There are quite a few written and unwritten rules when it comes to funerals. Etiquette expert Magdalena Ribbing explains that amongst other things the following is correct:

Dress code

Unless something else is stated in the death/funeral announcement the guests at a funeral as well as the family members are expected to wear dark, discreet clothing. A white shirt for men, even women may wear a white blouse, collar or something similar if they want. Grey or black socks, matt fabrics as well as long sleeves are traditionally correct. Women should wear low heels, black gloves are appropriate.

If the dress code is stated as optional then any discreet colour is acceptable, even black, if you want in combination with grey, dark blue or another sober colour.

If light coloured clothing is requested it means that the family want to avoid a dark impression. In this case the funeral guests should not dress in black, dark grey or dark blue. All other colours are acceptable but you should avoid bright red, bright yellow or other strong, cheerful colours and keep to gentler shades.

According to tradition women could wear silver jewellery and pearls, but not yellow gold or jewellery with coloured stones. This is now an outdated custom which is only observed at very strictly formal funerals. White ties are worn by close male family members. This mostly means husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law, grandson, brother-in-law, grandfather even uncle and often cousins.

A plain, simple hat with a thick veil, known as a mourning veil, used to be worn by the close female relatives, who could use it to hide their tears and sorrow to a certain degree. A mourning veil is hardly ever worn nowadays.


The small hand bouquet that is placed on the coffin during the farewell at the service can be a small bouquet or more often a single flower. Men may carry one, but they don’t need to, they should make a small bow of respect at the coffin. Women may make a light curtsey or bow their heads.

The flowers that have been sent to the funeral should never be taken home by the relatives- they belong to the deceased and can either follow the coffin, be put on the grave or placed at the appointed place in the graveyard. This is handled by the funeral director or the staff at the funeral’s location.


Everyone attending a funeral should walk up to a couple of yards from the coffin and make a slight bow or curtsey in respect for the enormity and irretrievability of death. Then they should take their place for the ceremony. This gesture of respect should be repeated after the ceremony if the coffin hasn’t been taken away.

At the final farewells by the coffin the closest family members normally go first followed by the other guests. This final farewell is also a mark of respect to the deceased’s family. Not everyone wishes to include this final farewell in the funeral ceremony.


To photograph the casket and flower decorations as a memory is common these days. The pictures should be taken before the guests arrive or after they have left, and never during the ceremony. Only very close family members may take pictures of the family or the other guests.