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How to Choose Pallbearers for a Funeral

There are often many aspects to a funeral that are easy to forget in the flurry of planning. If you intend on having a closed casket at the funeral, you’ll likely want to start thinking about who you’d like to select as pallbearers.

What is a pallbearer?

A pallbearer is someone who is responsible for carrying the casket at a funeral. There are usually multiple pallbearers, one person for each handle on the casket. This usually involves carrying the casket from the venue to the hearse, and then carrying it from the hearse to the burial site. Being a pallbearer is seen as an honor as you’ve been selected by the family to help carry their loved one to their final resting place.

Can women be pallbearers?

Yes, women can be pallbearers. Pallbearers were traditionally men, but this has since changed to include everyone. If you’re a woman who was chosen to be a pallbearer, be sure that you wear appropriate shoes to carry the casket as you might encounter uneven or difficult ground while carrying the casket.

How much does a casket weigh?

A standard casket will weigh about 200 lbs with more expensive caskets reaching up to 400 lbs. This number does not include the weight of the deceased person, which you’ll need to take into account. Carrying a casket is not an easy job, even with 6 to 8 people helping, so it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing your pallbearers.

How many pallbearers should I choose?

You will want to choose 6 to 8 pallbearers for the funeral service. Caskets usually have a total of 6 handles, 3 on each side. Many caskets also have a handle in the front and a handle in the back. In the case of a symbolic funeral (if there’s no casket to carry, or the casket is for a small child or infant), you can choose as many or as few pallbearers as you’re comfortable with.

Choosing the right pallbearers

Choosing pallbearers is a decision that is usually made by the immediate family of the deceased. It’s seen as a great honor to be chosen as a pallbearer, so it’s important to choose people you trust and who were important to the deceased. Anyone can be a pallbearer and if you really want someone to be a pallbearer who isn’t physically able to hold a casket, you can still designate them as an honorary pallbearer. Honorary pallbearers walk behind or alongside the casket with the other pallbearers.

When choosing your pallbearers, here are some things to consider:

  • Was this person important to the deceased? Pallbearers can be anyone, they’re not restricted to just family members. Pallbearers can be coworkers, friends, mentors, bosses, or family members. Anyone can be a pallbearer, no matter the age. (If you have a child chosen as a pallbearer but are worried about them carrying the weight, designate them as an honorary pallbearer.)
  • Can this person physically help carry the casket? If not, designate them as an honorary pallbearer and consider choosing someone else who can physically help carry the casket.
  • Is this person emotionally able to handle being a pallbearer? Funerals are extremely difficult for people closed to the deceased and it’s likely you’ll have friends and family who aren’t able to handle their emotions during the service. Make sure your chosen pallbearers can withstand the emotional difficulty of carrying the casket during the service.
  • Is this person likely to refuse or feel extremely uncomfortable with the offer? Being a pallbearer is a great honor, but there are some that may feel they aren’t the right fit, but don't want to be rude by refusing. If you think someone would rather not have attention on them during the funeral, maybe choose a different pallbearer. You could also approach them and let them know it’s okay for them to say no if they're uncomfortable with it.

Sharing the names of your pallbearers

The names of the pallbearers are usually shared in the funeral program if you have one. If you’re creating your own funeral program and not having one professionally made, you’ll want to include a section that names the pallbearers. If you’ve created a memorial website, it’s also a good idea to share this information in the event details section of the Events tab. Pallbearers hold a very important role and letting others know their names is respectful.

Create a memorial website

It’s important to remember to try and not take it personally if someone declines the role of a pallbearer at the funeral. While it’s a great honor to be asked, it’s also a responsibility that some may not feel emotionally prepared for or worthy of. It’s best to allow others to grieve and respect the deceased in their own way, even if that means refusing the request for personal reasons. With all of this in mind, at the end of the day, you should be choosing pallbearers that your family trusts and knows cared about the deceased. The main focus is not going to be on the pallbearers, but rather on the person you’re all there to honor.

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August 2020
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