Your questions answered
While funerals aren’t quite normal at the moment, we’ve discovered, over the years, that there are a number of frequently asked questions that people attending funerals ask. For that reason, we thought we’d answer some of them:
Do I need an invitation?
In pre-Covid times, we would usually say that funeral services are open to anyone – unless the family has requested a private service. Now, however, with numbers limited, you do need to be invited or, at least, ask the family if you are able to join them. Don’t forget that many services are now available to view online, so you can feel part of the service in that way.
The family might, though, ask for elements of the funeral service to be private (for close family only). It might be that the funeral service is held in a church and then the cremation is private or, if there’s a burial, this element might have limited numbers. This will be made clear though.
What should I wear to the funeral?
Sometimes the family – or the deceased themselves – will have given a dress code for the funeral, such as wearing a particular colour. However, if you haven’t been given a dress code as such, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and dress smartly in a dark colour. If you don’t have dark clothes as such, then a dark coloured jacket or coat can be useful to keep in the wardrobe, as is a black tie or a black pashmina, which could be used to add an element of black or easily removed if the service seems less formal on arrival.
Consider the weather as well, as there tends to be an element of waiting around outside – either beforehand or afterwards - so dress appropriately for this. If you’re invited to a burial, then sturdy footwear could be useful if it’s muddy (which you can always change out of later).
Travelling to the location
Unless you are invited to travel in the limousine by the family (please note, Covid means we are not currently offering families use of our limousines) then you will need to make your own way to the funeral service location.
It’s always good to give yourself plenty of time to get there, so you don’t feel more stressed than necessary. Our crematoria locally have large car parks, but if you’re travelling to a town centre church or other building, then identify local parking – or call somebody who lives locally for advice. Again, our local crematoria have some toilet facilities but some, certainly older, churches might not.
Depending on the location, it might be difficult to buy a hot drink. If you’ve travelled a distance, you might appreciate a flask of tea or coffee to enjoy quietly once you’ve arrived. If you are worried about a dry throat during the service, then you could put a small bottle of water into your bag or, perhaps, a sweet to suck.
Our local crematoria are not that easy to reach by public transport – so if you’re coming by train, it might be worth seeing if somebody can pick you up or consider booking a taxi.
What happens ahead of the service?
If you’re attending a funeral at a crematorium, then you will usually walk into the building after the coffin has arrived and close family have entered and taken their seats. You might be invited to wait in a waiting room beforehand, although if the weather is fair, then it’s more likely that you’ll wait outside.
If the service is in a church, then it could be that you take your seat before the family and the coffin arrive. In either case, somebody from our team will be there to conduct proceedings and guide you in the right direction.
Where do I sit?
Unless you are part of the immediate family or a particularly close friend (chief mourners) then leave the first couple of rows empty for those people. Then simply find a place to sit and, if we are arranging the service, we will direct people to empty seats. However, if you are giving a reading or taking part in the service in some way, it’s best to secure a seat at the end, so you can easily reach the front easily. Also, if you are bringing a young child, then you might want to be able to sit at the end as well, just so you feel you can leave easily if you need to.
Can my children attend?
Usually, yes, that would be fine – particularly older children. If you’re thinking about bringing a baby or toddler, then it might be appropriate to ask the family of the deceased if they’d be comfortable with that decision.
If it’s the first time that a child has attended a funeral, then you might want to have a chat with them beforehand to explain what will happen, just to calm their nerves.
Can I take photos or record the service?
It isn’t usually appropriate to take photos or record the service. However, if the service is being screened online as well, you might be able to use the password afterwards to watch it again or, perhaps, share it with a housebound elderly relative. After the service, it’s not unusual to see people taking photos of the floral tributes and some families might not mind photos being taken afterwards, particularly if it’s unusual for a family to all be together. Always ask permission though.
Always make sure that your mobile phone is turned off or set to silent during a service.
Should I send flowers?
The family will usually state whether flowers would be welcomed or not. Very often, they will ask for ‘family flowers’ only and suggest a donation instead to a charity. Alternatively, you might want to send flowers direct to the family with a sympathy card.
Will I need to bring cash for a donation?
If a family is inviting donations to a particular charity in memory of their loved one, then we usually bring a donation box to the service, in which a donation can be left. You are also very welcome to give your donation to one of our team. In most cases nowadays, it is possible to donate online through our website, which many people find much more convenient (via our Donations & Tributes page).
When the service has finished
It is usual for the minister or celebrant to leave first. They will then often wait by the exit to bid everyone farewell as they step outside. The family will usually rise and leave first and then the rest of the funeral attendees tend to file out, often row by row.
Often the family will pause outside and you may have an brief opportunity to say something. In non-Covid times, there will then usually be a gathering of some sort afterwards and the location should be included on the funeral service sheet.
If you are attending a service which is being conducted by Tester & Jones and have any questions on the day, then please do ask one of our team and they will do their best to help you.