How Much Do You Know About Funeral Visitation Etiquette?

hugging at visitation

The visitation represents an opportunity for friends and family to honor a departed loved one.

While a funeral service is usually traditional, a visitation is a less formal gathering most often held the day before the funeral service. People drop by to pay their respects and offer condolences to the bereaved. Amid today’s evolving societal norms, it can be difficult to know the proper protocols and customs of funeral visitations. In this article, we have compiled some helpful guidance regarding visitation etiquette.


What is the purpose of the visitation?

Visitations are intended to allow friends and family of the departed to offer their support to the bereaved. They can take place in any number of locations but are most often held at the funeral home or church. While visitations can be somber occasions, it is generally acceptable to share fond memories and comforting recollections.


It’s best to dress conservatively.

While people typically wear black or other dark colors to anything funeral-related, it is not a necessity. Whatever you choose should be subdued, unless the family requests a specific color or themed item be worn. Dress nicely but do not feel you need to wear formal clothing. As you choose your attire, keep in mind that the goal is to demonstrate respect for the departed and their family. Slinky clothes, bright colors, and ultra-casual garments should be avoided.


Be prompt.

You don’t want to arrive too early or too late for the visitation, so make sure you are aware of the start and end times. They are typically listed in the obituary but you can call the funeral home and ask if you are unsure.


Greet the family first.

Upon your arrival, extend your sympathies to the family. If you are at a loss for words, simply saying something along the lines of, “I’m very sorry for your loss,” is appropriate. If you do not know the family, you should introduce yourself and briefly explain your relationship with the person who has passed before you offer your condolences. If you know the family, you may wish to express more heartfelt sentiments.


Should you bring flowers or a card?

Those who choose to give family members flowers or plants typically have them delivered directly to the funeral home or church. Since the immediate family members will be busy greeting guests, it is best not to inundate them with cards. You will likely find a box or tray to place the cards in at the funeral home.


How long should you stay?

There is no requirement for how long you should stay at a visitation. The length of your visit depends largely on how well you know the family, how long it takes to offer your condolences, and if you want to spend time visiting with other guests.


No two visitations are exactly alike.

Visitations can be quite different depending on the religion, customs, and wishes of the family. Latino visitations, for example, may last for many hours. Customary fare, such as pastelitos, tamales, and pan dulce, is often served. It is not uncommon for family and friends to play cards and share laughs during extended viewing periods that last well into the evening.


Attending a visitation is a loving gesture of support for the bereaved. It also allows you to express your condolences if you are unable to attend the funeral service.


At Evan W. Smith Funeral Services, we are here to help you create a meaningful final farewell for your departed loved one. If you have questions or wish to make arrangements, please reach out to us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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