How Do Open Casket Funerals Work?

Saying goodbye to loved ones is always difficult, no matter why they’re gone. Today, it’s common for some funerals to have an open casket, but this may be new to some of those attending. If this is the case, those who are planning on attending may want to learn more about what to expect and the proper etiquette before going. This way, they will be prepared for the funeral even though it may be different from other ones they’ve attended in the past.

What is an Open Casket Funeral?

Open casket funerals are those in which the casket holding the deceased is partially or fully open. This allows for loved ones to view the deceased one last time, pay their respects and, in some cases, leave small items to be buried with the deceased. The deceased is carefully prepared before the viewing and dressed, typically in their own clothes, but they may not look just like they did when they were alive.

How Did Open Casket Funerals Get Started?

Traditionally, people would attend viewings in the deceased’s home shortly after death. This was done as a way to see the deceased one more time before burial and is comforting for many people. After embalming started in the late 1800s, this practice did become more common, though now the open casket is generally viewed during the funeral instead of during a viewing at the deceased’s home.

Why Opt for This Kind of Funeral?

Sometimes, there isn’t an option for an open casket funeral due to the way the person died. When this is possible, it is often chosen as a way of providing comfort to those who missed their loved ones and as a way to see the person one more time. Many people do feel more comforted by seeing the body one last time as it helps provide closure and can help them accept that their loved one really is gone.

Expectations For a Funeral

When attending an open casket funeral, except for the body to be dressed up and for the deceased to be wearing makeup to help give it a life-like appearance. The person will generally look different than they did when they were alive, though attempts are made to make the person look as natural as possible. It is not going to look like the person is sleeping, though many people do expect that. When there is an open casket, those who want to view the body can do so. There is typically a line of people to view the deceased and each person has the opportunity to spend a few minutes saying goodbye.

Proper Etiquette

When viewing the body at a funeral, there are etiquette tips that should be followed. Always wait until the previous person has moved away before walking toward the casket and take a few minutes to view the deceased before moving on. If there is no line, it’s possible to spend a little more time saying goodbye.

At the funeral, do not disturb the body in any way or make references to how the person looks. Always make sure it is okay before placing anything into the casket. Never take photos or videos of the funeral and once the casket is closed, do not attempt to open it again. It is important to keep food and drinks away from the casket.

If children are attending the funeral, be sure to talk about the etiquette beforehand and to ask them if they’d like to see the person. Younger children especially may be scared by doing this, so parents must use their best judgment when determining if children should be with them when they view the deceased.

It is okay to avoid viewing the body at a funeral. This is not something that everyone wants or needs to do. Those who do not want to view the body should enter the funeral hall and find a seat quietly, giving space to those who do want to view the casket.

While saying goodbye to a friend or family member isn’t easy, an open casket funeral may be a way to say goodbye one more time. If you’re attending an open casket funeral for the first time, use the etiquette tips here to make sure you know what to expect and how to act during the funeral. If you do have any questions, those in charge of the funeral will be able to answer them for you ahead of time.