Proper Funeral Etiquette

Having the support of others during a funeral can make a grieving family feel loved and cared for. There are many times where people giving the support don’t know what to do or how to express themselves. Hopefully, these few tips will be helpful.

What should I say?

On your way to the visitation or service, think about any good experiences you had with the deceased. Sharing those memories will help you to express your sympathy to the family. If you feel your spoken words may be overcome with emotion, write a card to help share what you have to say. It is good practice to keep what you have to say brief, yet from the heart. Many times family and loved ones may just need to talk to express their emotions; let them talk as much as they need without asking too many questions. Being there for them will help them cope with the grief process, even if you only knew the deceased you should still introduce yourself to their family.

Funeral Procession

The funeral procession is essentially a parade of mourners lead by the hearse traveling to the final resting place of the deceased. Many times this procession is being escorted by the police of the county they are traveling through. If you are one of the mourners driving in the procession, turn on your headlights and emergency flashers. Keep a safe but not too far of a distance from the car in front of you while staying in a single lane. If you are a driver that approaches a funeral procession, you should either stop at the light or pull over to the side of the road. This is important for two reasons; first, it is a sign of respect to the procession, second, it is a safety factor for the police escort. The police ride from light to light stopping traffic for the procession. To do this, the police must continuously pass the procession on the left side, sometimes using the lanes of the oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, there are times when the police are unable to assist the funeral procession. In this situation, many funeral directors will prepare directions to the cemetery and explain to the drivers in the procession that they must obey all lights and traffic signs. If you approach an unescorted funeral procession, it is still respectful to stop for them but only if it is if done safely.


When you hear of a death of someone you know, one of the items discussed is where or if to send flowers. Before you send flowers, check with the funeral home or obituary to see if the family has made a request for donations to a charity in lieu of flowers. However, if there is no such request, flowers can be a great comfort to the family but sometimes overwhelming. In this situation you will need to go with your own judgment. When deciding to send flowers, there are a few items to keep in mind. What is the religious belief of the deceased? Some religions have different restrictions on what is allowed for the service or in the place of worship. Will the flowers go to a graveside? If not, maybe a flower arrangement that the family can take home and enjoy or a live plant that they can keep or plant in their loved one’s honor.

If you do not know what to send or if to send any, call and speak with a funeral director at the funeral home working with the family. They will be able to advise you.

Margaret Edie
Margaret Edie is a licensed funeral director in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. She grew up in Stafford, Virginia where she graduated from Colonial Forge High School and then graduated from John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia with her degree in Mortuary Science. Before starting her career in funeral service, she was a Certified Nursing Assistant with Mary Washington Hospital in the Palliative Medicine Department. Her experience there is what started her journey into furthering her education in funeral service. Margaret feels that it is a calling to become a funeral director, and she takes much pride in providing quality care to families in their time of need. Margaret has been a director at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home for over three years where she is in charge of the Outreach Program. She holds presentations to educate the community on the process of making funeral arrangements.