So, if you have been to one, you have a decent idea of the basics, but should any other funerals crop up, assume you are as royally screwed as you were the first time around.
Regardless, here are a few basics to keep in mind.
First Things First
1. Make certain you are at a funeral.
How you ask?
There will be signs—not literal signs, mind you. Not neon signs in child-like scrawl one finds stapled to the side of trees and lamp-posts as if the funeral were some kind of morbid yard sale, but rather, indicators.
A. Someone will be deceased. Make certain someone is, else, you are not at a funeral, you are at a very dark house party. Someone being dead is often the point of the funeral, differentiating it from any other kind of social function.
B. There will be a somber mood. (Unless you are cynical, or Irish, or you are at the funeral of a particularly evil dictator… or a Wicked Witch.)
2. Make certain that you are at least Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon away from the deceased.
You might not know the deceased personally, but make certain that you are more than merely there for the free deli spread. That would make you a “Funeral Crasher.” Which brings me to…
3. Do not (consciously or un—) crash a funeral.
The very worst kind of crasher on evil par with the evilest of evil villains Sauron, Hitler, both The Alien and The Predator, and debt-collecting terrorist telemarketers everywhere. Crash a funeral and you can crown yourself an archetypal evil overlord complete with
A. a massive army of The Major M’s (monsters or monkeys or machines),
B. possibly a flaming eyeball,
C. green skin, and
D. a head-piece made of brain-wave-protecting metal and/or spiky nails.
Second Things Second
Observing acceptable funeral etiquette.
Funeral etiquette is tricky. As previously mentioned, it is an unpleasant subject to dwell upon, and, unless you are in Public Service or are Lord Voldemort, your experience with funerals may tend to be few and far between.
During the days immediately following a death the family of the deceased is usually too overwhelmed to carry on the normal every day living chores, such as cooking and cleaning. So food would be more than welcome.
A. Unless it is shitty food, or
B. You bring steak sliders to a vegan household, or
C. Unless everyone brings the exact same dish, or
D. Unless the family’s fridge gets packed with so many containers of soup and pasta and goulash that the refrigerator and freezer threaten to explode.
E. Make certain you mark your Tupperware and list any cooking instructions.
F. Once in attendance of the funeral, make certain you eat both a giant and a finger sandwich. Science says the smaller or larger you make a sandwich, the more effing badass it becomes.
2. You will likely see people you have not seen in years.
For better or for worse.
A. This is not the time to confront the man who slept with your ex-husband.
B. A certain degree of acceptable flirting with hot strangers depends on how close you are to the deceased or their family. Just make sure that hot stranger isn't a long-lost cousin.
Subdued colors are most appropriate for funerals.
A. Do not wear a costume
B. Or a veil. Please. This isn’t a Bronte novel.
4. Expressing Sympathy
A. Simple, brief expressions of sympathy are usually best. Remember, above all, you are attending the funeral to show support of the person who has recently passed away, and your role is to support the survivors. This is not your platform for venting past disagreements, collecting on debts or hitting on the widow. Also, avoid at all costs making grieving a “contest.” People who think grief is a contest are instant losers of said contest. Don’t back a horse in that race.
B. Cause of death can be a difficult subject. Avoid statements such as “I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Nathan’s head— I am certain once they trawl the landfill for it, they can return it to the funeral home and you can finally have your peace. Gah! Not piece— of course I didn’t mean for the terrible pun to be made I was just… trying to…Dude, I’m sorry for your loss.” Don't be that guy.
C. Sending flowers is a traditional way to express your condolences. Be aware however, that if the grieving family is particularly poetic, flowers that will eventually die in about a week only serve as a reminder that everything dies. Just like their dead family member.
5. Sometimes things do not go as planned
A. If, throughout the course of the funeral process, you discover that the funeral home has, say, accidentally kept the body in a Chuck E' Cheese style ball pit, or, cremated the incorrect corpse, or anything else classified as a “disaster,” by all means keep that Intel to yourself. It is safe to say that today is already pretty shit for the family of the deceased. Thus, that info can wait.
B. Trust that in time it will all just seem like most Roper-centric episodes of Three's Company-- hysterically macabre.
Keep these points in mind and you should be fine. If you screw up, you’ve blown it—absolutely feel free to bludgeon yourself with a sock full of toxic batteries. But before you do, just make certain no one screws up as royally at your funeral.