Funeral and Cemetery Etiquette

Funeral and Cemetery Etiquette

When attending a visitation or funeral, you might find yourself uncertain of what you should wear, what to say, or what to do. We've put together a short guide to the basics of funeral home etiquette to help you pay your respects with courtesy and consideration.


Common Sense Funeral Etiquette

When attending a visitation or funeral, you might find yourself uncertain as to what you should wear, what to say, or what to do. We've put together a short guide to the basics of funeral etiquette to help you pay your respects with courtesy and consideration.


The most important thing to remember is that the main reason for you to attend a funeral, memorial service, or visitation is to show your sympathy and support for the family members of the deceased.


What to Wear

Try to find out the dress code before you attend, so that you can be sure you'll look appropriate. If you aren't sure, simply try to dress in a conservative way that shows respect for the family and other mourners. This doesn't necessarily mean you must wear black (in fact, some families specify "no black" for their services), but try to avoid overly bright colors. For men, a suit and a conservative tie is usually a safe bet. Women should generally wear a simple dress, skirt, or pants with a tasteful blouse.


Religious & Ethnic Customs

Traditions and customs differ among various communities, ethnic groups and religions, and it's often helpful to ask beforehand about any special considerations you need to take into account. If the deceased was not overly religious, the funeral may simply be a celebration of the person’s life. It may be a sad occasion, or it may be a joyous event. You can still feel free to practice your religion by discretely bowing your head to pray for the family.

Turn Off Your Cellphone

This one should go without saying. If you choose to bring your phone into the funeral home, take a moment to make sure you've turned it off.



A funeral is an emotional time, and grieving is a natural part of the healing process. Don't feel uncomfortable if you or the bereaved begins to cry. However, if you find yourself becoming extremely upset, it is kinder to excuse yourself to avoid increasing the strain on the family.


Greeting the Family

Upon arrival, approach the family and express your sympathy. Don't feel that you should avoid talking about the person who has died...in fact, talking can help the grieving process to begin.


What to Say

What should I say to the family of the deceased? Express your sympathy in your own words, however it feels right to you. Kind words about the loved one who has passed are always appropriate, and a simple "I'm sorry for your loss" or "My thoughts and prayers are with you" can be meaningful and comforting for the bereaved. All it takes is a few kind words to let the family know that you care.


What Not to Say

Don't ask the cause of death; if the family wants to discuss it, let them bring it up. Avoid giving unsolicited advice, or making comments that might unintentionally diminish the importance of the loss, such as "I've been through this before."


Consider avoiding these six common phrases when talking with someone who has lost someone close to them.


Helpful Tips On Cemetery Etiquette


When visiting a cemetery, there are a number of basic rules you should keep in mind in order to show respect to both the living and the dead. These tips will help you make sure you and your fellow visitors enjoy a courteous, peaceful experience.

Follow the Rules

Most cemeteries have a sign posted near the entrance listing rules specific to the property. Follow the rules and observe any floral regulations they might have set.

Obey the Hours

Most cemeteries are open from dawn until dusk. Try not to remain in the cemetery after dark to avoid being charged with trespassing.

Drive with Care

Make sure to follow the roadways and remain off the grass. Drive slowly, and watch out for people who might not be paying attention. If the lane is narrow and another car approaches, offer to move your car until the other driver can get through.

Respect the Graves

Don't touch any monuments or headstones; this is not only disrespectful, but may cause damage to the memorials, especially older ones. Never remove anything from a gravestone, such as flowers, coins, or tributes that have been left by family.

Look After Your Children

If you bring children, make sure to keep a close eye on them and keep them from running, yelling, and playing or climbing on graves and monuments. Teach them to act in a respectful and considerate manner.

Speak Softly & Politely

Be respectful to other mourners: remember to keep your voice down when having conversations.

Lower the Volume

If you choose to bring it with you, take a moment to ensure that your cellphone is turned off. Avoid having phone conversations, as voices tend to carry in open spaces. Make sure to turn off your car stereo while driving or parking in the cemetery.

Be Respectful of Services and Other Mourners

If a funeral is occurring, take care not to get in the way of processions. Never take photos of strangers at a funeral or visiting a gravesite; it is extremely disrespectful to them in their time of grief. Respect their privacy and give them their space.

Don't Leave Trash Behind

Litter creates extra work for the caretakers, and is disrespectful to both other visitors and those who are buried there. Use designated receptacles, if they are provided, or hang onto your trash and take it with you when you leave.

Leash Your Pets

Some cemeteries allow pets on their grounds. Before you bring your pet along, check to make sure it's not against the rules, and keep them on a leash at all times.

Paul L. Gardner, Supervisor
21 West Main Street
(717) 653-4371

Aaron S. Abbott, Supervisor
21 Market Square
(717) 665-4341

Theodore J. Beck, Supervisor
216 South Broad Street
(717) 626-2464

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