Graveside Funeral Etiquette: Basic Guide To Graveside Funerals

graveside funeral etiquette

A graveside service is usually short, as the purpose is to commit the body to the ground. A clergyman may say prayers, while attendees may place flowers on the grave or shovel some dirt on the coffin. Graveside funeral etiquette requires a somber tone, and attendees should be reserved and attentive.

When people think about paying their condolences to a grieving family as they say goodbye to a loved one, they often picture a traditional memorial or church funeral service.

Sometimes the family of the deceased opts for a graveside service in addition to or instead of other types of services. As people navigate emotional and difficult times, they make decisions right for them.

A graveside service is typically brief, with a few prayers and words about the deceased before the body is lowered into the ground. Sometimes guests are invited to put a handful of dirt or a flower on the casket before departing.

Burial on a rainy day

What Is The Purpose Of A Graveside Service?

A graveside service can serve many different roles and purposes.

Sometimes the graveside service is at the end of a line of events, after the wake, visitation, and church funeral. Other times, the gravesite is the only portion of the funeral process.

Mourners attending a graveside service are given the chance to visit the final resting place of the deceased.

After cremation, a gravesite service may be held to bury the cremains.

The Transition

If there has been a service at either a funeral home or church, there is often a funeral procession to the cemetery. The pallbearers carry the casket into a hearse and respectfully load it in. The immediate family members are in vehicles directly behind the hearse, followed by other family members, then close friends.

Once the line of cars gets to the cemetery, the pallbearers help the funeral director to remove the casket from the hearse and get it to the gravesite. The officiant can be the funeral director or a member of the clergy.

Lowering body into grave

What Is The Graveside Service Order Of Events?

The graveside service may vary depending on if it is secular or if it has a religious affiliation. Some basic elements often included are:

  • Opening Reading: The opening reading could be a poem, an excerpt, or something from scripture. The choice should resonate with the immediate family and close friends of the deceased.
  • Moment of Silence: After the readings, there might be a moment of silence or prayer for people to reflect on the loss of their loved one.
  • Details about the Deceased: At this point, someone might give some tributes to the deceased by speaking some about the details of their life. This might include reading parts of the obituary or just giving an informal, brief summary.
  • Eulogy: Someone close to the deceased may offer a short eulogy. This could be one of the family members or a good friend. The eulogy offered at a graveside service is usually shorter than one offered at a funeral home or church service.
  • Committal: The committal is the final goodbye before the body of the dead is either buried or cremated.
People at grave

What Is The Difference Between A Graveside And A Funeral Home Service?

There may not be any difference between a funeral home service and a graveside service other than the outcome – the burial. Sometimes, the family may decide to have both of these services. If there is a service at both the funeral home and the cemetery, the one at the cemetery will likely be shorter.

A traditional funeral often has music, multiple readings, and a eulogy, whereas a graveside service is an abbreviated version of this.

Who Attends The Graveside Service?

One of the common questions asked about the graveside service is who should attend. This really does depend on the wishes of the family. Sometimes the grieving family only wants close family members at the gravesite because they want a private committal or internment.

Other times, it is appropriate for others to attend. The family should let their wishes known ahead of time to ensure their wishes are honored.

Woman at winter funeral

What Do You Do If There Is Inclement Weather?

In the case of inclement weather, know that the graveside service might be moved indoors. Funeral attendees should plan to dress for the weather, however. It is not uncommon for burial to still take place regardless of the weather.

Although proper funeral etiquette says you should wear business or business casual clothing to a wake, visitation or funeral, you absolutely can wear appropriate outerwear to a service. This includes boots, a warm winter jacket, etc., if it is winter. You also can carry an umbrella if it is raining.

What Is The Proper Graveside Funeral Etiquette?

Graveside services are somber affairs. Even if the family is planning a celebration of life, the graveyard is not the place to anticipate a festive atmosphere.

  • Plan to stand. Sometimes there are chairs but if there are not many seats, know that those are intended for immediate family.
  • Dress nicely. Since this is part of a funeral, dress in business or business casual clothing. Ladies certainly can leave the high heels in your car and put on some type of flat for walking across the grass.
  • Turn your cell phone off for the service.
  • While you are waiting, speak quietly if you need to talk. Be respectful.
  • Participate in any parts of the service you are comfortable being part of.


Pam Berg is a former English teacher with a passion for writing. She has written for many years on a variety of topics and considers herself to be somewhat of a jack of all trades when it comes to writing. Although most of us tend to want to avoid the topic of death, whether it is us or a loved one, it is inevitable. Pam is dedicated to ensuring that as people are funeral planning they have access to a no-nonsense, straightforward laying out of the facts. However, she also recognizes that this is a topic that needs to be approached in a sensitive manner.

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