Where to Sit at a Funeral or Memorial Service

The question of where to sit at a funeral or memorial service can feel overwhelming when walking into a chapel or event space, but it’s wise to remember that where you sit at a funeral or memorial service is less critical than you may imagine. What’s most important is your presence, and letting the family and close friends of the person who died know that you are there to support them. Everyone attending the service is there as a united group, to grieve and console together. In general, though, deciding where to sit at a funeral or memorial service depends on the size of the venue, the number of people in attendance, and your relationship to the person who died and the bereaved.

Choosing a seat

It’s common to feel a certain level of nervousness when deciding where to sit at a funeral or memorial service: many people worry that sitting too close to the family will imply too much intimacy, while other worry that sitting too far away will convey a sense of remoteness or make the family feel isolated. Remember that the most important issue regarding seating at a funeral or memorial service is that family members and close friends have a place to sit in the front and don’t have to argue or negotiate for a seat. At the same time, those sitting in the front should not be surrounded by empty seats.

It’s often best to take a seat close to the front, and, if someone is looking for a seat and you are able to move, you might consider asking if he or she would like your seat. Not only is this considerate, it can also unite strangers that share in the loss, and bring a calming force to a room where tension can be abundant.

General seating rules

For the most part, the first few rows of seating are designated for family only, with immediate family (and spouses or significant others) sitting in the very first row and extended family members sitting behind them. Other than these general seat arrangements, there are no other rules in terms of where to sit at a funeral or memorial service. If the room or venue is very large you might want to sit closer to the front to help create a more intimate feeling in the space. If there are many people in attendance and there isn’t enough seating you should feel comfortable standing in the back or against a wall, or taking any available seat.

It's easy to forget that oftentimes one's loving presence, from anywhere in the room, is all that matters. Then again, if you are close to someone who is intensely grieving, who may be having a harder time than others, if there is room and an easy way to get to them without interrupting the ceremony, it is often a good idea to move to them and offer your support. A friend to cry on can be a deeply reassuring presence.

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