Miss Debrett on... Funerals
There can be few events as fraught as a
and few places where faux-pas are likely to be
as disastrous. Nerves are tightly wrought,
upper lips are stiff, and emotions are
seething beneath the social façade. Crass
behaviour will drive a coach and horses
through the delicately maintained
social balance, causing genuine
offence and, even worse,
distress at an extremely
Demeanour is all-important. Take your lead from the chief mourners and never outdo them. Heart-rending sobs and emotional prostration will look half crazed if other mourners are maintaining a dignified restraint. The same rule applies to clothing; it is always safest to resist the flamboyant black hat, veil and sunglasses ensemble - you will almost certainly be out-dressing the main players (after all, discretion is the norm), and may well hear whispers of "Who on earth is that?"
Behaviour should be dignified and low-key throughout. Switch off your mobile before entering the church or chapel - no fiddling with keys as the coffin processes by, and absolutely no embarrassingly jaunty ringtones. Never whisper to your companion or neighbour during the service; silence is an absolute rule. If you can't, or won't, participate in hymns or prayers, bow your head discreetly.
When you gather outside the church/chapel, you may well be encountering friends and relatives you haven't seen for a long time. Under no circumstances should you rush up to them with squeals of delight and amazement. Make it a priority to greet the chief mourners, with a handshake, a kiss, and a murmured condolence. Then keep a tactful and muted distance, until they make a move. You may well be invited to post-funeral drinks, and will be able to catch up with friends then - but be sure to keep your behaviour sober, restrained and respectful; this is a wake not a party.
Finally, cameras should never be brought to funerals. This is a rite of passage that transcends recording. Taking pictures will be seen as intrusive and will cause heartfelt offence.
Miss Debrett's Top Tips
- Take your lead from the chief mourners and never outdo them.
- Switch off your mobile, don't whisper during the service and maintain an air of dignified discretion.
- Keep your behaviour sober and restrained at the post-funeral gathering; remember this is a wake, not a party.