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The Role of Pallbearers at a Funeral

Having pallbearers at a funeral is a common tradition among many religions; however, many may not be familiar with this practice—especially if one has never attended a funeral service before. Pallbearers are individuals who are respected by the deceased and may have had a close relationship to him or her. These individuals are chosen—either in preplanning by the departed or their loved ones—to escort the casket or coffin in church and to carry the casket to the burial site. For many, this ritual carries great significance and offers closure to the surviving family members.

Who Can Be a Pallbearer?

Although the numbers can vary, typically six to eight individuals are asked to be Active pallbearers. Pallbearers are generally adults that may have had any type of relationship with the deceased. These selected individuals can range from family members to neighbors and from close friends to business partners. While many may associate men as pallbearers, women can also be asked to fulfill this role. Generally, it is best not to use immediate family members unless this is something they wish to do for the deceased.

Pallbearer Etiquette

It is often a great honor to be asked to serve as a pallbearer in a burial, and in most cases, individuals should accept this role if asked.When unable to attend the service—whether ill or unable to travel—it may be possible to be an honorary pallbearer. In terms of how to dress, pallbearers will wear typical funeral attire—such as a dark suit and tie.

Options for Pallbearer Gifts

Providing a gift is a great way to say "thank you" and allow pallbearers to commemorate their own experience in the service. Some ideas for pallbearer gifts include:

Individuals may select a uniform photograph placed in a nice silver frame to give to all pallbearers, as a way for them to capture the memory of the deceased. If possible, some may choose to personalize each gift by providing each pallbearer with a unique framed photo that captures his or her relationship with the deceased.

Those who want to do something special for the pallbearers' service may choose to select a customized gift for each individual. Apart from photographs, these tokens of appreciation may include simple jewelry pieces, pressed flowers from the funeral or an inscribed memorial plaque. Somemay even choose to gift something of the deceased that correlates to his or her relationship with the pallbearer, such as a book ormusic album.

Although it is customary for pallbearers to send thank you notes to the surviving members of the family, those planning the funeral should also consider writing a message to honor the service of these individuals.

There is no standard for pallbearer gifts, but those who opt to provide them should make sure that the gesture is meaningful and honors the service—even if just a small token of gratitude.