Sunday, June 17, 2007

Funeral Etiquette

Elisabeth asked in the comments on the post below about Southern funeral etiquette. I will be the first one to admit southwest Georgia is still its own little corner of the world (my sister remarked on this while we were driving to my aunt's funeral Saturday), so some of these traditions and expectations might hold true only for this area.

Okay. The SOWEGA Girl's Guide to Funeral Do's and Don'ts (Connie, if you're out there reading, feel free to join in and correct me):

1) The family will "receive" at one central location. For example, when my grandmother died, the family gathered at my mother's house and received visitors from a few hours after her death until after the funeral. Except for the funeral itself, someone remains at the house to receive, as visitors will drop in throughout the days before the funeral, without notice.

2) A wave of visitors will descend on the home, bearing food. The food-bearers are usually friends and extended family members. (Immediate and close family do not provide food.) All visitors are offered food from the array.

3) Usually, a viewing (or visitation) will be held at the funeral home the night before the actual funeral service. Flowers, etc. sent by friends & family are on display.

4) The immediate family usually caravans from a central location (often the home where they have been receiving visitors) to the funeral home or church where the funeral will be held. This is done with a police escort. If a graveside service is following the church/funeral home service, all attendees will fall in line behind the family vehicles. You drive with your lights on. Again, this is done with a police escort at the front of the line, and other deputies will be dispatched to close intersections and direct traffic.

5) It is the gravest of etiquette errors to pass a funeral procession in either direction. Other drivers pull to the side of the road and stop. Although rare, you will still see men exit these vehicles and stand with hat over heart (especially if the man in question knows the family in any way.)

6) Black is no longer a necessity for funeral attendance, although the immediate family often wears black or gray.

7) During the service, all funeral attendees rise as the family enters and is seated last. They are also the first to leave after the coffin is removed by the pallbearers (everyone standing for the coffin removal and family's exit).

8) After an internment (graveside) service (often a church service AND a graveside service are held), it is bad form to leave without speaking to the family, who remain seated.

9) If the deceased was a member of a church, often the ladies of the church will provide a meal for the family following the funeral. (This is ready for them when they return home.)

10) Expect a Bible Belt sermon during the service. You will be reminded that the deceased hasbeen called home to Jesus and you should make your own preparations to do so before your time of call.

11) Expect the visitation, service and internment to be a celebration of the deceased's life and accomplishments.

Is this similar to the funeral expectations in your area? Or completely different? Inquiring minds want to know.


Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

Being a southern gal myself, you hit the nail on the head, and I don't think you left anything out.

MaryF said...

I don't know if it comes from being in a city in Texas or from being Catholic, but not a lot are the same. We only had visitors at the funeral home, and we had the dinner at home after the services. Not a lot of people brought food, though I've taken food to others, and my best friend brought the meal for the family/visitors. My grandmother was a member of the church, but those ladies didn't prepare anything (touch of bitterness here).

We drive with lights on, and we don't pass the procession going in the same direction, but we do pass coming in the opposite direction. (I also live on the main thoroughfare by a National cemetery and a major civilian cemetery. We'd never get anywhere!)

Carol B. said...

Sounds about right, Linda. I was surprised at a recent funeral (in Texas) when the pastor had a regular service and actual altar call at the 'viewing'. I understood having the service, when someone explained that a lot of the deceased's professional friends would be unable to attend the funeral the next morning. However, I think the pastor was just so used to offering the opportunity for repentance, he didn't stop to think that their was no altar, per se. Just a space in front of the casket.

No one took advantage of the offer.

Anonymous said...

Is there a etiquette to the positioning of parents, ie who is on the left or right as you face the graves from the foot-stone?