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What to expect if you have never been to a funeral before

What to expect if you have never been to a funeral before

It can feel a little daunting attending a funeral for the first time, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Lots of funerals will have personal touches that reflect the wishes of your loved one, but our guide will help you feel more prepared.

What will happen during the service?

A funeral service is usually led by an experienced member of the clergy or a celebrant, and sometimes, the family may choose someone who was close to the person who died to lead the service. Usually, the service will include eulogies or readings, traditional hymns, music and sometimes, the family may choose to share photos too.

There is a familiar order of service most funerals will follow, with slight variations depending on the requests of the person who has passed away and their family. An order of service might be provided on arrival and you might see some of the following when you attend a funeral for the first time:

• Funeral procession: This is where pallbearers carry the coffin into the funeral venue
• Ceremony: This is the main part of the funeral we have mentioned above, and usually lasts for 30-45 minutes (but this can vary)
• Committal service: This happens after the main ceremony and is sometimes at a separate location. This is where the loved one will be taken to be cremated or buried

Who sits where?

Traditionally, the closest family and friends to the loved one will sit in the front few rows and the remaining seats will fill up naturally. It will be clear if certain seats are reserved and the family will be grateful to see you there showing your support, rather than worrying that people are sat in the ‘wrong’ seats.

What happens afterwards?

Sometimes, straight after the funeral ceremony, the family might wait at the exit to thank guests for coming. This is a good moment to share your sympathies and show your support. It’s common for a wake to be held afterwards and these are sometimes held at a venue such as a private function room or community hall, or sometimes at a family member’s home. They usually take place straight after the cremation or burial and are an opportunity for mourners to gather to share support and reflect on happy memories of their loved one. Sometimes light refreshments are served and you can ask if there is anything you can bring to help if you like.

If you would like further advice on what to expect at funerals or cremation services, we have guides on what to wear and general funeral etiquette. Funerals are an emotional experience and the family will always be pleased to see your support on the day, so keep that in mind when attending a funeral for the first time.