If you have not previously attended many (or any) funeral services, it’s certainly understandable to wonder about proper etiquette. You want to be respectful of the family and the proceedings, and following some basic guidelines will ensure exactly that.
Please note that these are merely general guidelines to consider; if a family makes it known that it prefers a far more informal event, feel free to follow suit. However, when in doubt, it’s always best to err to the side of being conservative.
It’s a serious occasion, and your clothing should reflect that. Outside of a particular cultural tradition (such as a Hawaiian funeral, where guests often wear bright colors), stick with conservative clothing in darker colors.
The first two rows of seats are for close family and friends of the deceased. Everyone else may sit wherever they like. If the rows behind close family and friends are open, fill them in. If you arrive late, quickly take a seat in the back. Once you are seated, remain so for the duration of the service.
That depends on the age of the child and how well he or she can remain quiet for the duration of a service. Toddlers and babies are usually best left home with a babysitter, as they could disrupt the service and pull you away. If a child is unexpectedly disruptive during the service, exit as quietly as possible until the matter is handled.
Preferably, turn it off entirely. At the very least, put it on silent (not vibrate), and keep it put away for the duration of the service. If you absolutely must return a call or text, discreetly step outside. However, you should be entirely present at all times, and glancing down at a phone for even a moment can be seen as disrespectful.
Don’t feel any need to take part in a religious practice you don’t believe in or are unfamiliar with. You’re there to pay your respects to the deceased. If the congregants are saying a prayer, simply be silent, engaged, and respectful of the proceedings, whatever they may be.
When a proper opportunity occurs for you to speak with the family, remember that less is more. Simply extend your sympathy for the family’s loss. If you knew the deceased person well, feel free to say something complimentary, but keep it simple.
When you arrive at the grave-site, you’ll see chairs set up for close family members of the deceased. If that does not apply to you, stand behind the chairs and allow other close family to stand near the grave. If you’re wearing a hat, remove it during the service.