How to be a casket bearer

Updated April 17, 2017

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Wear a suit. Black is best.

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.

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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About the Author

John Zaremba began writing professionally in 1997. He has worked at some of the country's finest small daily newspapers, including "The Beacon News" and "The Patriot Ledger." Zaremba is a graduate of the University of Illinois.