Virtual Funeral Etiquette

Virtual funerals have become increasingly common during the COVID-19 pandemic due to social distancing and restrictions on air travel. They are similar to traditional in-person funerals but are live-streamed on platforms such as Facebook, Skype, and Zoom. These platforms make it possible for anyone worldwide to view a funeral from their computer, smartphone, or tablet. For information on how to host a virtual funeral, please read our article: How to Host a Virtual Funeral.

But while the idea of a virtual funeral may sound somewhat informal and casual, there are still rules of etiquette when attending a funeral. These rules apply no matter where you are, whether you are just across town or across the country. 

Here are twelve tips on what to do, and more importantly, what not to do during a virtual funeral: 

1. RSVP 

Be sure to inform the host if you can attend the funeral – this is a polite gesture that can help simplify the process for the host so that they are not waiting on a guest who has no intention of showing up. They can also keep better track of their attendance list. 

2. Download the Software for the Designated Streaming Platform 

To help prevent technical difficulties that can cause interruptions during the service, download the platform in advance and ensure it is functioning correctly on your device. You may need to create a new account to access the platform.

If you are not tech-savvy, you can ask for assistance from the host or someone you know who is familiar with streaming platforms. If you are tech-savvy, offer to assist other attendees who may be having issues installing the platform or viewing the live stream. 

3. Arrive On Time

As with in-person funerals, you should show up to a virtual funeral at the designated time, but it is advisable to log onto your streaming platform a few minutes early if you experience any technical difficulties. 

4. Turn On Your Camera

Allowing the host and other attendees to see you is your personal choice, but it is recommended to turn on your camera to show you and any other attendees with you. This indicates that you are present during the services and that you are paying attention. In addition, it is recommended to log in early to test your camera to make sure that the quality of your video is decent. 

5. Mute Your Microphone

Microphones for computers, smartphones, and other devices can be highly sensitive and may pick up disruptive and distracting sounds. Until you are sure that you are in a quiet environment free of barking dogs, crying babies, and other factors, mute your microphone. Feel free to practice muting and unmute your microphone before the service. 

If you are unable to avoid background noise, download the Krisp app. Krisp is an app that removes background noise and echoes from meetings so that everyone can hear your voice clearly.

6. Dress Appropriately

You should aim to dress as you would for an in-person funeral. Even though you are at home, this is not the time to wear pajamas or casual clothing such as hoodies or sweatshirts. Wearing appropriate funeral clothes communicates respect and thoughtfulness.

For tips on how to dress for a funeral, read our guide on How to Dress Appropriately for a Funeral. 

7. Don’t Eat or Try to Multitask

You should focus your attention on the funeral and avoid eating or other activities unrelated to the funeral. 

8. Be Mindful of Children and Pets

Small children and pets may become distracting during a virtual funeral, and in that case, you should make arrangements to ensure that they will not disrupt the services. For example, if your children or pets become restless during a virtual funeral, relocate them to a different room until the service is over. 

9. Be Prepared to Make a Speech

Introducing yourself and explaining your relationship to the deceased or their loved ones is a polite gesture that can help break the ice. If you have a speech prepared, practice beforehand and make sure that your microphone is working correctly. It is not uncommon for microphones to have connection problems, such as the audio cutting out. In that case, most platforms also have a group chat function to communicate with the host and other guests. 

10. Announce Your Departure

Once the service has finished, take the time to say you’re proper goodbyes by letting the host and other guests know that you are leaving the service. Waving goodbye is also a simple, thoughtful gesture that adds a personal element to an event that feels rather impersonal. 

11. Follow-Up 

Contacting the family to extend your condolences and commenting on the service is encouraged, especially if you did not speak during the funeral. You may also be able to send your condolences digitally, via an online memorial or online obituary. 

If you an unsure of how to express your condolences, please read our Step by Step Guide on Writing a Sympathy Card.

12. Embrace the Grieving Process

Virtual funerals are still funerals and depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may feel a considerable amount of sadness and other emotions before, during, or after the service. Grief can even be delayed, so don’t be surprised if you experience a sudden rush of emotions days or even weeks after a funeral service.

 Reach out to family and friends to help process your emotions, and do your best to take care of yourself during this difficult time. This is especially crucial if you are social distancing. 

If you would like to find out how to help others who are grieving, refer to our article: How to Help Friends Through Loss 

A Virtual Funeral is Still a Funeral

Although virtual funerals may feel less impersonal than a traditional in-person event, virtual funerals still require the same attitudes of respect and reverence for the deceased and their loved ones. Many have had to adapt to hosting virtual funerals for their loved ones because they had no other choice. So, while you have been invited to attend a funeral from the comfort of your own home, be mindful of why you have been invited and the purpose of the event. Virtual funerals are just one effect of the “new normal” we have experienced around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But while we may be physically apart, we can still find ways to come together during this trying time.