Unless you’re a pastor, priest or rabbi, it’s not too often you will find yourself thinking about funerals let alone pondering proper attire and etiquette for one. One thing I have learned through the years is that a dapper gentleman understands the importance of reverence, sincerity, and tact when attending a viewing or a funeral.
A few days ago I had the honor and privilege to attend a funeral on behalf of a personal friend that had lost one of his siblings. The church was stunning in appearance and service was memorable. Before, during, and after I couldn’t help, but notice a few important elements that every gentleman can take away from this article.
Once you have received word about the passing of a friend or family member that you are associated with it will be important to visit them. The purpose of this visitation is to offer genuine help for those who are in the process of mourning the death of their loved one. Please don’t drop in un-announced. Take a few minutes and call the individual. Ask them if there is a time that is fitting for them and if they would mind if you stopped briefly. Next, make sure you don’t go empty handed. Take them a bouquet of assorted flowers or have some sent to the funeral home with your sympathies. Make sure your stay is no longer than five minutes. When you greet the family extend your sympathies. Take a moment to pause and listen to what they have to say. Finally, just before you leave ask them if there is anything you can do for them at this time.
Generally what is known as a viewing or a “condolence visit” will be scheduled the day before the funeral of the deceased. This is a time for the family to come together and others to arrive and extend their personal sympathies to the current family members. Before you even get out of the car, be sure to leave your phone behind. There’s no need to have it with you while at the viewing. Once you arrive be sure to sign the guest book.
Families actually take time to look through these to see who actually attended the viewing. Next, before darting into the mix of people, stand to the side and slowly look for your friend or family. Assess the situation and approach with a focused heart and mind. This is all about them right now. Give them your undivided attention. There is no need to stay more than ten minutes. Be prepared to hear their hearts and their personal stories. Finally just before you depart, give a hug and extend your sympathies one last time before exiting.
How many times have you mentally rationalized a reason not to go to the service? Probably every one of us have. Every gentleman should attend. If you know the family of the deceased you should attend the funeral service. There will be times that the newspaper will announce that it is a private viewing. The private viewing is only for the family and not you. If you are divorced and your ex-spouse is the deceased, then you will still need to attend, unless it will create more sorrow for the existing family members.
Next, make sure that you arrive early and not “on time.” When you choose to “arrive on time” the funeral service or procession of the deceased is beginning. You do not want to be a distraction during that sacred time. We encourage you to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled service time. This allows you to silence your phone, pop a mint, and make your way inside.
Once you have made your way inside, greet those that you know and then find a comfortable place to sit. This is not the time to check emails, return phone calls or update your Facebook status. Sit in the quiet and prepare your heart and mind for a time of reflecting on the life of the deceased. When the service has concluded be sure to listen to the funeral director’s instructions. Usually they will first dismiss the family and then they will release everyone else at the proper time. A good and gentleman way to leave is quietly and attentive. Once you have made it outside or to your car that is a permissible time to check your phone or talk.
A dapper gentleman is always a well-dressed individual. Dressing appropriately for a funeral will always include wearing a suit and tie. Some men try and slip by with a pair of dress trousers and a sweater. When you attend a funeral we suggest wearing a classic black suit, a white button-up dress shirt and a nice black tie or a mild colored one. Generally you would rock a pocket square with that suit jacket, but nothing like that is needed for a funeral. You never want to draw attention to yourself during these times.
The Roll of a Pallbearer.
Being a pallbearer is a a position of honor for men involved in the funeral. Under no circumstances is a man to refuse this position when asked, unless for very serious reasons. The family of the deceased will generally choose six men to be responsible for carrying the casket. The job of a pallbearer was to actually take the coffin from the church to the cemetery. Since the times have changed, it’s more of a symbolic role now, but still used today.
If you have been given the honor to be a pallbearer you will need to arrive thirty minutes prior to the funeral starting. Be sure to find the funeral directer so he or she can give you directions and review your responsibilities.
Once the funeral has concluded family and friends will proceed from the service site to the cemetery. This is optional for you, unless you are family or a pallbearer. The funeral director will consult each individual and line up the cars that will be involved in the procession. The line will form behind the hearse and then proceed to the cemetery. You will be instructed to follow the car in front of you, turn on your four-way flashers, and your headlights.
The procession will be guided by an escort that will allow you to slowly move through STOP signs and traffic lights, which is a state law. Please keep in mind that even though the entire procession is traveling under the speed limit and together, be sure to pay attention when traveling through STOP signs and traffic lights.
The luncheon takes place after the funeral and grave side service. Usually the family and invited friends will gather together at a designated house or other location. The luncheon is a little more lighthearted in conversation and a time to relax and enjoy the needed company of others. If you are invited it is always gentleman of you to attend, but it is not mandatory.
Being a dapper gentleman is more than looking and dressing well. It’s a journey of growing as a gentleman through all the experiences and encounters of life. Death is one of those experiences that every man will eventually face. Whether you have had to attend a funeral or haven’t yet, at least you can have a better understanding and overview of it all now.