Good Etiquette Guide for the Surviving Family – After the Funeral is Over

Acknowledgements (Thank You Notes)

See Sending Thank You Notes

Ashes (cremains, or cremated remains)

Etiquette demands the utmost respect for human remains. We also feel an obligation to respect the final wishes of our loved ones. That does not, however, mean it’s acceptable to break the law, and laws are quite strict regarding the disposal or scattering of human remains, including ashes.

  • You are likely to need permission or a permit to scatter your loved one’s ashes, and even if you decide they’re to grace your own garden, you will need to disclose this fact when you sell your home.
  • If you decide to keep the ashes indefinitely, it’s preferable to purchase a proper urn rather than keep them in the box supplied by the crematorium.
  • Consider purchasing more than one urn if other family members request a portion of your loved one’s ashes.


Whether or not you’ve requested donations to a cause “in lieu of flowers,” you may receive memorial arrangements, baskets, and planters.

  • Those received at your home may be kept at home or taken to the service or funeral home; those sent directly to the funeral home will be transported to the service by the funeral director, if it is held at another location.

What should you do with the floral arrangements after the service? You have several choices that are appropriate:

  • you may take them home;
  • leave them at the church;
  • distribute them among family members;
  • have the funeral director take them to the grave site and leave them there (they will be cleaned up later by the groundskeeper); or
  • contribute them to a hospital or retirement home, although any that go to these locations should not be obviously funeral-related (for example, a cross or a casket spray).

Be sure to take the cards that accompany any donated flower arrangements so you can thank the givers.

Monuments and Markers

It is customary to purchase a monument or marker to place on the grave site.

  • A marker can be purchased from most cemeteries or from specialty companies. Styles and prices vary, and the time needed to complete them can be days, weeks, or months.
  • Markers can be simple or highly personalized if desired; at the very least, they should list the name, date of birth, and date of death and express dignity and respect for the deceased.
  • The cemetery will inform you of its rules regarding markers.

For More Etiquette for the Bereaved:
Planning the Funeral
During the Funeral
Sending Thank You Notes

Contributor: Jenny Mertes


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