Funeral Attendance Etiquette: Who Should Attend?

Published September 1, 2020
Family attending a funeral

Funeral attendance etiquette offers guidance for who should attend a funeral. If you're undecided about attending a funeral, learning the commonly-accepted etiquette for funeral attendance will quickly identify who should attend.

Funeral Etiquette Who Should Attend a Private Service

The most common reason you should not attend a funeral is that the family is holding a private funeral service. This is usually a family attendance-only service but can also include close friends of the deceased and/or family. Who can attend is left up to the discretion of the deceased's family.

Who Should Attend a Funeral?

If the funeral isn't private, then anyone is free to attend. Your relationship to the deceased is always a good way to determine if you should attend. For example, you will attend if you are:

  • Family of the deceased
  • Friend of the family or deceased
  • Acquaintance of the family or deceased
  • Co-worker or boss of the family or deceased
  • Attendee of the same church, synagogue, or other religious sect
  • Member of the same organization as the deceased or family member
  • Business customer or client of the deceased or family
  • Admirer of a public figure and their service

Who Should Not Attend the Funeral?

If you have young children, you may decide it's best to leave them with a babysitter or family member. Asking young children to behave with the proper decorum for a funeral can become problematic and disruptive.

Illness or Physical Limitations

If you are ill or feel as though you are getting sick, then you should not attend the funeral. This is especially true if you are contagious. The last thing the family needs is to suffer an illness in the wake of a loss. Another consideration is if you get worse during the funeral, and how this could interrupt or disrupt the service. If you aren't physically able to attend the funeral without disrupting the service, you should not attend.

Woman sneezing

Your Presence Is Controversial or Disruptive

If your presence would create controversy, turmoil, pain, or be disruptive to any of the family members, then you should not attend the funeral. Funeral etiquette revolves around the family and what the family needs.

Is It Bad to Not Attend a Family Member's Funeral?

If you are a family member and physically able to attend the funeral, then you should. The funeral gives family and friends the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one. More importantly, it is a service for the family and others in mourning.

Attend a Family Member's Funeral to Show Support

By attending the funeral, you show your emotional support of your family. In addition, by being present and participating in the final farewell to your family member, you honor the memory of the deceased. Attending a funeral for a family member makes the statement that their life was important to you, and that you are a part of your family unit.

Should I Go to a Funeral of an Acquaintance?

If the deceased was an acquaintance, you certainly aren't required to attend their funeral. However, if you thought well of them, you might want to attend the funeral so you can later tell their family how much you thought of them. Even if you don't have the opportunity to convey these feelings and thoughts to the deceased's family, simply by being at the funeral, you offer the family comfort and support.

Should I Attend a Funeral That Is Far Away?

Making the decision to attend a funeral that is far away is a personal one. If the deceased was important to you, then you will have a desire and need to attend their funeral. If you don't have those feelings or need to honor them by attending the funeral, then you don't have to go. It is always a personal choice to attend a funeral.

Other Considerations for Distant Funerals

You may not be able to afford the trip to attend a funeral that is far away. You may be physically prevented from attending or not have any means of transportation. If you work, then you may not be able to get the time off to travel to the funeral, or you may not be able to afford the time away from your job. These are legitimate reasons for not attending a funeral.

woman traveling

Etiquette for Missing a Funeral

If you can't attend the funeral, send a sympathy card to the deceased's family. If you don't know their address, contact the funeral home to make sure your card is delivered to the family. You can send flowers to the family or to the funeral home. You can take food to the family and visit with them briefly to let them know you are thinking of them.

Visit the Family Later

Most importantly, you can visit the family after the funeral. The weeks following the funeral are difficult for the deceased's family. This is the time when everyone disappears, and the family continues to struggle with their grief. You can plan a visit by calling ahead and take them food and/or flowers. Your care and attention will be greatly appreciated, often more than had you attended the funeral.

Funeral Attendance Etiquette and Who Should Attend

Funeral attendance etiquette can help you decide if you should go to a funeral. Always consider the needs and preference of the family and you'll make the right decision.

Funeral Attendance Etiquette: Who Should Attend?