How to be a casket bearer

Written by john zaremba | 13/05/2017
How to be a casket bearer
Casket bearers help the deceased on their final journey (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

At a funeral, casket bearers (also called pallbearers) hold a position of honour. They escort the casket throughout the service, tending to their friend or family member on his final journey of life. While the role of pallbearers has changed a bit with modern funerals, some parts--namely the reverence with which to perform the duty--remain the same.

Before the funeral

How to be a casket bearer
Accept the role promptly (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Accept the role promptly. According to the Emily Post Institute, illness or absence from the place where the funeral is held are the only acceptable reasons to decline.

How to be a casket bearer
Find out if it is to be carried or guided on a wheeled cart (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Ask the funeral director whether the pallbearers will actually lift the casket or simply guide it on a wheeled cart. Old tradition holds that pallbearers physically carry a casket, but many contemporary funerals use the cart.

How to be a casket bearer
There are usually 6 casket bearers (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Inform the funeral director of any disability or injury that might prevent you from safely lifting or walking along with the casket. Caskets can weigh anywhere from 36.3kg. (cardboard) to 181kg. (mahogany), plus the weight of the deceased person, according to Andrew Hodges, a funeral director from St. Marys, Ontario. Traditionally, there are six pallbearers at a funeral, but heavier caskets may require eight.

How to be a casket bearer
Arrive promptly (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Ask the funeral director when and where the pallbearers should arrive. If the funeral is preceded by a short memorial at the funeral chapel, the pallbearers may be asked to gather there instead of at the church or graveside.

Day of the funeral

How to be a casket bearer
Wear a black suit (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Wear a suit. Black is best.

How to be a casket bearer
Make sure you know your instructions (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Review the instructions with the funeral director. This includes where to sit, when to attend to the casket and whether to wear special white gloves.

How to be a casket bearer
Follow the proceedings as instructed (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Attend to the casket as directed. Depending on the funeral home's procedures and layout, as well as the layout of the church, pallbearers may be asked simply to walk before the casket as an honorary guard.

Pallbearers may be asked to perform extensive duties. They may place the casket into the hearse and bring it into the place of worship. They may escort it to the front of the service, bring it back to the hearse and escort it to the grave site or cemetery chapel.

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