The Rules of Visitation Etiquette: Eight Tips for Being a Polite Funeral Guest

Sunday, March 17, 2024

When attending a funeral or memorial service, it's crucial to understand the protocols, including proper visitation etiquette.

Funeral visitations and wakes can be emotionally taxing, but they offer an opportunity to demonstrate your love and support for the bereaved. Navigating these solemn occasions with sensitivity and respect is essential.

In this article, we have outlined eight basic yet critical rules of visitation etiquette that will help you feel comfortable and ensure you are a mannerly guest.

Be mindful of your arrival time.

Timing is key when attending a visitation. Arriving promptly shows respect for the grieving family's schedule, but arriving too early may inadvertently disrupt their preparations. Aim to arrive within the first half-hour of the designated visitation time, and don’t overstay your welcome.

Dress appropriately.

Choose attire that reflects the somber nature of the occasion. Avoid flashy or overly casual attire out of respect for the grieving family and the solemn atmosphere. In most cases, it is best to dress on the conservative side and opt for subdued tones and traditional clothing. More and more families are embracing a less formal funeral and may request that guests wear a favorite color of the departed or follow a theme for the event. In these situations, follow the wishes of the family.

Offer sincere condolences.

Express your sympathy and support to the grieving family members. Keep your condolences brief but heartfelt, acknowledging their loss and offering any assistance they need. A simple "I'm so sorry for your loss" offers comfort during a difficult time.

Practice active listening.

If the family members wish to share stories or fond memories about their loved ones, listen attentively. Offer a compassionate ear and refrain from interjecting with personal anecdotes unless invited to do so. Don’t look at your watch, scan your phone, or appear distracted in any way. Your presence and attentive listening can provide invaluable support to those who are grieving.

Follow cultural or religious customs.

Familiarize yourself with any specific customs or traditions observed by the grieving family's cultural or religious background. Respectfully adhere to these customs, whether it involves removing your shoes, offering prayers, or observing moments of silence.

Avoid bringing up controversial topics.

Visitations and funerals are not the place to discuss controversial subjects, sensitive issues, or personal grievances. Instead, focus on offering inspiration and support for the bereaved.

Limit your time if necessary.

While your presence is appreciated, it's important to be mindful of the family's needs and emotions. If the visitation becomes crowded or emotionally overwhelming, consider limiting your time to allow space for other guests to pay their respects. Your understanding and consideration will be greatly appreciated.

Send a follow-up message or card.

After the visitation, send a follow-up message or card expressing your continued support and condolences. Reaching out in the days following the funeral shows that you're thinking of the family during their time of grief and offers ongoing comfort.

Adhering to these simple guidelines can help you navigate visitation etiquette with grace and compassion, offering support amid the sorrow of loss. Small gestures of empathy can make a big difference to those who need it most.

If you would like more information about visitation protocols, or if you wish to make arrangements for a loved one, please reach out to our caring, supportive team. We are always here to assist you.

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

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