Have You Been Asked to be Pallbearer or Honorary Pallbearer? Four Important Things to Know

By: VGFS
Thursday, December 15, 2022

Consider it a tremendous honor if you have been asked to serve as a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer at a funeral.

Being a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer means you will play an integral part in the upcoming funeral for your friend or loved one. You may be unsure of the duties and what will be expected of you.

Below is an overview of the responsibilities and etiquette surrounding this important role.

The selection of pallbearers requires careful deliberation.

The primary job of a pallbearer is to carry or escort the casket from one point to another at several points throughout the funeral. You have been selected because of your closeness to the departed or your importance to the family. Perhaps you are a relative or were close friends with the one who passed. Or, you may have been selected because of your physical strength. Being a pallbearer requires that you help carry a heavy coffin at waist height with the help of five to seven other pallbearers. The weight of both the decedent and the casket varies but expect to help bear 300 pounds of weight or more. The pallbearers who carry the coffin are called “active.” You may have been asked to serve as an honorary pallbearer. In this role, you will walk alongside the other pallbearers but do not have to physically carry the coffin. Pallbearers and honorary pallbearers are considered equal honors.

Emotional strength is also important.

Pallbearers’ duties include greeting the families at the funeral home prior to the funeral procession in addition to carrying or escorting the coffin down the aisle in the church. All eyes are on the pallbearers as they complete these duties, and maintaining composure throughout the service is important. It is acceptable and normal to shed a tear or two. However, if you are prone to being overly emotional, the role may not be right for you. If you are uncertain as to whether you will be able to remain in control of your emotions throughout the funeral service, speak with the family and explain why you might not be a suitable fit.

Dress conservatively.

Your funeral attire should be neat, tidy, and respectful. Do not dress in a way that is flashy or garish. Appropriate funeral attire might include a dark suit, a crisp white dress shirt, and a conservative tie. Female pallbearers should also wear subdued clothing. Also, choose dress shoes that are clean, comfortable, and sturdy. Carrying or accompanying the coffin to its final resting place might include walking across concrete, uneven terrain, and possibly mud if it is raining. Check the weather and plan your outfit accordingly.

Be punctual.

Ensure that you have reliable transportation to the funeral home, which is where you will begin to serve your duties. Plan to arrive well in advance of the funeral. Pallbearers and honorary pallbearers will also need to travel together during the funeral procession in a car just behind the hearse. You will be responsible for helping to transport the coffin from the funeral home to the hearse, from the hearse into the church, back to the hearse, and finally from the hearse to the final resting place/cemetery. It is important to show up early and stay with the group as you perform your duties.

The job of being a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer is one of the most important parts of the funeral. Treat it with dignity and respect, and you will shine in this essential role. If you have questions or require more information, please contact our compassionate funeral directors anytime.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, repast, and grief counseling services, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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