- Funerals can be emotional and difficult, but there are ways to make them less overwhelming.
- Funeral directors suggest the family of the deceased set boundaries on interactions with guests.
- If you are a guest, be respectful of the funeral home and the family, and dress appropriately.
When a loved one dies, not only are you coping with the loss of someone who meant a great deal to you, but you might find yourself overwhelmed with a range of emotions, including anger and sadness.
Plus, there could be a long to-do list, from notifying other people about the news to planning all the details for the funeral.
If you've never been to a funeral, or been in charge of planning one, it may be confusing to know what to do or what to expect.
Insider asked funeral directors to share their top etiquette rules and common pet peeves that they wish more people knew.
1. Come to the funeral home as prepared as possible
If you're in charge of planning the funeral arrangements, you may not know what you need to have with you to get the process started.
Randi Goldstein-Casey, the vice president and funeral director for Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Funeral Home in Philadelphia, recommends gathering a checklist of items before your first meeting with a funeral home and having an idea of how much you want to spend.
Required information includes the deceased's Social Security number, birth date, and parents' names.
"A funeral cannot take place without this information," Casey told Insider.
Casey said that it's important for families to understand there's nothing the funeral home can do without this information.
2. Keep the family room private before the funeral
Oftentimes, the close family will wait in a private room together before the funeral. As the guests arrive and get seated in the main room, Casey often witnesses a situation that can be overwhelming for the family.
Sometimes, Casey sees guests trying to come back to the family's private room to see them before the funeral. While their intentions may be right — they want to pay their respects and say hello — she recommends that families set boundaries.
Casey said guests should assume it isn't appropriate to visit the private family room before the funeral unless the family has said otherwise.
"It is not the family's responsibility to entertain additional people during that time," she said.
3. You don't need to do a receiving line
On the day of the funeral, the close family and friends of the loved one who died may feel pressure to spend quality time with the guests. Casey said it's important to set boundaries here, even if that means limiting time spent with those at the funeral.
While some families will do a receiving line at the funeral where each guest can approach them, Casey said doing so isn't mandatory.
"For some, it is too difficult to maintain their composure to get through the funeral, yet alone a receiving line," she said.
Instead, she recommended that those in mourning need to be able to choose whom they want to speak to and when.
4. Respect the funeral and the funeral home
Dino Cantelmi, the owner and director of Cantelmi Funeral Home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, says there are a few rules to keep in mind if you've never been to a funeral.
First, Cantelmi said it's important to be on time. Being late, he said, not only is disruptive to the service but is also disrespectful to the family.
Second, Cantelmi also said to try to dress appropriately. If the family doesn't provide a dress code, he recommends avoiding loungewear or looking sloppy and opting for business-type clothing that's respectful and conservative. He also said to avoid wearing bright colors.
"While wearing black is not required, black is standard for people to wear at funerals and viewings because it symbolizes mourning and respect for the deceased," he said.
5. Leave your phone in the car or in your pocket
Before entering a funeral, Cantelmi said, one thing people can do is be aware of their cellphone.
"So many times in the middle of a funeral service, someone's cellphone will ring very loudly, disrupting the service, and sometimes the person will answer the phone and hold a conversation," he told Insider.
If possible, leave your phone in your car, but if you forget, Cantelmi said, keep it in your pocket, remembering to turn it on silent.
To prevent any cellphone disruptions, he also said your funeral director could make an announcement before the service about silencing phones.
6. Assign someone to deal with the family drama
Funerals can bring together family members and friends who may not have been in the same room for many years. Some attendees may not get along.
"There have been so many times that a family member has asked me to not let certain people into a funeral," Cantelmi said. "The reality is when the funeral is public, it's hard to tell someone they can't come in."
If you know that some prospective attendees don't get along, Cantelmi suggested having a plan, such as hiring a security detail, keeping the funeral details private to close family members, or assigning a family member the job of mitigating drama ahead of time.
7. Lean on your funeral director
If you're planning a funeral, you may find yourself with endless questions about a process that's personal and filled with emotions. Elizabeth Fournier, the funeral director at Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring, Oregon, said she wished more families knew that they could lean on their funeral directors and other funeral-home employees throughout the process.
Fournier noted that most people don't go through this process often, saying they might need something explained to them and could feel alone in finding those answers.
"Remember," she said, "that funeral directors and grief counselors, or religious advisors, are here to lift some of the burden off a family by providing options, correct information, and reliable resources."