If a guard of honor is to be appointed, the person
in charge should consult the wishes of the immediate
family. Those who are asked to serve receive an
invitation by note or by messenger, sent either by
the head of the family of the deceased or by the
person in charge. Relatives are seldom appointed as
pall-bearers. A request to serve as pall-bearer
should be refused only for the most imperative
The number and age of the pall-bearers is a matter
of taste and not of obligation. But it is considered
good form to have six young girls, dressed in white,
as the guard of honor for a young girl or woman.
They should be selected from among intimate friends.
Similarly, six young men are appropriate for a young
man who has died; while for an elderly married man,
eight gentlemen from among his closest friends and
business associates form the usual guard of honor.
The pall-bearers, in the invitation, are told just
when they are expected to assemble at the house of
the deceased, and they should make it a particular
point to be on time. There can be no greater breach
of good manners, and in fact no greater unkindness,
than to keep a funeral party waiting. If the
pall-bearers are to be women, the carriages or cars
may be sent for them individually; but as a general
rule, pall-bearers are shown to their carriage or
car before the door, when the funeral procession
It is customary for all who attend a church funeral
to assemble at the church, but this rule does not
pertain to the pall-bearers. They are the only ones
who accompany the immediate family and relatives
from the house. Unless a special request to the
contrary has been made, pall-bearers may send
flowers if they wish.
Duties of Pall-Bearers
A prompt answer is necessary upon receipt of an
invitation to serve as pall-bearer. Illness or
absence from town at the time of the funeral are the
only excuses for refusing to accept the invitation.
The written answer must be followed by a personal
call at the home of the deceased, and cards must be
Formerly, the duty of the pall-bearer was to carry
the cloth or velvet pall that covered the coffin
hence the name. Later the custom developed into a
more important duty, the pall-bearers actually
carried the casket into and out of the church. This
is still done, although now the accepted form is for
the pall-bearers to appear solely as a guard of
honor for the dead.
In this latter case, they walk before the casket
which is carried by the undertaker's or sexton's
assistants. They halt before the hearse and stand in
silent reverence with heads uncovered, while the
casket is being placed into it, and again when it is
taken out to be conveyed into the church. They do
not enter their cars until the hearse has passed on
Each pall-bearer should speak a few words of
condolence to the members of the bereaved family.
However, he must not make obvious efforts to observe
this duty, nor must he intrude upon grief. He offers
his words of comfort only when it is convenient and
when he is brought, by his duties, into the presence
of his sorrowing friends. He should be kind, and
most of all, tactful. He should no say anything that
will cause a fresh outburst of grief.
A few days after the funeral, it is expected that
the pall-bearer call and leave his card for the
mourners. it is necessary only for him to inquire at
the door after the ladies and to leave his card. it
is more considerate not to ask to see members of the
The Church Funeral
Because it is closely allied with religion, the
funeral ceremony is nearly always conducted at
church. Of course this is something entirely
dependent upon conditions and personal preferences,
but the church funeral is always more dignified and
The pall-bearers and nearest relatives of the
deceased assemble at the house. Otherwise, all who
are to attend the funeral assemble at the church.
The casket is borne from the house by the
undertaker's assistants, the pallbearers preceding
it two-by-two. As soon as the hearse drives off, the
pall-bearers enter the carriages or cars immediately
behind it, and the relatives follow in the next cars
in the order of their relationship.
When the procession is ready to move, the music
begins and the casket is borne down the aisle to the
altar by the sexton's assistants. Sometimes the
pall-bearers carry the casket to the altar.
Order of Precedence
When attending the body of their child, parents walk
arm in arm, their other children following
immediately behind them in the order of seniority.
Pall-bearers invariably precede the casket. A widow
attends the body of her husband on the arm of her
eldest son or daughter, with her other children just
behind. After them come the deceased man's parents,
followed by his brothers and sisters. Similarly, a
widower follows the body of his wife attended by his
eldest son or daughter. Children following the body
of their only parent take precedence according to
their ages, the elder always leading. A widow who
has no children follows her husband on the arm of a
brother or other near masculine relative.
During the services at the church, the relatives
occupy the front pews on the right of the center
aisle. The pall-bearers sit in the opposite pews on
the left-hand side. After the services the
procession leaves the church in the same order
observed upon entering. If prayers are to be offered
at the grave, the car of the clergyman follows
immediately after the hearse. Different religions
have different burial services, but these are
matters of faith rather than of etiquette.
The House Funeral
A house funeral should always be very simple. Few
flowers are used by people of good taste.
At a house funeral, a number of folding-chairs may
be provided by the undertaker. The casket is placed
on a draped stand at one end of the drawing-room,
such flowers as are used being placed on and around
it. The room may or may not be darkened according to
the wishes of the family. Each guest should be
greeted at the door by some representative of the
family and shown to a seat in the drawing-room. A
row of seats should be reserved near the casket for
the immediate family, one being set aside for the
clergyman who is to officiate. Though it is not
obligatory it is very courteous to send a carriage
or an automobile for him. A Protestant clergyman
does not expect a fee but if he has come some
distance or if the family wishes to express their
thanks in that manner they may offer one which he is
privileged to accept with perfect propriety.
It is not necessary to appoint pall-bearers for a
home funeral. A quiet reserve and dignity should
characterize the occasion, and it should be carried
out with the greatest amount of expediency possible.
If music is desired, the musicians or choristers
should be in an adjacent room and the notes should
be very low and soft.
Women do not remove their wraps during the ceremony,
and men carry their hats in their hands. The women
members of the bereaved family enter on the arms of
masculine relatives, and if they intend going to the
cemetery, they wear their hats and veils. The
members of the family, however, do not enter the
drawing-room until the clergy-man arrives.
After the ceremony the guests quietly disperse, only
those remaining who intend going to the cemetery. It
is not expected that expressions of sympathy be
offered on this occasion; cards are left for the
family immediately after the announcement of the
death, and a call of condolence is made, according
to society's rules, within a week after the funeral.
Thus it is superfluous to offer sympathy at the
services, unless one is a very dear friend and
wishes particularly to do so.
(To be continued: Part IV)