When to Arrive to a Funeral or Memorial Service
Every type of event has its own social etiquette, so it’s normal to be unsure about when to arrive a funeral or memorial service. Here’s a quick guide to help with your funeral etiquette:
When to arrive at a funeral as a guest
If you’re attending a funeral as a guest, aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time. This will ensure you’ll have time to politely greet anyone you know and settle into your seat. It also give you a buffer in case you encounter unexpected traffic or have trouble parking. If you end up arriving with more than enough time to spare, you shouldn’t worry about it. This can be a good time to catch up and share condolences informally before the funeral starts, but be mindful of the amount of time you're taking up with the family since they have many people to greet. Arriving 30 minutes in advance is perfectly acceptable.
When to arrive at a funeral as a participant
If you’re participating in the funeral delivering a eulogy, being a pallbearer, doing a funeral reading or in any other fashion, you should arrive at least 30 minutes in advance to be ready to receive instructions, or at whatever other time the organizer has given you. If you're asked to participate in a funeral, do your absolute best to arrive early or on time; arriving late as a participant can throw off sections of the event and can be taken as a severe sign of disrespect by the family.
What to do if you arrive to a funeral late
If you arrive at a funeral that has already started, begin by observing the current ceremony from just inside the door. If there’s something underway, hang out for a moment until you can slip into the back row without interrupting anything. (A break between speakers is generally a good time.) If there isn't a break or there's a ceremony or ritual taking place, do not interrupt by walking into the service, it's likely best to remain standing near the back so as not to disrupt anyone or anything.
What to do if you need to leave a funeral early
While you should avoid leaving a funeral early if possible, it’s understandable that conflicts arise and you may want to participate in whatever you can. If this is the case, arrive on the early side, so you can ensure a seat in the back nearest to the exit. Give yourself a time window in which to leave, so you can slip out at a time when you’re least likely to disturb anything. (Once again, a break between speakers is generally a good time to make your move.)