Etiquette Tips

Whether you’re planning a funeral for someone you’ve recently lost or you’re planning on attending a service, there are some very important things that you need to know. Below you will find both explanations and definitions of related terms to better guide you through the process.


We’ve provided details to help you better understand the terms commonly used in order to help you feel more comfortable given the situation.


The information pertains to various aspects of planning a funeral as well as attending. If you're looking to obtain additional information or advice, your best approach would be to reach out to a funeral director here at Cartmell Davis or ask one of the staff members on-site.


Planning a funeral is one of the most difficult things that we go through, yet a necessary activity that most of us will have to face at some point throughout life. Whether it’s for a family member or a close friend, there are things that you need to know which will better help you prepare for the process.


What Is A Funeral?

A funeral is a ceremony or a celebration of life where grieving families and friends say their last goodbye and pay their respects to the deceased. It's a ceremony that provides individuals with the opportunity to show their appreciation, love, condolences, and grief. This is the very first step in the grieving process and it helps us adjust after losing a loved one and suffering a loss. The chance to express grief and slowly begin the process of healing and accepting the loss of a loved one is very important.


Losing A Loved One

After your loved one passes, the first thing we suggest doing is contacting a funeral home. The funeral home typically takes the deceased family member into their care and begins to prepare for a wake and funeral. There are various decisions that need to be made prior to attending these events. If you’re the next of kin, then you’ll have decisions to make.


Wake/Visitation/Viewing – Before a funeral, family and friends typically gather to pay their last respects to the deceased. The wake is usually held at the funeral home with the body present. However, some families may choose to not have the body present and instead have cremated remains of their loved one, depending on the services requested.


Pallbearers - These are immediate family, relatives, and friends who carry the casket. If the family doesn't request that specific pallbearers be present, our staff will handle this. Being a pallbearer typically requires physical strength, as the act of carrying a casket requires the ability to do so.


Although the funeral procession can be a sad event for most, partaking in the process as a pallbearer is an act of honor. Doing so should be received and handled with respect for the family and the deceased. Here at Cartmell Davis Funeral Home, we have a team of pallbearers. The honorary pallbearers don’t carry the casket, but instead, escort it through the service.


The Eulogy - Another honorary appointment is giving a eulogy. This too should be done in the most respectable manner possible. Usually, the eulogy celebrates the life and achievements of the deceased. Individuals selected to give the eulogy are chosen by the immediate family to do so.


The Funeral Procession - The funeral procession is the procession of the people attending the funeral and it typically goes from the funeral home to the place in which the funeral service takes place to the gravesite. As for rules when in a funeral procession, they do exist. Prior to driving in a procession, it's best to ask for instructions from the funeral director. The director and the rest of the staff will be able to instruct you on how to proceed and when.


The Funeral Service - The funeral service is done in accordance with the religious belief of the family. Usually, there's either a private service or a memorial service.


The private service is held in a church, a home or at the funeral home. This is attended only by those invited people, usually, family members, close friends and is closed to the public.


The memorial service is held at the church, a place of worship or at home, and the body of the deceased is not present. The memorial service is usually held after the interment of the body.



The expressing of condolences is a way to show the family of the deceased that you care. There are many ways one can offer their condolences. Things such as giving them flowers, making a phone call, writing a message or a giving them a card are all common ways to show your condolences. It's important to remember that attending the funeral is the best way to show your support and a way to offer your condolences in person.


Phone Call – One of the fastest ways to offer your condolences is to call the family. This way you can talk to them, remembering the deceased in a good light.


Flowers – The universal way of expressing any emotion, flowers take up a large part in a grieving ceremony. They are a good way of showing you care and a way to further pay your respects. You can send flowers to the family’s home if you are a close relative/friend or you can send them to the funeral home.


When ordering flowers at a florist, be sure to tell them what the occasion is and ask for an appropriate card. The cards from the flowers that are received by the funeral home are gathered and given to the grieving family.


Sympathy Note – A sympathy note is a handwritten card expressing your condolences. It's a nice way of showing the family that you care. Keeping it simple and expressing your sympathies is something that they'll most likely never forget.


Memorial Donations – A Memorial donation is a contribution made in the name of the deceased person. This is a donation for a specific cause or a charity that's commonly selected by the family. If you select to make a donation, then you can either let them know that you've done this or make the information public so they're able to see who's donated.


Mass Cards – Usually a card which denotes that a mass has been set up for the loved one you've lost. It is a generous touch to give the family of the deceased person a Mass card, notifying them that you’ve arranged Mass to honor and remember them, as this is a sign of compassion and good faith.


Post Funeral

After the end of the funeral, the family and closest friends usually gather at the desired location of the family in order to further celebrate the deceased life and support the family. Usually, people bring food and do favors or services to help the family.


Acknowledgments are offered by the family to all the people that contributed in some way for the funeral and all that entails. The family typically offers thanks for any flowers, food, and services, and this should be done with an appropriate card.


The grief recovery stage is vital. This helps people who have lost a loved one better cope with the grief, accept the loss and let go of all the inhibitions and express all the emotions they feel.


Sharing the grief is one of the best ways of coping with it and accepting the circumstances. It is important to offer support to the person that has lost a loved one, listen to them and allow them to grieve as long as they need.


Crying is normal and okay during and throughout the grieving stages. All you need to do is show your love and support for the person going through this process. For those going through the grieving process, we suggest signing up here for a year's worth of grief support daily via email. This will help you get through the process. 


More Etiquette Tips...


Funeral Etiquette

We've put together a short guide to help you pay your respects with courtesy.

What to Wear

What to Wear

Try to find out the dress code before you attend, so that you can be sure you’ll dress appropriately. If you aren't sure, simply try to dress in a conservative way that shows respect for the family and other mourners. For men, a suit and a conservative tie is usually a safe bet. Women should generally wear a conservative dress, skirt, or pants with a tasteful blouse.

Religious & Ethnic Customs

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. We can answer many of your questions and can point you toward resources that offer more information.

What to Say

What to Say

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.

Paying Respect

Paying Respect

At a service with an open casket, it's customary to show your respect by viewing the deceased and, if you wish, spending a few moments in silent prayer. The family may escort you to the casket, or you might approach on your own. Viewing the deceased is not mandatory, however, and you should do what is comfortable to you.

Signing the Register

Signing the Register

Be sure to add yourself to the register book, using your full name so that the family can identify you in the future. It's also helpful to add information about how you knew the deceased — through work, social clubs, school, etc.

Flowers & Gifts

Flowers & Gifts

Sending flowers, making a donation, or giving a memorial gift are all meaningful gestures to let the bereaved know that they are in your thoughts.

Turn Off Your phone

Turn Off Your Phone

If you choose to bring your phone into the funeral home, take a moment to make sure you've turned it off, or, at the very least, on silent or vibrate.

Cemetery Etiquette

When visiting a cemetery, these tips will help you enjoy a peaceful experience.

Follow the Rules

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. Make sure to follow and obey the cemetery hours.

Respect the Grave

Respect the Grave

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 a family.

Be Respectful of Services & Other Mourners

Be Respectful of Services & Other Mourners

If a funeral is occurring, take care not to get in the way of processions. Respect their privacy and give them their space.

Speak Softly & Politely

Speak Softly & Politely

Be respectful to other mourners. Remember to keep your voice down when having conversations. Make sure your phone is muted or turned off.

Look After Your Children

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.

Don't Leave Trash Behind

Don't Leave Trash Behind

Use designated receptacles if they are provided, otherwise hang onto your trash and take it with you when you leave.

*For further questions, please contact a member of our staff.

We Can Help

Contact us today to meet with a Funeral Director today.



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