Funeral Etiquette

When someone you know passes away, your first instinct is to offer encouragement, help, and support to those affected, but you may not be sure what to say or do. It’s okay to feel this way.

Does it matter what I wear? Can I bring the children? What should I say to the family of the deceased? When should I visit? Ryan Funeral Homes offers guidance on the proper funeral etiquette of visitations and funerals so you can feel more comfortable and prepared when attending services.


When attending a funeral or a service, do your best to be on time and try to enter the facility as quietly as possible. If there are no ushers present, please remember that the first few rows of seats are usually intended for the immediate family and close friends. Acquaintances should seat themselves in the middle or towards the rear of the provided seating area.

Receiving Line

Visitations can be emotional, especially when speaking with the family of the deceased. If there is a receiving line to speak with the bereaved and view the casket, please be conscious of others in line and try to keep the line moving. After passing through the line, please stand to the side or allow family members to continue to greet other guests. The family will often be more available to speak after the service.

Mobile Phone Use

Smartphones should be turned off or silenced during the service. Checking your phone may be noticeable or a distraction to those who are trying to pay their respects. If you need to return a message or take a call, please exit the area quietly and relocate to a private area.


Allowing a child to attend a memorial or funeral service can help them say goodbye to a friend or loved one and process their loss or absence. It is important not to force a child to participate, but instead, encourage them to share in this tribute with the rest of the family. Before attending, help prepare them by explaining what they might see at the service and talk about their feelings surrounding the person they lost. Children may experience a variety of emotions during this time.

What to Say

It can be difficult to know what to say to the family of the deceased to express your sympathy and support. To begin, offer your condolences to the family. If you are comfortable, share a memory of the deceased. In this difficult time, sharing the joy of the deceased’s life can help comfort the bereaved. For example, “I was so sorry to hear of Mary’s passing. She was always such a wonderful friend.”

What Not to Say

Try not to give comments that minimize the loss, such as “It’s probably for the best, because he was suffering too much,” or “I’ve been in your shoes myself.” These may not provide comfort to the bereaved as intended. It is recommended to allow the family to discuss the cause of death with you instead of you bringing it up yourself.

What to Wear

When attending a memorial service or funeral, traditional dress is in dark and subdued colors, such as dark blues, grays, browns, and black. Others recommend you dress simply and conservatively. Men are encouraged to wear a jacket and tie paired with dress shoes, while women should choose either a dress or a suit. Any jewelry should be subtle and traditional. However, some celebration of life ceremonies are meant not to be subdued. Our recommendation is to dress appropriately to the tone of the services you are attending.

When to Visit

Immediately upon learning of a death, it is appropriate for family and close friends to go to the home of the bereaved to offer sympathy and support. However, please keep in mind that this can be a very overwhelming time for a family. Offering to assist with childcare, food preparation, receiving visitors, or service preparations can provide immense comfort during this difficult process. The funeral home is the best place to visit the family to offer your condolences, as they are prepared for visitors at these services.


The gift of food is a kind gesture that the family will deeply appreciate and help alleviate the stress of funeral planning and mourning.

Remembering children in the family is a thoughtful gesture, as this is often a difficult time for them too. A small gift like a stuffed animal or a book is best.

Time is precious. Helping with household tasks eases the family’s burden. Caring for pets, driving children to school, running errands, or helping around the house are wonderful ways to help the family.


Sending flowers is a wonderful way to express your sympathy to the family of the deceased, and can bring comfort in a difficult time. Flowers are a meaningful gift that can be enjoyed during and after the funeral service.

Floral arrangements and plants can be sent to the funeral home to be present at services or sent to the home of the family directly.

what our families say

Tiffany Foster went out of her way to fulfill all my requests, talked me through problems I was facing, and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible when I was a wreck, totally crushed, and I thank her with all of my heart for that.

James S. | July 2020

The professional manner of the staff made a difficult time a little easier.

Lynda R. | July 2020

Services provided for both parents were perfect, on time, and no issues. Brenda is awesome and strong!

Michael M. | July 2020

Skyler was absolutely amazing. She was so caring and helpful through this whole process. She even went above and beyond to meet with us in DeForest and even to make a stop at our home to drop off or pick up anything needed. While it was a small gesture, it was so helpful and greatly appreciated.

Brooke S. | Dec. 2020

Madison North East

2418 N. Sherman Avenue
Madison, WI 53704
Tel: 608-249-8257

Madison West

5701 Odana Road
Madison, WI 53719
Tel: 608-274-1000


220 S. Enterprise Drive
Verona, WI 53593
Tel: 608-845-6625

DeForest / Windsor

6924 Lake Road
DeForest, WI 53532
Tel: 608-846-4250