Funeral Cortège Etiquette

What happened to funeral etiquette?

Director of Middleton’s Funeral Services, Ian Leary hit the headlines after calling for people to ‘revive’ the tradition of members of the public to show respect when funeral processions drive by. 

Here we discuss why we should all reacquaint ourselves with
funeral etiquette…

We’ve all experienced a funeral procession at some time or another – probably while impatiently drumming our fingers on the steering wheel of our car, as we’ve slowed to a snail’s pace behind the hearse on its way to the church or crematorium.

Also known as cortège, this is an integral part of funeral tradition. It’s a procession which starts at the funeral home, or the home of the deceased and transports the body to the church, crematorium or burial ground. It is usually followed by vehicles carrying mourners. 

Funeral directors will often lead this procession on foot for a short distance before the hearse picks up speed to a stately 20mph and heads to its destination. It is basically the start of the funeral, and it often has deep significance for loved ones. Not only does it set the tone for the rest of the ceremony, but it can also be the moment when mourners come to terms with the fact that this is really the end.

But while we may recognise the importance the funeral procession has as the deceased’s final journey on earth, the way in which we often treat this can be with total disregard, or even worse, become a reason to get all worked up into a state of road rage because the hearse is holding up the traffic.

At the last count, it was found that only around one in four of us show respect when a cortège passes by and that number plunges drastically for the under-40s. It seems we are either more ill-mannered than we once were, or funeral traditions are becoming a thing of the past.

Yet only a couple of decades ago, most of us would have stopped in our tracks when a hearse went by, It was the thing you did to show respect. Fast forward to the 21st century and in our high-tech lives, we stop for nothing – especially for a funeral procession.

Why show respect?

Whether you are a pedestrian who takes their hat off as the funeral procession makes its way along the road, or a motorist who pulls over to let it go by, paying respects shows solidarity with the loved ones who have lost someone. It’s a way to acknowledge their loss and sadness and say “I don’t know who you are but I can imagine what you’re going through and I feel your pain.”

It’s also a way to take time out and reflect on our own mortality and what it means to be alive.

Maybe it’s an opportunity to be mindful, or to think about what’s important to us. 

Ian’s post on social media received more than 5m hits with many bereaved saying how much it meant to them when they witnessed someone taking off their hat and bowing their head as the coffin of their loved one passed by. Such a simple thing can truly make a difference.

There are no laws in the UK relating to funeral processions but there are certain rules and procedures that have to be followed if you want to be respectful to those who have lost someone.

Here are 7 ways in which you can be respectful of the funeral procession:

Stop what you are doing

If you are walking down the street and you see a funeralcortège pass by you should stop and doff your cap or remove your hat altogether (if you’re wearing one) and bow your head.

Resist crossing the road

Waiting a few minutes before you cross in front of the hearse is a respectful thing to do. Also you might consider standing back from the kerb if you’re at a zebra crossing so that the driver doesn’t feel they need to stop to let you cross.

Give way to the hearse and funeral cars

If you’re driving, it’s a good thing to give way and let the cortège pass by before carrying on your journey.

Don’t play loud music

Turn down the dial on your radio as the funeral procession passes.

No overtaking

Do not overtake the funeral procession unless you’re on a dual carriageway.

No beeping

Beeping your horn is a no-no. It won’t speed up the cortège and you’ll frankly look like a bit of a plonker!

No cutting in

Cutting into a funeral procession is another way to look disrespectful. Imagine if someone did it to you if the situation was reversed!

So next time you encounter a funeral cortège show some respect! The smallest gesture could mean so much to those who are mourning someone they love.

Getting in touch

If you have been recently bereaved, or want to know more about what we do, we are here to help so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.