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Etiquette in Responding to a Private Funeral

While the passing of an individual may impact many different people, those close to the loved one may opt to hold a private service. If you see that a funeral or memorial service is "private" in an obituary, attendance is only limited to those invited. If a time, date and place are not listed in the obituary listing, it means that only those invited are asked to attend—it is not open to the public.

There are many reasons why a family may choose to host a private funeral service, but it is important for others to understand how to properly respond if they were not invited.

Do Not Take Offense

It can be easy to feel offended if one is not invited to attend a funeral service of someone they cared about. However, it is important to understand that those planning the service may have many reasons why they have chosen to do so. Keep in mind that these decisions were not made to block any specific person or to make an event "exclusive."

Some funerals may be private because:

  • The deceased legally planned a list of those who could attend the service.
  • Financial resources are limited.
  • Religious or cultural customs are present.
  • Close friends and family would like to say goodbye in a more comforting environment.
  • The deceased was a public figure who may draw too much attention to hold a respectful service.

Instead of being offended that one was not invited to a private service, simply remember that these decisions were made to respect the deceased.

Can I Ask for an Invitation?

The decision to hold a private service is intentional—whether decided upon by the family or the deceased prior to their passing. It is generally poor etiquette to ask a family for an invitation to a private service, as the event is designed for only a few close friends and relatives. However, there are still ways to show support in a respectful way.

How to Respectfully Express Condolences If a Funeral is Private

If the information is available, it is typically respectful for those who wish to express condolences to place a phone call to the family of the deceased. Remember to keep these messages brief and to offer support in any way possible.

Those who are not closely linked to a deceased individual may find that it is more appropriate to express condolences via mail or email. Again, brevity, compassion and support are best when approaching this type of communication.

Individuals who would like to send flowers or other items to show respect for a deceased can try to contact the family or funeral home that is hosting the service. However, it is important to remember that this information may not always be available to the general public.

How Can I Grieve If I Was Not Invited to a Private Service?

Not being able to view or say goodbye to a deceased individual can be difficult, especially if one is looking for closure or to fully grieve the loss.

Oftentimes, in situations of private services, a memorial service may occur sometime after the funeral. Memorial services generally allow members of the public to join and show respect, prayer and love for the deceased.

Those who are connected to family or friends of the deceased are encouraged to ask about any memorial services that may be scheduled for the public to say goodbye to the deceased.

If a memorial service is not going to happen, there are many ways to say goodbye in a way that is respectful after the funeral. Some may find that prayer, religious or grief counseling, or grave visitation are exceptional options for showing respect for the deceased.