From Diane’s Antique Book Collection
A visit to the Etiquette instructor . . . Funerals – Part 3
Receiving Guests at a Funeral. If the services are held at the house, some near friend or relative will receive the guests. The ladies of the family do not show themselves at all. The gentleman may do as they please.
Proceeding to the Cemetery. The procession moves from the door just one hour after the time set for the funeral. In England the male friends only, follow the corpse to its final resting place. In this country it is proper for the female friends and relatives to do so if they desire it, as they generally do.
The carriage occupied by the clergyman precedes the hearse. The carriage immediately following the hearse is occupied by the nearest relatives, the following carriages by the more remote relations.
While the mourners pass out to enter the carriages the guests stand with uncovered heads. No salutations are given or received. The person who has been selected to officiate as superintendent of ceremonies assists the mourners to enter and alight from the carriages.
Sometimes the private carriage of the deceased is placed in the procession, empty, immediately behind the hearse.
The horse of a deceased mounted officer, fully equipped and draped in mourning, may be led immediately after the hearse.
In towns and villages where the cemetery is near at hand it is customary for all to proceed to it on foot. The hat must be removed when the coffin is carried from the hearse to the church or back, when the guests may form a double line, between which it passes.
At the cemetery the clergyman or priest walks in advance of the coffin.
Flowers at a Funeral. It is the custom to deck the corpse and coffin with flowers, but it is somewhat expensive. Upon the coffin of an infant or a young person a wreath of flowers should be placed, upon that of a married person, a cross. These flowers should always be white. Friends sending flowers should send them in time to be used for decorative purposes.
Other Decorations Upon the Coffin. If the deceased be a person of rank he generally bears some insignia of his rank upon his coffin-lid. Thus, a deceased army or naval officer will have his coffin covered with the national flag, and his hat, epaulettes, sword and sash laid upon the lid.
After the Funeral. Guests should not return to the house of mourning after the funeral. “In some sections it is customary to conclude the ceremonies of the day with a dinner or banquet, but this is grossly out of place and not to be tolerated by any one of common sense and refinement. If friends have come from a distance, it may sometimes be a matter of necessity to extend a brief hospitality to them; but if the guests can avoid this necessity, they should do so. This hospitality should be of the quietest sort, and in no manner become an entertainment.
It is the cruelest blow which can be given bereaved friends to fill the house with strangers or indifferent acquaintances and the sound of feasting at a time when they desire of all things to be left alone with their sorrow.”
Notification of Death. An English custom, which is beginning to be adopted in America, is to send cards deeply edged in black to relatives and friends upon which are printed or engraved the name of the deceased, with his age and date of his death. These cards must be immediately acknowledged by letters of condolence and offers of assistance, but on no account by personal visits within a short time after the funeral.
Obligation to Attend a Funeral. Every one except those who are themselves in deep affliction are under obligation to attend a funeral to which they have been invited.
Seclusion of the Bereaved Family. No one of the immediate family of the deceased should leave the house between the time of the death and the funeral. A lady friend should make all necessary purchases and engage seamstresses, etc.
Wells, A. M., Richard A., MANNERS, CULTURE AND DRESS, Massachusetts, King, Richardson & Company Publishers, 1893