Although etiquette has evolved over time, always using common sense and discretion should be your guide. Here are a few suggested tips you may want to consider.
It is considered appropriate and acceptable to
Express your condolences: You don't need to be a poet. Simply offering words of sympathy, such as "I'm sorry for your loss; my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family" are enough. If you can’t attend the funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
Dress appropriately: There's no need today to dress up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt aren't exactly acceptable either. Dress respectfully, avoiding bright or flashy colors. Wearing what you would wear for a wedding or a job interview is most appropriate. And always dress for the weather.
Sign the register book: The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Include your full name and please print, so that your thoughts can be easily read.
Make a donation: Giving a donation to the charity of the family’s choice is a thoughtful option—the amount doesn't need to be excessive. Alternatively, you could make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. This commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking them dinner or offering to help clean up their house, any of the little things that may be neglected while a family deals with death.
Keep in touch: Certainly, the family will need space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. Social networking makes leaving a quick note simple. And remember, the months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support; be there for them whenever you can.
At Feldman Memorial, we recommend you consider
Leaving your cell phone at home or turning off the ringer: A ringing phone is a disturbance at a time where you and the other guests are otherwise engaged. Please remember to turn any ringers or notifications off or consider leaving your phone in the car.
If your children will be a distraction: From a very young age children are aware of death, and if the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparent, aunt, uncle) they should be given the option to attend. However, if you feel they may cause a commotion, leave them with a babysitter.
Remembering the good times: While death is a natural time for grieving and mourning, remembering the good times helps with the healing process. Sharing a funny, but appropriate story is acceptable and may be exactly what the deceased would have wanted. Just be sensitive to the situation and the audience.
How to avoid overindulging: When food or drink is served, do not overdo, this isn’t a cocktail party. We suggest you have a bite before you go to the service. If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two. Do not become inebriated and risk doing something inappropriate.