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When You've Been Asked to Serve As Pallbearer

Published: January 7, 2020
by Rick Smith - Funeral Director

You may not realize it, but it is a special honor that the family has requested your services as a pallbearer for their deceased loved one.  You may be a family member to the deceased, a co-worker, neighbor or a special friend.  Regardless, you have been assigned a very special and meaningful role in the final celebration of his or her life.  Please assume this role with the dignity, respect and care that comes with it.  Following are some insights and guidelines that will better enable you to serve the family in this memorable way.


Unless the family expresses a desire otherwise, it is customary in most cases for pallbearers to wear a suit, sports coat, and optional tie.  It is not necessary, of course, but the dress represents the dignity & respect of the role.  Plan to arrive about 30 minutes prior to the funeral service.  Upon arrival, a Funeral Director will pin a boutonniere to your lapel.  This is another reason why a suit coat or blazer is preferred.  If this is not the case, please wear the kind of clothing that will easily support the placement of the boutonniere without it being cumbersome in any way.


In many funerals, the pallbearers are seated together in a special section of the funeral setting as a group.  When most or all of the pallbearers are family members, they may choose to be seated with their family.  Pallbearers are usually six to eight in number, providing an even number of pallbearers on either side of the casket.  In thinking about which side of the casket you will assume, take into account which arm you have the most strength, and any disabilities or physical encumbrances that might affect your ability to take on the weight.  Wooden caskets are usually much heavier than metal ones.


The primary task of a pallbearer is to help the funeral home staff in moving & transporting the body & casket of the family’s deceased loved one.  Following the funeral service, the pallbearers will be asked to meet the funeral directors at the back of the hearse and will be directed in placing the casket into the hearse.  Once arriving at the cemetery, the pallbearers will be asked to move as quickly as possible to the back of the hearse and assist in carrying the casket from the hearse to the graveside.


Once the casket has been set in place at the graveside, a Funeral Director will group the pallbearers to one side of the set-up, and remove your boutonnieres.  At the end of the graveside committal service, the minister or celebrant will remove his or her boutonniere, place it on the casket, and then greet the family members.  Following suit, each of the pallbearers will place their boutonnieres on the casket in succession.  This is a customary act that expresses final respect to the family and to the loved one being buried.  Once this is done, your role as a pallbearer is complete.


A distinction is made between an “Active Pallbearer” and an “Honorary Pallbearer.”  The role we have described thus far is that of an “Active Pallbearer.”  Some families will designate certain individuals or groups of individuals as “Honorary Pallbearers.”  These persons will be listed in the funeral service Memory Folder, and often seated in a reserved section of the service setting.  Aside from this special designation, these persons assume no other tasks in the funeral service process.

Thank you for providing this special & meaningful service to the family.  They have entrusted the care and safety of their loved one to you by asking you to serve in the role of pallbearer.  We will help you in every way to assume and carry out that role with all the dignity & respect it deserves and the family expects.


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