Tips on Being a Pallbearer
Being asked to serve as pallbearer is considered quite an honor. Because this position is restricted to between six and eight attendees, it is usually kept to close family members or friends of the deceased. In many cases, a particular group of friends (maybe members of a team or club) will be asked, to provide a sense of unity.
If you have been asked to be a pallbearer and are feeling a little nervous at the prospect, don’t be alarmed. Most people feel a sense of anxiety about being part of this honor. From fears of dropping the casket to being asked to comfort people in their grief, there is much about this position that has the potential to scare us.
If you are going to be a pallbearer and are not sure you are up to the task, here are a few tips to make things easier.
- Ask the funeral director for more information. The funeral director has done this hundreds of times before. If you have any questions about your expectations or your duty, direct your questions here first. The funeral director will show you how to carry the casket, where you will stand, when you will come up for your duties, and what is expected of you at the cemetery site. Every funeral is a little bit different, so you may be asked to ride in a separate car to the cemetery, bear witness to the casket being closed, or sit in a special location for the funeral.
- Dress more formally than a regular funeral. Although funeral attire typically revolves around “church best” rather than all black these days, pallbearers can go a little above and beyond the ordinary. Opt for a dark suit (or, for women, a darker dress), and make sure you have nice shoes to go along with it. Subdued hair and jewelry is also a good idea.
- Less is more. Pallbearers tend to have the most impact when they are silent and part of the backdrop rather than the center of attention. Perform your duties quietly and with reverence for the deceased. This is not to say you cannot talk or interact with the funeral guests, of course, but only that you should set an example for the ceremony.
- Come early, stay late. Plan on arriving at the funeral fifteen minutes ahead of time, and stay late if the family requests it of you. Although you might not end up doing anything more than helping move a few chairs around or stand and help greet guests, you are a representative of the funeral and your willing presence means a lot.
It’s also important not to feel like you have to be stoic or hold back emotions during your duties. Being a pallbearer doesn’t mean hiding your grief—it simply means that you have been chosen to help bear the burden of the burial. Cry if you want to; share in the grief of the family if the situation calls for it. Being a pallbearer is important, but so is being able to say goodbye to the deceased on your own terms.