Being a Pallbearer: What you need to know
If you’ve been chosen as a pallbearer, you probably feel the weight and significance of this great honor. One of the oldest ceremonial roles at a funeral, pallbearer is also one of the most important, because pallbearers are responsible for carrying the casket. If you’re asked to carry out this meaningful task, it means the family trusts you and considers you a very valuable friend. You may feel unsure about your responsibilities, or even slightly daunted by the thought of playing such a vital part in the proceedings, but it’s fairly straightforward, most of the time.
The funeral director can help answer any questions you might have, so think about your role and what you need to know in advance, and ask questions before the funeral. It’s very important for the pallbearers to arrive early, so that everyone knows his or her responsibilities. Before you go, make sure you have the pertinent details:
Get all the information you can about the funeral and the expectations of the family, including the dress code. Pallbearers are typically a little bit more dressed up than the average guest at a funeral, so make sure you look the part.
Ask about parking arrangements in general and where you, personally, should park, both for the funeral service and the graveside service. It’s a good idea to make sure you understand the rules of the funeral procession, too, so that everyone arrives at the cemetery at the same time.
Know where you’ll be expected to sit during the service. If you’re bringing guests or family members, make sure you know where they’re supposed to sit, too.
Make sure you’re clear about when to stand up and approach the casket, where and how to hold it, and how to appropriately transport it.
Find out where you’re supposed to sit or stand for the graveside service.
As a pallbearer, you may be asked to do more than just carry the casket. Plan to stay a little bit late, to talk to the guests, share stories, and support the family. Being chosen as a pallbearer makes you a representative of the funeral, and shows that the family values you, so it’s good to honor the relationship by being available if they need someone after the service.
If you don’t feel up to the task of being a pallbearer, that’s perfectly fine. Just be honest with the family, politely explaining why you don’t think you can do it. It’s a taxing responsibility, both physically and emotionally, and even though it’s an honor, it’s understandable if you can’t step up. You might be asked to be an honorary pallbearer, who walks along with the casket, rather than carrying it. The important thing is that you make sure to express your sympathy to the family, supporting them in any way you can during this time of grief.
Since 1843, the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society has worked to help Greater Cincinnati families plan their final arrangements and commit loved ones to the peace of our Lord. We’re committed to our community, and happy to answer any questions you might have about Catholic funeral services. Dedicated to caring compassionate service, we are committed to helping Catholics plan funeral services for their loved ones and find burial space in consecrated grounds, as well as providing preneed services for those who wish to pre-plan their own funerals. Visit our website to learn more about us and find out how we can help you plan a meaningful funeral.