Instructions for families

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Attending a funeral

There are no universal instructions for behavior at funerals as such. Each event has been planned with respect for traditions and the wishes of the family and the deceased. Events may sometimes also change as they progress. You should not worry too much about behaving appropriately. The situation is often new and confusing to everyone. The most important thing for the family is the content of the event, and that those who have come to bid farewell are present and give their condolences.

Condolences, expressions of sympathy and greetings should be left for the memorial service. This gives the family an opportunity to compose themselves for the funeral service. Speeches are also given at the memorial service.

Seating order

At the church or chapel, relatives of the deceased sit on the right-hand side. Other friends, acquaintances, co-workers and members of the spouse’s family sit on the left. For close relatives, seats are reserved in the front rows. You need not worry if you have been sitting on the wrong side. Sometimes it is better to have the benches filled evenly from the front.

Flower arrangements

Flower arrangements may be laid either at the chapel, church or the grave. The family will have made arrangements about this in advance with the person officiating the funeral service. If there is a printed handbill for the service, this arrangement is usually mentioned there. Closest relatives lay their flowers first, followed by other relatives and then co-workers, friends and other parties. If funeral guests are unsure of their turn, it is good to be flexible to avoid unnecessary waiting.

Laying flowers

After laying the flowers, funeral guests will observe a few seconds of silence by the coffin. After this, words of farewell are spoken or read. The flowers or flower arrangement are laid next to the coffin on a special stand or on the floor. Those laying the flowers will greet the family by nodding silently and will then return to their seats. Those sitting on the left will usually lay the flowers to the left of the coffin and those sitting on the right to the right of the coffin, but it is recommended to try to have the flowers placed evenly on both sides. Flowers will not be laid on top of the coffin.

Nowadays especially with cremations it has become somewhat common to lay only one single flower, which may be placed in a fold on the side of the coffin; the family will set the example here. With coffin burials, if the flowers have been laid indoors, no texts will be read at the graveside; the flowers will simply be placed on top of the lid covering the grave after the deceased has been laid into it.

Exiting the church or chapel

Funeral guests will remain seated for the closing hymn. At the end of the hymn, the pallbearers will move to the coffin; often the priest or sexton will ask the pallbearers to do so. Pallbearers will start carrying the coffin outside and close relatives will join the procession first. Relatives of the deceased will then join the procession from the right, followed by those who sat left of the aisle.

Instructions for pallbearers

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