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Discussion » Questions » Death and Dying » What is the proper etiquette at a funeral, wake, viewing or burial? My wife and I attended a ceremony for a distant relative of hers,

What is the proper etiquette at a funeral, wake, viewing or burial? My wife and I attended a ceremony for a distant relative of hers,

there were some of her close relatives in attendance, but out of a crowd of about 40 to 50 people, she and I only knew fewer than 10 of them.  Some of my wife's close relatives who were there I have met before, but not all of them.  The deceased was elderly and had been ill for years, an invalid, so rather than being a shock, the death was more an inevitable eventuality, an anticipated rest. Many of the other attendees were also elderly people, as would be expected, but not all of them. The entire ceremony was about two hours long, which included a "lavish" meal at the end, which we did not know ahead of time would be offered. 
  During the entire time we were there, not one person who did not know us approached and introduced himself or herself to us. No one who did know us introduced us to others whom they knew. Not one asked how we had known the deceased. I, on the other hand, made the attempt with several of the people when I first arrived, but being the only one who was doing so, it didn't take long to see that it was like being a fish out of water. After it was over and my wife and I were driving home, she remarked on it also, the fact that no one seemed to interact with each other. We left there not knowing who they were and few of them knowing us, except the ones I tried with at the beginning. (I'm well aware that I may never see any of them again, yes.)

  We haven't attended a large number of these ceremonies, so I don't know the protocol.  Is it or is it not appropriate to expect complete strangers in this situation to introduce themselves to each other?

Posted - December 5, 2018


  • 34930
    Play it by ear.   You probably will have some sort of funeral dinner at the end.  That is common practice.  Just be nice and don't be yourself.  (JOKE)

    I have a story.  

    You won't believe it.  It is true.  

    I used to drink.  Remember?  I'm sure you remember me saying this.   I was an out of control drunk, actually.  I was out of control for about 5 years of my life.  

    So, one of my best and dearest friend's mother dies.  He is totally distraught.  We drank together all day before the actual wake.  

    I woke up the next day still blasted.  I was told by my friends that I decided to take my shoes off and wade in a fountain in the lobby.  I was supposedly standing there in nylons and a dress, with my shoes off wading in the fountain.

    I have a thing for fountains.   No one but my best friend new me.  I cannot believe no one called the police.

    This post was edited by Sharon HATES Trump like Poison at December 5, 2018 12:17 PM MST
      December 5, 2018 8:17 AM MST

  • 4312
    new me knew me
      December 5, 2018 9:15 AM MST

  • 34930
    Those who can't think correct other's thoughts.

    Sigh.  Thanks for telling me how to spell.  Never new how to spell KNEW.  OR is it gnu?

    I appreciate your reading my comment.  But I think you don't even bother to read anything because you are too busy trying to find the mistakes. This post was edited by Sharon HATES Trump like Poison at December 5, 2018 12:17 PM MST
      December 5, 2018 10:59 AM MST

  • 4312
    But you have no idea what I read or don't read, so you're just speculating. And come on, knew vs. new is what, second grade English? I don't specifically look for errors, but that one was pretty hard to miss.
      December 5, 2018 11:41 AM MST

  • 21948
    It's wildebeest.
      December 5, 2018 12:17 PM MST

  • 5564
    I don't see anything wrong with politely introducing yourselves because that just seems like good manners. Of course they are there to pay their respects but they do greet and talk with one another and remember the deceased person to one another. Which you could not do because you did not know him. But they are going to be solemn occasions.  I didn't know about the  meal at the end - that may be a Roman Catholic hospitality thing.  I have never seen Protestants eat at the end. 
      December 5, 2018 8:28 AM MST

  • 22891

      I'm Southern National Baptist, my wife and her family are Roman Catholic. In my faith, a meal after the ceremony is very much part of tradition, but it usually takes place at someone's home or a hall, not at the funeral home. That's what threw me off about this one. 
    ~ This post was edited by Randy D at December 5, 2018 1:27 PM MST
      December 5, 2018 9:01 AM MST

  • 34930
    You are a WHAT?  OH MY GOD.

    That explains it.  Praise the Lord.  Is that not the same thing as an Evangelist?  God and Jesus help us all.  Oh wait a minute here.  I just learned something I did not know about this religion.  It seems I did not know anything.  I stand corrected.  I am glad you belong to this group.

    They sound really fantastic.  I was thinking they were just a bunch of judgmental Jesus freaks.  But it seems there is a lot more to this group.  I like them.

    –the Lordship of Jesus Christ

    –the Bible as the sole written authority for faith and practice

    –soul competency

    –salvation from sin and eternal death to forgiveness and eternal life only by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who is the grace gift of God

    –the priesthood of each believer and of all believers in Christ

    –believer’s baptism

    –baptism and the Lord’s Supper as wonderfully symbolic but not essential for salvation

    –church membership composed only of persons who have been born again

    –religious freedom and its corollary, the separation of church and state

    Built upon the foundation of these beliefs are certain practices or polities that are part of the Baptist recipe:

    –congregational church governance under the Lordship of Christ

    –the autonomy of churches

    –voluntary cooperation for various causes

    This post was edited by Sharon HATES Trump like Poison at December 5, 2018 8:02 PM MST
      December 5, 2018 11:05 AM MST

  • 22891

      I erred: I'm National Baptist. 

      December 5, 2018 1:28 PM MST

  • 784
    I always knew it as Southern Baptist, Baptist or Foot Washing Baptist - never knew there are National Baptist's
      December 6, 2018 9:17 AM MST

  • 34930
    It's okay.  I understand the Baptist faith a little better now. I had them grouped in a group of close-minded Jesus freaks.  Obviously, you are not one of those types.

    Thank you for opening my eyes and liking more of them.  Respecting them even.
      December 6, 2018 9:37 AM MST

  • 22226
    sonne people are just rude and dont talk to others
      December 5, 2018 8:57 AM MST

  • 21948
    Rude? How about shy...Don't judge.
      December 5, 2018 12:19 PM MST

  • 22891

      I didn't take it as rudeness either, not at all. 

      December 5, 2018 9:39 PM MST

  • 4312
    I've never been shy about introducing myself to people and asking a question about the deceased to break the ice. And doesn't every religion call for eating after a funeral, especially after returning from the cemetery?

    After a Jewish funeral, it is traditional to have a basin of water and hand towels outside the door of the home where people are gathering so they can wash their hands, both practically and ritually, since the cemetery is an unclean place.
      December 5, 2018 9:22 AM MST

  • 34930
    Wow.  Thanks for that.  I did not realize Jewish customs had that unclean idea with cemetery rituals.

    I guess it is a belief that negative entities are circling around.  

    Pretty interesting.  Thanks.
      December 5, 2018 11:01 AM MST

  • 4312
    I think it's more about cleanliness, washing away the dirt from the cemetery before entering the home to pray and handle and eat food. But there's always an element of superstition, fear of the supernatural, etc., so maybe negative entities are part of the equation.
      December 5, 2018 11:46 AM MST

  • 22891

      I can't speak for "every religion" because I don't know all of their customs/practices. I need to clarify what I write about the meal: I didn't know that we'd walk twenty steps after viewing the body in the casket to a dining hall.  What I had not expected was that it would take place right then and there in the funeral home. 
      December 5, 2018 1:25 PM MST

  • 7145
    Everyone grieves differently and I think the personality of the decedent as well as the relationships he or she had with others and the circumstances of their passing matters too. i.e. If the person was jovial in life, there's a better chance people will be walking around sharing stories. If it was "their time," people seem to cope better and are chattier. 

    In real life, I am the perpetual wallflower. I don't think I've ever introduced myself to anyone, but there have been times where people have introduced me to others at the funeral. When a friend died, his mother introduced me to some of the family. That was odd because they all knew me by name, but I hadn't heard of many of them. When my grandmother died, my grandpa introduced me to people. A few times, people have introduced themselves to me, but that's usually when they have already identified who I am and how I knew the person who passed. For example, at my grandmother's funeral, quite a few came up and asked, "Are you so-and-so's granddaughter?" The less I knew the person who passed, the less people talk to me, and like I said, I don't approach people either, so sometimes I never speak to anyone I don't already know beforehand. 

    It seems to me the meal thing happens more with Catholic funerals. There may be other groups that do it too, but at least with my circles, it has only been Catholic funerals that ended in a meal. 

    I don't think there is a standard protocol for funerals. Really, a lot of it depends on how people are coping. When there are a lot of tears, it's awkward to start communicating with people. When people are celebrating the life rather than mourning, it's more natural. 
      December 5, 2018 9:38 AM MST

  • 862
    From the funeral's that I have been to in the UK, usually the family of the "lost loved one," stand in a line and thank the people that have come to the funeral, if there are unknown people they are normally introduced.  Thereafter, anything is a given, some may go to the venue or the relatives home for a drink (in order to raise their glasses to the deceased), and choose to speak to whom they wish, while other's go home.  Funeral's are unpredictable at times since the grief of losing a loved one brings out a lot of emotion, how people deal with it depends on the individual.  When my Grandfather died I felt completely lost, I didn't care about talking to anyone I just wanted him back, looking back it was all a bit of a blur. With other funerals where I wasn't so close to the deceased, I didn't expect too much from the family because I know how devastating loss is.
    You went and paid your respects, that's good enough.
      December 5, 2018 9:40 AM MST

  • 2550
    I don't usually go to funerals ... but when I do, I don't really care who else is there.
    I'm there to show my respects and don't think more or less of anyone who chooses to go or not.

    As to the meal at the end ... I've seen it numerous ways.
    If held at the funeral home or church where the service was, that is when people "open up" and introduce themselves and share stories they weren't comfortable sharing during the service.
      December 5, 2018 10:38 AM MST

  • 5320
    At 73, I have no blood relatives left to bury, just friends.

    I just searched "funeral etiquette" and got a number of hits.  If I had a large funeral to go to, I would read over 2 or 3 of them that looked interesting and useful.

      December 5, 2018 12:13 PM MST

  • 21948
    I am shy amongst strangers, and rarely strike up conversations with anyone. I went to one for a friend of my wife and knew nobody except the deceased and his wife. Nobody introduced themselves to me and that was just fine. Wedding receptions are different, though. I'll talk with anyone. The free food sounds like a great idea.
      December 5, 2018 12:26 PM MST

  • 8568
    I haven't been to many funerals where I didn't at least know the immediate family and possibly a few friends.  On the occasions that I didn't know people, I didn't make an effort to introduce myself nor did anyone else introduce themselves.  I really don't need to know how everyone there was connected to the person who had passed and I'd sooner be struck by lightening than meet them ever again, so it was of no real consequence.  As for the meal, when the person was a family member, the close relatives/friends were invited to have a meal at a nearby restaurant after the cemetery.
      December 5, 2018 6:52 PM MST