If someone close to you has just passed away, the family of the deceased may ask you take part in the funeral and serve as a pallbearer. While many people are aware of proper funeral etiquette and the role of the pallbearer, they may be hesitant about accepting the role.
A pallbearer is one of the oldest and most important ceremonial roles at a funeral. Pallbearers are responsible for carrying the casket from inside the funeral home and placing it within the hearse. Once at the grave site, they again remove the casket from the hearse and carry it to the final resting place.
When you are at a funeral, you may just want to focus on comforting loved ones and expressing your grief. A funeral is a somber occasion; most people don’t want to be put in the position of having to carry their loved one or friend. However, being asked to be a pallbearer is an expression of respect. If you are asked to be one, consider it an honor. Being asked means the deceased’s family is placing their trust in you to transport the casket to its final resting place.
How To Select A Pallbearer
Selecting who you would like to serve as the pallbearers is never an easy task. Even more difficult can be asking those people to do the job. Regardless, the pallbearer is a job that must be done, and most people will accept the role if they are asked.
Typically, there will be six to eight pallbearers needed. In earlier years, strong men were called upon because the distance between the church and the graveyard could be quite the distance. Today, thanks to modern technologies like cars and other mechanical devices, the role is more ceremonial than functional.
Even with modern technologies, caskets can still be quite heavy. You will want to make sure all of the pallbearers are capable of lifting and carrying the casket. They may have to carry the casket across uneven ground like stairs or slopes. Female pallbearers should ensure they are wearing comfortable shoes and clothing that allows ease of movement if this the case.
In most cases, pallbearers are people that are special to the family. This could include family members, close friends, or members of a group or club the deceased was involved with. Whoever you select, you will want to ensure that they will be able to manage their grief while executing the duties of the role.
You may want to consider naming an honorary pallbearer. This may be someone who might not be able to carry the casket, but you still want involved with the service. An honorary pallbearer receives the special honor of being able to walk or ride beside the casket as it is being moved.
Tips for Being A Pallbearer
If you have accepted the role of pallbearer, you should consider it an honor and a responsibility. You may have questions or be unsure about the role. Rest assured, the following tips will help you make it through the day.
Ask the funeral director if you are unsure about anything.
The funeral director has done this more times than they can count. If you are unsure about anything, ask the funeral director for advice and help. They will instruct you how to carry the casket safely, where to sit/stand, at what point in the service you will be called upon for your duties, what your role at the cemetery is, and anything else you might be unsure about.
For most funerals, “church clothes” are the common funeral attire. Pallbearers should dress up a little more though. A dark suit, tie, and shoes for men; a dark dress or suit for women. Make sure your hair looks good and you are not wearing too much jewelry.
Arrive early and stay late.
Make sure you arrive 15 minutes early. You don’t want to place added stress on the family wondering if you are going to show up before the service is about to begin. Plan to stay afterwards for a bit as well. You are representative of the funeral, staying to talk with guests will mean a lot to the family. This is when you can share stories about the deceased and express what they meant to you.
Sit in your assigned seat.
There is usually a special section near the front reserved for the pallbearers to sit during the funeral. Unless you have an important reason to do otherwise, stay with the other pallbearers for the ceremony.
Consider it an honor.
This cannot be expressed enough. Your job is one of the most important parts of the funeral. Treat it with dignity and respect.
Relax, everything will be okay.
Don’t worry about making a mistake or dropping the casket. The funeral director and staff will make sure you’re prepared for the role.