Etiquette for Funeral Invitations for a Family Member

Updated July 19, 2017

People usually think of sending or receiving invitations to weddings, birthday parties and other happy occasions, but they don't often do so for sombre events as funerals. However, the notifications to family members and others about funerals are, indeed, invitations. They are requests for guests to attend funeral services to mourn the departed as well as to pay their respect and appreciation to the person's life.

The Funeral Service

A funeral is a ceremony in which the body of the deceased is present. The type of service depends on the wishes of the deceased or her survivors. A funeral service may be held at the home of the deceased, a funeral home or a place of worship. The service may be open to everyone who wishes to attend, or it may be conducted in private with funeral invitations given to certain relatives and friends.

Calling Close Relatives

Soon after a person has died, her survivors inform close family members about the death. They may be parents, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins of the deceased. Some of these relatives, in turn, assist the survivors with inviting other family members, as well as friends, colleagues and others to the funeral.

Who Receives an Invitation

When individuals preplan their funeral services, they create a list of people, including family members, whom they wish to be informed about their death. Their survivors can use this list for funeral invitations. If the deceased did not leave such a list, survivors determine which family members to invite--whether it be only immediate family members, relatives who live nearby or all family members, regardless of where they live and their relationship to the deceased. Survivors also may choose to invite former spouses or significant others of the deceased.

Contacting Family Members

Survivors distribute funeral invitations immediately after the funeral arrangements have been made because the services often are held a few days later. Customarily, survivors invite family members in person or by telephone. They may send e-mail messages or letters to family members who cannot be reached otherwise. Recently, survivors have used Internet social networks, such as Facebook, to invite family members and others to funeral services.

The Funeral Invitation

Whether made verbally or in writing, a funeral invitation should have at least these details: the name of the deceased, his date of death, the date and time of his funeral service and its location. The invitation also should give family members the name and phone number or e-mail address of a person to contact with questions. If family members are invited to a reception after the funeral service, provide details with the invitation.

Newspaper Notices

It is customary for survivors to place a funeral announcement or an obituary in the local newspaper to inform the public about the death of their loved one. These notices also state when and where a funeral services will be held. Newspaper notices cannot substitute for informing relatives about the deceased. Survivors cannot assume that all family members read the local newspaper or the obituary section.

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About the Author

Susan Echaore-McDavid is a freelance writer. She has authored career books in law enforcement, law, aviation, science, forensics, transportation, engineering, and education, among other areas. She has also written and edited educational materials for adult and adolescent audiences with reading, learning and language needs. She currently maintains two personal blogs.