Painesville Location

1000 Mentor Avenue Painesville, Ohio 44077

Willoughby Location

38001 Euclid Avenue Willoughby, Ohio 44094

Mentor Location

6330 Center Street Mentor, Ohio 44060

Funeral Etiquette: Knowing the Do’s and Don’ts

Knowing what to do or say after a loved one dies can be challenging. You may be grieving too. Proper funeral etiquette can be confusing. Ensuring you don’t offend family members in pain is essential. 

You’re not alone if you don’t know what to do at a funeral. Sharing your condolences and learning how to do so is a part of funeral etiquette that many people don’t know much about. There are some things you can and should not do to express your sympathy during this trying time.

Proper Funeral Etiquette

Social practices and religious and personal preferences are involved in funeral etiquette, which varies considerably. But, the main idea is for you to share your support and participation in grieving for the deceased.

A primary rule is to be understanding and respectful. People do and say things they usually would not do or say when grieving. Your presence or a kind word means a lot to suffering people now.

Be Prompt

Celebrating the deceased person’s life is the purpose of the funeral.

Still, it’s also a time you may see many people you usually do not see very often. Suppose you were asked to participate in the service. It would be best to arrive at least thirty minutes early so that the officiant can review your role.

Choosing your Outfit 

Social customs, traditions, and observed religious services can affect your choice of clothing. The traditional option is black clothing, but this is not required. Today, dressy attire in neutral colors is also appropriate.

Follow Religious Customs

Funerals that take place at a house of worship can vary greatly. You can research ahead of time to be prepared and comfortable. Just remember there will be people at the service to guide you.


The grieving family usually is seated in the first few rows. Typically, you can sit anywhere other than those few first rows. If a family member or friend is having a hard time, you can go to them to offer your support if you would not disturb the ceremony.

Should we bring the children?

If you choose to bring your child, help them prepare beforehand, so they understand what grieving is and that it’s alright to have these feelings now. Whether you should bring the kids depends on whether they were close to the deceased and the child’s age and temperament. Very young children, or those who did not know the deceased, are better off remaining home.


Flowers are an uplifting way to celebrate the deceased’s life and are common at funerals. Avoid anything too upbeat, such as arrangements with stuffed animals or balloons.

Some people prefer to donate to a favorite charity rather than sending flowers. Checking the obituary for a charity the deceased was interested in is a great indicator.

What to say when someone dies?

Finding the right words at a funeral is one of the times most people struggle. Hearing from others during their loss is immensely comforting for grieving people. But don’t let the fear of saying the wrong things keep you from conveying your heartfelt feelings.

Simple phrases such as, “I’m sorry for your loss,” “Sincerest condolences,” or “I’m here for you” work well. Sharing a fond memory of the deceased is also appropriate. It is best to avoid sentiments such as “They’re in a better place now” or “This happened for a reason.”

One of the best ways to extend condolences is by sending a handwritten note or card. Emailing or texting privately is also an appropriate way to reach out. Be careful when using social media, as posting condolences on a family member’s public feed can seem inauthentic or showy. It’s also not a way that such news should be conveyed.

If you are not a family member or close friend, express your sincerest condolences and move along so others can speak to the family.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic change funeral etiquette?

Funerals can look different these days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no need to delay a funeral or memorial service because of COVID-19 if you follow proper safety precautions. This includes:

  • Social distancing and mask-wearing
  • Avoiding sharing communal materials, like prayer books or programs
  • Reducing the number of people who are singing or chanting to reduce the spread of the virus through the air
  • Reconsidering traditional customs, like touching the deceased’s body

Some families might choose to delay funerals or hold virtual services as a precautionary measure, which can make grieving harder. Seeing and hugging others can be a powerful source of comfort that many families don’t have right now. Consider other ways to reach out still and show your support, like sharing comforting words or memories via video calls, texts, or letters.

Heartfelt Communication

Knowing how to comfort a grieving person can be an uncomfortable situation. When you know some basic funeral etiquette, you can support the people around you during the funeral service and the grieving process.

Contact us today at Jeff Monreal Funeral Home or learn more about our services.

Planning a Private Funeral and What to Expect

The private funeral is an invitation-only service that is not open to the public. Generally, family of the deceased, close loved ones and close friends of the deceased individual are invited to attend.

Private Funeral

This type of memorial service is a more intimate way to honor the life of your loved one. In addition, it’s important to some people to spend time with those who were most important to the deceased.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Private Funeral Service

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of the service are listed below:


• Planning is easier as compared to larger funeral services

• Overall, it can be less expensive

• Usually, have fewer people

• More privacy, especially if this is the family custom


• It lessens chances for outreach and support by the community

• Fewer people and a smaller crowd can be a con for some people

Planning a Private Funeral

There are a few steps to follow when planning a private funeral.

• Make your guest list with your family or loved ones

• The death announcement or obituary should mention that it is a private funeral

• Know your budget

• Choose your venue

• Send invitations

• Considerations regarding whether to serve a meal or small bites

Private Funeral Service Announcement

The obituary should mention that this will be a private funeral. In addition, send informal or formal invitations to those invited to the private service.

Appropriate wording examples for a private funeral service:

  1. With great love the ________________________ family asky you to join our private celebration of life of _____________________. A graveside service will be held at __________________________. We will have a small reception at our home __________________________________.
  2. The _____________________family invites you to join us in honoring the life of our beloved ____________________________. A private service and reception at our residence will be held ____________________________. If you cannot attend, please let us know. 

Private Funeral Ideas

There is flexibility in your choice of location

Location flexibility considerations:

  • You can hold a private funeral in your family home. An advantage is that you can save a lot of money by avoiding payment for a venue. Ordering favorite meals is an option, or as a potluck, or even serving appetizers or small bites.
  • A graveside service can eliminate the need for a post-funeral service reception. Instead, you can go to someone’s home or a restaurant to spend more time together. 
  • You can hold the service in a favorite public place, such as a park, a lake, or a beach. This option can be especially meaningful to invited loved ones who spent much time with the deceased at this location. 
  • You can choose to have the service at an event space or restaurant. Both places will need to be contacted beforehand to make reservations. 

Private Funeral Etiquette

Knowing what to expect is helpful.

Who Attends a Private Funeral?

A private funeral is by invitation only and usually includes close family members. Others wish to include close friends as well. 

What to Expect when Attending a Private Funeral

If you attend a private funeral:

  • Private funeral services and post-funeral gatherings tend to be shorter as compared to large funerals
  • You can expect to see family only, or a few close friends in attendance
  • Sometimes, the family may ask you to share any special memories
  • A more casual service and dress can be more casual
  • Do not ask why the family chose a private funeral

What Does It Mean to Have a Private Funeral?

Honoring the life of a deceased loved one in a more intimate private funeral can be a family custom or a personal preference. Deciding if a private funeral works best for you and your family’s needs is an entirely personal choice.

One of the most important things to plan for your funeral is the cost. Once you’ve decided what type of service you’re looking to have and whether you’d like to be buried or cremated, planning how you’ll finance it is important. Letting your loved ones know what to expect in advance takes a huge burden off of them during an already difficult time.

If you’re still thinking about how to arrange your private funeral service, Jeff Monreal Funeral Home can answer your questions and help you make a decision that’s right for you and your family. 

Learn why you should choose us to be your Funeral home.