Traditional Funeral Etiquette in the UK

People at a funeral

Recent years has seen an evolution in funerals with technology being increasingly used, and some people choosing to step away from traditions. However, in 2021 there is still firmly a traditional culture surrounding funerals and as such traditional funeral etiquette that should be followed. In most cases, it would be wise to follow these traditional etiquettes when attending a funeral unless you have been advised otherwise.

UK Funeral Traditions 

Modern society and particularly the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has driven a vast change in the way funerals are conducted in the United Kingdom. Limiting the number of physical attendees at a funeral for example has caused a huge uptick in the use of technology to livestream and video record funeral services. However, UK funeral traditions are still holding strong, particularly now we are seeing the lifting of restrictions and resumption of usual services. So, what is traditional funeral etiquette in the UK?

  • Who should attend? 
  • The funeral procession
  • Where to sit
  • What to wear
  • Flowers
  • Charity donations
  • After the funeral 

Who Should Attend a Funeral?

Close family and friends are usually in charge of arranging a funeral service, considering the wishes of the person that has died. Funerals are often open to anyone that wants to attend, although sometimes families choose to hold a private service. Social media is widely used these days with family’s using this platform to easily let people know that the person has died, when and where the funeral will be held and any special requirements. 

Whether or not children should attend a funeral is a personal choice, and often depends on the age of the child and their relationship with the person that has died. Celebrant Steve, who is also a specialist Grief Counsellor, encourages children to participate, remembering that children grieve too. It is wise however, to consider carefully whether a very young child is likely to disrupt the service. If you do choose to bring a child to a funeral, you are encouraged in any case, to prepare them for what to expect and ensure to support them as appropriate. 

The Funeral Procession 


Who will be part of the funeral procession and travelling in the limousines provided by the funeral director is usually arranged by the family and friends that are organising the funeral. You may choose to follow the funeral procession in your own car; however, tradition dictates that the hearse is followed by the limousines. You should follow behind safely, you should be on time and ensure that you always adhere to the highway code. 

Where to Sit

Immediate family and friends will sit in the first few rows of the church or chapel, so unless you are part of that party choose a seat slightly further back. If you are not part of the main funeral party be sure to allow them to enter the church or chapel first allowing them to take their seats to avoid any unnecessary confusion or disruption. 

What to Wear

Usual funeral tradition in the United Kingdom dictates that mourners should wear black. In practice any dark colour is acceptable and should be in the form of smart attire. Some modern celebration of life services are turning away from traditional attire, and asking attendees to wear bright colours in celebration of the life and personality of the person that has died. Celebrants, such as Steve, often officiate Celebration of Life services, for more information you can contact Steve to discuss the service for your loved one. 


funeral flowers

Wreaths and other floral tributes have been part of funeral tradition for many years. However, the volume of flowers can sometimes be overwhelming for the family. In recent times some families have opted to ask for family flowers only, and that mourners donate to a chosen charity instead. If you are unsure whether to send flowers it would be best to ask the people organising the funeral what their policy is. If you do opt to send flowers and would like them to be part of the service these are usually sent directly to the funeral home and should be sent in plenty of time to accommodate their use. Alternatively, you could opt to send a floral arrangement to the bereaved to show your sympathy. 

Charity Donations 

In a traditional church service, a donation tin is usually passed around toward the end or on display as people leave, any donations given are toward the upkeep and services provided by the church. For services in the chapel of a crematorium there is often the opportunity to donate to a charity that has been chosen by the person that has died or their family. If the family has asked for charity donations instead of flowers, it would be fitting to donate as much as you would have spent on flowers. In all situations it is important to donate what you can afford and feel comfortable doing. 

After the Funeral

As the funeral comes to an end, traditional services will usually allow the closest family and friends to leave the venue first. However, it is becoming increasingly more common for close family to leave last; allowing them some private time and space for farewell. Traditional practice has been to hold a wake, which is much more informal than the funeral service. Once again, restrictions over recent years have meant that wakes have changed format with some people just not having one, others opting to postpone to a later date and other people meeting via video call to talk about the person that has died and share memories from their life. 

If a wake is held it is traditionally in a local hall or private room of a pub or social club or at the home of the person that has died. Food and drink is often provided or available to purchase and time is spent discussing the person that has died sharing special memories and anecdotes.

Arranging a Funeral with Celebrant Steve

Organising a funeral can be a stressful time, Celebrant Steve can help to guide you through the process helping you to consider the type of funeral, the content and how traditional you would like the service to be. You can find out more about Steve here. Whether you opt for a very traditional service, add in a few modern twists, or throw the rule book out of the window every service that Steve delivers will be as unique as the person that has died.

In any case, with Steve, there is always a strong focus on the individuality of the your loved one, their life, their passions, and the impact that they have had on the people around them. 

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