If you've never been to a Christian funeral before, you may be unsure what to expect and how to conduct yourself. To give you some pointers on funeral etiquette, here's a quick guide.
What to Wear
Traditionally, mourners always wore black to a Christian funeral. However, this has largely changed and people are usually guided by the request of the person organising the funeral.
If there are no special guidelines issued, smart, comfortable clothes are recommended. Men usually wear a black tie as a mark of respect. Remember that you will be standing for much of the time at the service and in the cemetery, so choose comfortable shoes that are suitable for walking on grass.
You don't need to cover your head, although you may wear a hat if you want to.
The Funeral Cortege
It's up to the person organising the funeral to stipulate who will travel in the vehicles immediately following the hearse. Seats are usually reserved for close family and friends.
Most people attending the funeral will use their own cars, meeting the hearse at the church or funeral venue.
After the funeral service, you should wait for the hearse to move off, before respectfully following the deceased on their final journey.
At the Funeral Service/Cremation
The general rule on arrival at a church or funeral home is that the mourners will enter and take their seats before the coffin is brought in. The coffin is usually followed by close family and friends. If the deceased is being cremated, it's usual for the family and close friends to enter the chapel first, immediately behind the coffin.
In both cases, the front seats are always reserved for the deceased's immediate family. The next of kin usually sits at the end of the pew that is right next to the coffin. You will be guided by the funeral director as to where you should sit.
When the coffin is brought in, everyone will stand.
After a funeral service has concluded, the presiding minister will walk in front of the coffin, which is followed immediately by the deceased's close relatives. Everyone will stand.
In a crematorium, the coffin is sometimes left on view or may be hidden by a curtain prior to cremation. The chief mourners will leave first and everyone else follows.
After the Funeral/Cremation
The deceased's close family will sometimes hold a get-together (wake) for family and friends after the funeral. This is sometimes held at a person's home or may be in a private room somewhere close to the church or crematorium. Some funeral homes have a room that can be used for wakes.
Although funerals are sad affairs, they are also an opportunity for friends and family to say a respectful goodbye to the deceased. If you have any questions about the funeral or the wake, have a chat with the funeral director or chief mourner.