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Questions and Answers at: www.newportmanners.com/codesfuneral.asp

Q One of my best friends of over 40 years mother died. I've known the entire family that long. She has one sister and a father. Do I need to send all of them individual sympathy cards? And is money always appropriate?

A You don't "need" to do anything. If you feel like sending a note of compassion, it might be the considerate thing to do. No, you would not send money unless you were close to the family and knew they were having trouble paying the expenses of the funeral. Often the newspaper announcement will ask people to send a donation to the deceased's favorite charity in lieu of sending flowers.

Q What is proper etiquette for attending a viewing and/or funeral for a close friend's brother-in-law?

A There really aren't any fast held rules for viewings and funerals. The important thing is to dress and act respectfully. The best thing to do is to watch and observe what others are doing. The closer you are to the family, the closer you would sit to the family. So, say, if you are a co-worker, casual friend, or neighbor, you might sit towards the back. The family and close friends would file out first and you would wait until they had passed to leave. Usually there is a book that you would sign at the entrance. Customarily in lieu of flowers many families prefer that a donation be sent to the nonprofit or charity of the family's choice. The funeral parlor and newspaper announcement would have that information.

You do not necessarily have to wear black, but you would wear somber colors. Not red for instance.

Q How early should you arrive for a funeral?

Q Do I need to wear black

A Today, it is no longer necessary for even the closest family members to wear black to a funeral. It is appropriate, however, to dress conservatively, such as a simple dress, suit and tie, or shirt/blouse and slacks/skirt.

A Of course, if you are a member of the family, you will arrive with the family from the family house; however, if you are a friend or distant relative or business associate, you need to arrive at the funeral before the family. I try to arrive twenty minutes before the time stated in the newspaper because the funeral is about the family of the deceased (and of course the dearly departed), and it is a matter of respect that we are all seated in our pews before the family arrives.

Q What is the proper way to fill out a sympathy card?

A It would depend upon how well you knew the deceased and how well you knew the person to whom you were sending the sympathy card. Whatever you do, don't just sign your name. A handwritten sentence or two might be a good way to personalize your sympathy. Perhaps something of this nature: I am so sorry for your loss. Our (My) love and prayers are with you and your family.

Q What do you say?

Sympathy Expressions When a person calls at the funeral home, clasping hands, a warm embrace, or a simple statement of condolence can express sympathy, such as:
"I'm sorry"
"My sympathy to you"
"It was good to know John"
"John was a fine person and a friend of mine. He will be missed"
"My sympathy to your mother"


Donations:
Q How much should you donate?

A What you can afford to give is contingent on your financial situation. There is no specific amount that is correct. You could also donate to the charity if you are so inclined and able.

Q When you acknowledge a donation should you mention the amount?

A No Q If the family requested a charitable donation “in lieu of flowers” is it still appropriate to send a sympathy gift?

A Yes, your gift of sympathy provides visible, emotional support to friends and family at a time when they really need it. A sympathy gift sends your personal message of condolence.

Q I was close to the deceased but didn’t really know the family.  Who do I send the sympathy gift to?

A According to etiquette you send the gift to the closest relative of the person who has died (i.e.: the widow or the eldest child). It is appropriate in this case to inform the gift recipient how you were connected to the deceased.

Links:
Sympathy Gift Etiquette at acknowledgements.net
Funeral Services > Etiquette at golden-rule.com

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last updated 4 Oct 2007