One of the most time-honored funeral traditions is the procession. Once a time when carriages, people, and sometimes even hired mourners made a slow journey from the home of the deceased to the cemetery, funeral processions have long been a way to exhibit honor and grief at the passing of a loved one.
While few people make the trip on foot these days, the funeral procession is still a large part of many memorial services. In it, the line of mourners (usually with each family in their own vehicle) makes its way to the cemetery, following behind the hearse, limo, or even a police escort.
Because so many funeral homes are located some distance from the cemetery, it’s not uncommon for a procession to travel for a few miles. In these instances, it’s important to follow a few key funeral procession etiquette guidelines.
Funeral Etiquette for Those Driving in the Procession
- Turn off the radio, headlights, and other loud or obvious features.
- Don’t pass the car in front of you or try to speed things up. This is meant to be a solemn event in which everyone stays together.
- Although you may be exempt from red lights or stop signs (assuming you have the right permits and escorts), be sure to obey all other traffic laws.
- Don’t be angry at other cars on the road. They most likely mean no disrespect and may simply be unaware of procession guidelines.
- If you arrive at the funeral home before the immediate family, wait to line your car up for the procession. Family should always be allowed near the front.
Funeral Etiquette for Those Encountering a Procession
- Although it isn’t always a legal requirement for you to pull over to allow a procession to pass, it is the most respectful thing you can do—whether it is going your direction or oncoming.
- If there is a police escort guiding the procession, it is legally required to pull over in some areas. Err on the side of caution and pull over.
- Don’t attempt to pass the procession if you are on a two-lane road. Either pull off or wait until it has reached its destination.
- Remember that the families in the cars are grieving right now and might not be paying attention to the road.
- Don’t honk, yell, or flash your lights. The best thing you can do for the family is offer a moment of silence in their honor.
Most funeral processions are only about 20 cars long, so the length of time required for it to pass isn’t going to make a huge difference in your day—and in most cases, the guide is either a police officer who can help direct traffic or a licensed escort experienced in keeping road holdups to a minimum. A small gesture like pulling over can mean a lot to the family—and when the time comes for you to be in a procession of your own, you’ll appreciate when other drivers do the same.