was the parent who passed away, then adult children may be at the front of the line. If children are young, grandparents and siblings may be at the front of the receiving line or the only ones in the line. If the child(ren)'s other parent is involved, whether the couple was divorced or never married, and the relationship is amicable, the parents and/or children may request they be present at the funeral even if they do not stand in the line.

Blended Family Lineup Option

In the case of a blended family, all immediate family members should be included. The relative of the deceased should stand closest to the casket or entrance, with his/her spouse by their side. Then, the children could be included in age order or as the family desires. Siblings, parents, and grandparents of the deceased should follow.

Who Stands in the Receiving Line at a Visitation?

If a receiving line is held at the visitation or wake, in addition to or in lieu of one at the service, the lineup order should include the same people.

Family Line Up for Funeral Processional at the Service

A funeral processional refers to the beginning of a funeral service when the officiant, pallbearers (if there is a casket) and family enter. The order of family in a funeral processional goes as follows:

  • Officiant
  • Pallbearers with casket
  • Closest next of kin (surviving spouse, eldest children, or parent(s))
  • Children
  • Parent(s)
  • Adult siblings
  • Grandparents

Family Seating Order at a Funeral

At the funeral, the front rows of seating are reserved for family and pallbearers. The closest family should sit in the front, with additional close family members behind them, such as cousins or grandchildren. In the case of a blended family where children were close to the deceased, they may choose to sit with their parents or in the row behind them. Young children should sit with a parent or family member who can soothe them during the service. Exes on good terms may be included in the first few rows of pews, but not with one another; they would likely be a couple of rows back.

Funeral Service

Etiquette for Family Lineups at Funerals

The family lineup is generally a good idea so that immediate family members can greet guests and mourners who attend services; left to mingle on their own, they may not be able to visit with everyone who attended. Here is some of the typical funeral etiquette for immediate family to be aware of during the lineup:

  • Shake hands or perform another socially acceptable rite to greet those in the line.
  • Even when the mourner doesn't have the right words to comfort you, thank the person. They are likely having a hard time coming up with what to say.
  • Have facial tissues nearby in case you become overwhelmed with emotion.
  • If you know the person greeting you is not acquainted with your spouse, child, or grandparent standing next to you, you can introduce them as the line moves along.

The family can discuss the final lineup with the funeral director prior to any services. Some family members may prefer to be circulating during visitation, before or after the service, or during the reception. Make sure everyone is aware of the final plan and lineuup order before the event.

Receiving Mourners at the Funeral

The reason for the family lineup at a funeral, whether before/after the service, the visitation, or in the processional and seating, is to help mourners identify the family. It is also so the family doesn't feel stressed about trying to speak with every guest who attends. Having a lineup means the bereaved family and mourners can easily connect with one another. It is helpful for immediate family to know the proper etiquette for these lineups so they can go as smoothly as possible.

Family Line Up for a Funeral: Correct Order & Etiquette