12 Memorial Service Etiquette Tips

Memorial Service Etiquette
Be respectful by RSVPing, dressing appropriately, arriving on time, and avoiding disruptive behavior at a memorial service. Comfort to the bereaved through kind words, practical assistance, and appropriate gifts.

1. RSVPs and Attendance

RSVPing to a memorial service shows respect for the memory of the person being honored and consideration for their family and close friends. It allows the deceased’s family to get an accurate headcount for the service, which can help with seating arrangements and refreshments.

If you’ve been invited, RSVP as soon as possible. Follow the instructions on the invitation and let the family know whether you plan to attend or not. If you need to cancel your attendance or can’t make it at the last minute, let the family know you won’t be able to attend and express your condolences.

2. Dress To Honor

Dressing appropriately is a sign of respect for the deceased and family and friends who are grieving. A memorial service is a solemn occasion that requires conservative attire in darker, more muted colors like black, navy, or gray.

For men, a suit and tie or a collared shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes. Avoid jeans, sneakers, flip-flops, or T-shirts. For women, a conservative dress, skirt, or pantsuit is appropriate.

Inappropriate attire includes anything revealing, casual, or flashy. This is a time to show respect and honor the memory of the deceased, not to draw attention to yourself.

3. Punctuality Matters

Showing up on time is more than just good manners; it shows that you value the time and effort the family has put into organizing the service. Arriving late to a memorial service is disrespectful and can be disruptive.

If you arrive late, enter the room quietly and sit in the back. If you miss the service, consider sending a condolence card or flowers to the family to express your sympathy. You can also contact the family after the service to offer your condolences and support.

4. Offering Comfort

lady consoling a young man
Lady consoling a young man

Every person grieves differently, and what may be comforting for one person may not be for another. Being sensitive and mindful of the individual’s needs and preferences is essential.

Express your sympathy in a heartfelt and genuine manner. A simple statement such as “I’m so sorry for your loss” can go a long way in letting the bereaved know that you care. Avoid saying things like “I know how you feel” or “It’s for the best,” as these comments can be insensitive or dismissive of the person’s grief.

Another way to offer condolences is to offer practical assistance. The family of the deceased may feel overwhelmed with cooking, cleaning, or running errands. Offering to help with these tasks can be a thoughtful and practical way to show your support.

You can also offer your presence and support. Simply being there to listen, offer a shoulder to cry on, or just sit in silence can be meaningful for the bereaved.

5. How To Behave

A memorial service is a time to honor and remember the deceased’s life. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain a respectful demeanor throughout the service.

Refrain from disrespectful or disruptive behavior, such as talking or laughing loudly or using your cell phone. Avoid making jokes or inappropriate comments or using the service as an opportunity to promote your agenda or beliefs, especially when your ex-spouse dies.

It’s also essential to be mindful of the feelings of the deceased’s family members and friends during the service. Respect their space and privacy, and avoid approaching them if they’re not in the mood for conversation or socializing.

6. Capturing Memories

Use technology with sensitivity and respect. Taking photos or videos depends on the wishes of the deceased and their family. Always ask the family’s permission before taking photos or videos, and be discreet and mindful of your surroundings.

If the grieving family permits photography and videography during the service, avoid using flash photography, as it can be distracting and disruptive. Ensure your actions do not disturb the solemnity of the occasion.

7. Thoughtful Gestures

While bringing a gift is unnecessary, showing your support for the family can be a nice gesture. Appropriate gifts include flowers, a sympathy card, or a memorial donation to a meaningful charity or cause for the deceased.

If you choose to bring a personal item, be mindful of the family’s wishes and the service’s tone. Ask the family or the service director for guidance if you’re unsure of what’s appropriate.

8. Meaningful Tributes

If you are allowed to speak, keep in mind the tone and theme of the service. While it’s important to share stories and personal anecdotes, keep the focus on the deceased. Avoid sharing inappropriate or embarrassing stories.

You can make your speech meaningful and respectful by reflecting on your memories with your loved one and thinking about the qualities that made them unique. Keep your speech brief to allow other speakers to share their tributes.

9. Honoring Customs

Memorial services may have unfamiliar religious customs and traditions integral to the service. These customs are not just rituals or traditions but are deeply rooted in the beliefs and values of the family. Respecting these customs is a way of honoring the memory of the departed and showing support to their loved ones.

If, for example, you’re attending a Jewish funeral service and you are unfamiliar with the customs, ask the family or friends of the deceased for guidance. During the service, follow the lead of those around you. Don’t criticize or judge the customs or beliefs of others.

10. Commemorating The Deceased

Meaningful gestures and activities to commemorate the deceased include bringing flowers or donating to a cause that was important to the deceased. You can also create a photo album or memory book with pictures and stories of the life of the deceased.

Another way to honor someone’s memory is to continue their legacy through acts of kindness or community service. For example, if the person loved animals, you could volunteer at a local animal shelter or donate to a rescue organization.

11. Departing With Grace

When it’s time to say goodbye to the bereaved, respect their grief. If you feel a sense of relief once the service has ended, remember that the bereaved may still be struggling with their grief. Keep your tone respectful as you leave.

You can say goodbye to the bereaved with a hug or a handshake, which can go a long way in showing your support and offering comfort. If you feel moved to offer support, be sincere and brief, and avoid saying anything that could be insensitive.

12. Gratitude And Appreciation

Thank-you notes show your appreciation for the love and support you received. Express your appreciation in a personal and heartfelt manner. Use words such as “sincere gratitude” and “with appreciation.”

Mention specific details to let the recipient know how their support made a difference. For example, mention how much it meant to you that they took care of cleaning during the difficult time. Keep it brief, and don’t wait too long; send thank-you notes a few weeks after the service.

It can be helpful to designate someone to keep track of gifts and attendees so you clearly understand to who to send thank-you notes.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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