Whether you are close to the family of the deceased or a distant acquaintance, you may feel that you don't know what to say at a funeral, or whether you are meant to provide flowers. As a mourner yourself, you are not expected to be at your most brilliant. Most of the etiquette for funerals is simple common sense; bring a respectful attitude and a sympathetic heart, and you won't go wrong.
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The flowers that are actually lain on the casket at a funeral are called casket sprays, and these are usually only bought by the deceased's closest surviving relatives. If there are no close relatives, it is appropriate for extended family or close friends to buy flowers for the casket. If there are no personal friends or family able to provide casket sprays, business acquaintances, distant relations or the deceased's religious or social community at large may buy them.
If the deceased has young surviving children or grandchildren, they may buy bouquets, corsages or other small flower arrangements to lay inside the casket, commonly of the deceased's favourite flower or in designs representing things that were important to him. These are called lid arrangements, and they are buried with the deceased. While they are most often given by children, anyone who had a special relationship with the deceased may give them. It is good etiquette to ask permission from the next of kin before buying a lid arrangement.
Different religions and cultures have different customs for funeral services, but some basic items of etiquette are universal. Do find out before the service what the dress code will be; if the information is not available, dress modestly and in darker colours. Black from head to foot is not necessary, and some families specifically request that mourners not wear it at all. Do approach the bereaved and offer condolences, even if you do not know them well. It is also appropriate to send a card, before or after the funeral. Do sign the register with your name and your relationship to the deceased. Do give flowers or a donation to a charity in honour of the deceased, or arrange to bring food for the family during the week or two after their loss.
These simple acts show that, even if you don't know what to say, you are there for the family in their time of grief.
Many of the things that are considered bad funeral etiquette are the same as the etiquette for any service or public event: make certain that your cell phone is off, ensure that your children are under control, don't bring food into the service unless you must for medical reasons. At a funeral, it is also bad etiquette to avoid the family of the deceased. Even if you feel that you don't know what to say or how you can be of comfort, it is important that you say hello to the bereaved when you arrive and goodbye when you leave. It isn't necessary to say much, only to make your presence and your sympathy known.
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