Christian Funeral Traditions & Etiquette

What to expect at a Christian funeral.

Christian funerals and memorial services usually take place a few days to a week after death. Protestant and Catholic traditions vary, but unless otherwise specified, Christian funerals are open to any friends and families who wish to pay their respects to the deceased and offer support to the family members. You do not have to be a practicing Christian to attend. But it helps to know that a Christian funeral is a worship service that’s often called a “witness to the resurrection” as well as a “celebration of life.”

Most Christian funerals will have a wake or visitation before the funeral, either the day or two before or on the same day as the funeral. A wake or visitation is a less formal gathering than a funeral and is an ideal time to pay your respects if you don’t know the family well. It’s polite to introduce yourself and tell the family about your relationship to their loved one.

What to wear.

For both visitations and funerals, it’s traditional to dress modestly. Men typically wear a jacket/pants and a collared shirt and tie with dress shoes. Women typically wear a pantsuit or a skirt that covers the knees and a top with sleeves.

Appropriate gifts.

If you’re unsure what to do for the family to show you care, check the obituary. Often families will include a request for donations for organizations or memorial funds that were meaningful to their loved one. Flowers are another traditional way to honor the death of a loved one. Typically, people send white flowers, like lilies or carnations, either to the family’s home or to the memorial or funeral location. And of course, cards and gifts can be another acceptable way to offer your condolences.

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