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Catholic Cemetary

3 Tips for Attending Catholic Funerals

If you’re attending a traditional Catholic funeral for the first time, there are a few things you should know before you arrive. The process is quite involved, and for those who aren’t familiar with the traditions surrounding Catholic funerals, it can be a bit overwhelming. We’ve put together a list of tips and advice to help you prepare to attend a Catholic funeral service, to make this difficult time a bit easier.

1. Confirm the Details

The family members of the deceased will have a lot of things to tend to during this time. Therefore, they may or may not be able to reach out to everyone with the details of the service. The obituary listing should be available online through the funeral home they have chosen, where you can find the details of the dates, times and locations for each part of the service.

If you have any questions about any details of the service, you can always contact the funeral home directly. While it may be tempting to reach out directly to the immediate family members of the deceased for details, it’s best not to bother them too much during this time, as they are likely very busy with planning for the funeral services. They will appreciate your consideration in taking it upon yourself to confirm the important dates and times of services.

2. Dress Appropriately

Deciding what to wear to a funeral and/or wake can be a bit stressful. Most of us don’t have a specific outfit tucked away in our closets for such occasions. However, it’s also important to realize that, you’re not the only who is suddenly scrounging for the right thing to wear to a somber event. Therefore, there’s no reason to stress too much if you don’t have the perfect suit or dress.

The main thing to keep in mind is to be tasteful and appropriate. Nothing too bright, but it also doesn’t have to be too dark, either. While suits and jackets aren’t required, you will not look out of place if you decide to go that route. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s best to avoid wearing jeans or overly casual clothing. However, because “jeans” today come in many forms, there are some versions that are very nice-looking, and therefore may be acceptable, depending on the anticipated crowd. You’ll never go wrong, though, if you err on the side of overdressing, versus under-dressing.

Keep jewelry basic, and avoid anything overly flashy, or fashionably risky. It’s simply not the time for that. Shorts, t-shirts, or other beachwear are also not recommended. And, while kids typically get a free pass for most events, this is one time when it is best to try to dress children in dressier attire, if possible. Overall, use your best judgement. If you’re not sure whether something is appropriate, ask a friend or family member to confirm.

3. Expect Multiple Events

Including the actual burial services, there are typically three main events which make up the entire Catholic funeral process. Before the day of the burial, there will be a wake or vigil service, where family and friends of the deceased and their family members can gather to pay their respects and provide support to those grieving.

On the day of the burial, there will be a funeral liturgy, which is usually combined with a traditional Catholic Mass, at a church chosen by the survivors of the deceased. Close family members and friends will often meet before the Mass at the funeral home for prayers, and to set up the funeral procession (the line of cars with Funeral flags) prior to heading to the church.

The last event is the Rite of Committal, which occurs at the cemetery, after the body has been placed in its resting place. During this time, the family and friends say their final goodbyes, and flowers are often placed on the casket by individuals at the end of the service.

In addition to the main sections of Catholic funerals, there is also often a post-burial gathering, where friends and family members often congregate, eat, and share memories of the deceased. Overall, the day of the burial is likely to be a long day, so be sure to get some sleep the night before.

Once you’ve confirmed the details of the events, and prepared what to wear and how to get to the arrangements, you may consider sending flowers and/or a card to the family members of the deceased. We recently wrote a post about funeral flowers, where you can find additional information on flower arrangement types, when to send them, where to send them, etc.

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Funeral Planning Guide
  • Johnny McCarron Reply August 3, 2019 at 1:30 am

    I like your idea to not wear anything too bright to the funeral. Though, when I die, I think I might want it to be a bit happier; I’ve lived a good life. Maybe I’ll arrange for sunflowers to be at my own funeral service someday.

  • Luke Smith Reply October 4, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    My friend’s mom just died a week ago, and we gave him our word that we will attend the funeral services along with our batchmates. Thanks for the heads up that apart from the rite of committal, there will also be vigil service before the burial and parting mass. I’ll ask my friend about the burial ceremonies and inform my batchmates about it so we will come prepared both physically and emotionally.

  • Delores Thomas Reply August 27, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    Thank you for the helpful information. This will be my first time attending a Catholic Funeral service

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