Who Should Be the Pallbearers at a Funeral?

Published April 19, 2021
Pallbearers at a Funeral

Once you start planning for a funeral, you realize just how endless your list of things to get in order is becoming, with hastily scribbled notes about things like coordinating a time for a service or memorial, choosing who should be pallbearers if you're having a traditional service, and so on. It seems as though the smallest of things are the most daunting in times like these, but they don't have to be. Take the weight of the world off of your shoulders for a minute and let yourself be guided through the process of a picking your pallbearers.

What Is a Pallbearer?

A pallbearer refers to the people who carry the casket from the hearse to the gravesite; this position is normally held by people who were close to the deceased. Of course, pallbearers are necessary for traditional funerals where the deceased will be buried in a casket, but you can also have pallbearers at a cremation service who accompany the urn to the burial site or the memorial location.

Are There Restrictions for Being a Pallbearer?

There aren't any written rules in place preventing any demographic of a person from being a pallbearer. However, there are things to consider when choosing who you'd like to perform the honorable task. Some of these considerations include a person's physical ability, their age, their emotional fortitude, and their reliability.

Physical Requirements of Being a Pallbearer

Being a pallbearer is a physically demanding responsibility. Caskets can weigh up to 400 pounds without the added weight of a body inside, and on average, there are only six pallbearers to escort the casket to its final resting place. This means that any pallbearer will need to hold a significant amount of weight for an extended period. Therefore, be sure to think about choosing people who are able-bodied and have good enough health to be able to go the distance carrying that load.

Age Considerations for Being a Pallbearer

Similarly, pallbearers are normally not any younger than 16 due to the extreme emotional turmoil that can come from being that close to the dead body of a loved one. Teenagers, especially, might assert that they can handle the pressure, but keep their mental health in mind. You may wish to avoid putting that sort of responsibility on them. In a similar fashion, choosing the elderly might be putting too much of a physical or emotional strain on them, and it's probably best to encourage them to walk in the procession.

Emotional Concerns of Being a Pallbearer

The pallbearer holds a very public position in the funeral procession, meaning that they can't afford to be overtaken by their emotions whilst handling the casket. Some might even see it as disrespectful to the deceased to have a loud display of grief. So, out of respect for both the deceased and their closest friends and family, you want to think about selecting people who can handle the pressure of having their grief on display - even if only for the ten-fifteen minutes that it takes for their responsibilities to be completed.

Pallbearers at a Funeral

Reliability Is a Priority for a Pallbearer

Depending on the type of service that you're having, the pallbearers might be required to arrive at the funeral home earlier than the procession. This means that you want to pick pallbearers that you can rely on to be on time, as well as one who'll actually show up if they've informed you that they would. Make sure to get firm confirmations from all of your pallbearers that they can make the funeral ahead of time, and keep a list of backup pallbearers that you could supplement in case one of your original group can't make the service.

Honorary Pallbearers Are Also Valued

Although there aren't any written restraints against who you can choose to be a pallbearer, that doesn't mean there aren't conditional deterrents that make some people better choices for the position than others. For the people in your life who feel like being a pallbearer is really important to them, but who can't handle the demands of the position, you can elect them as honorary pallbearers. These people can walk just ahead of, or just behind, the casket as the pallbearers move it towards the plot. This is a great option for both the elderly and people who are disabled who otherwise wouldn't be able to carry the casket themselves.

Picking Pallbearers Takes Consideration

Like any major decision, selecting pallbearers for a funeral is a task that takes time and consideration. You want to make sure that you pick the best six people to accompany the casket to its final resting place, and each funeral's pallbearers will look different from another's. If you keep in mind all of these considerations when picking your pallbearers, the funeral you're planning should run as smoothly as possible.

Who Should Be the Pallbearers at a Funeral?