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Guide to Attending a Funeral

If you haven’t been to a funeral for a while, or indeed, ever, then you might be unsure of what to take with you. Funeral Flowers? A card? Tissues or a handkerchief at least? This brief guide will help you know what to take when attending a funeral.

  • First – take a friend. Unless the funeral is positioned as being a very private event, most families will understand your motives if you bring a friend along. Particularly if you know you’re going to be upset. Ask your friend to sit with you during the service, and then be on standby for the committal.
  • Take a handkerchief or a small pack of tissues. It’s quite normal to break down in front of friends and family, because a funeral is an emotional event. Nobody will think any worse of you if you want to let your emotions show, but it’s useful to have a handkerchief or a tissue to use – and so that you can offer a little help to someone else. 
  • Wear appropriate clothing. British weather is notoriously unreliable. You may not be outside for very long, but it is useful to have a wind-proof coat or jacket – and an umbrella. A dark one if possible, unless you’ve received instructions otherwise. Sunglasses are not always appropriate, because they can hide your eyes, but by the same token, it may be helpful to you if you’re feeling self-conscious about your emotions.
  • Take a spare pair of shoes (leave them in the car if needs be). It may seem like a strange recommendation, but cemeteries and churchyards can often be muddy or uneven. If your feet are uncomfortable, then your mind won’t be on the most important part of the day: paying your respects, supportively. Choose flat shoes (preferably not trainers or casual shoes, unless you’ve been told there’s a specific, relaxed dress code). It may even be a good idea to put Wellington boots in your car if you’re at a green funeral, or a woodland burial. This can involve walking to the burial point, over untended ground.
  • Take an appropriate sympathy card, make sure you write it out in advance.  The funeral director will be on hand to collect any cards or notes you might want to pass on to the family. Some funeral directors provide a small table for sympathy cards, and flowers or sympathy gifts.
  • Take a small amount of money. At most funerals, there will be a collection at the end of the service – although many families specifically ask for donations to a preferred charity now. A small donation is always appreciated; it doesn’t have to be much – a few coins or a few bank notes. 
  • Take flowers – but only if you’re sure the family and the funeral director have capacity to accept them. Wreaths or special funeral flowers can be sent to the service in advance; the funeral director may ask you to leave a floral arrangement at the graveside, or they may be collected for passing on appropriately. You probably have a local florist you know, or you can use a firm like Interflora.


It might sound strange but, often, at the funeral itself, there isn’t much time to worry about who’s brought which flowers, or who’s made which contributions to a collection plate. Most funerals are no more than about 20 minutes long. What’s most important, is that you take care of yourself throughout – be prepared for an emotional event, so that you can contribute to a fitting send-off for the person who has died. Check your clothes the night before, take a moment to think about what you’ll say and how close you’ll be to the family of the deceased.

If you’re still feeling anxious about what to take when attending a funeral, or how to behave, or what’s expected of you at a funeral coming up soon – don’t be afraid to speak to the family or to the funeral director.  

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