How to be a pallbearer
It can be a great honour to be asked to be a pallbearer at a funeral, so this guide will let you understand what is involved.
If you are organising a funeral, one of the decisions you will need to make is whether members of the family or close friends act as pallbearers. If this isn't possible, your funeral director will be able to provide their own. You may not have been a pallbearer before, so this guide will help you know what to expect on the day of the funeral.
What are my duties as a pallbearer?
You will be responsible for carrying the coffin from the hearse into the crematorium, into a church or chapel and then to a graveside if there is a burial service. It is typical for between four and six pallbearers to do this and can be dependant upon the weight of the coffin.
What should I expect as a pallbearer
Being asked to be a pallbearer is a huge honour, but it can also be quite nerve wracking. It will mean a lot to the family of the person that has died if they ask you to be a pallbearer and you accept.
You can expect to be asked to carry the coffin during the start of the service, and for a further time if a burial service. It is common for the coffin to be carried on the pallbearers shoulders or at waist height. Another alternative is to use a wheel bier which is a small trolley. If you do not feel comfortable carrying the coffin on your shoulders you should make the family or funeral director aware.
The funeral director will usually give instructions on how to remove the coffin from the hearse and lift it up.
What are pallbearers responsibilities during a cremation?
Usually, at a cremation, the pallbearers will be asked to carry the coffin from the hearse into the crematorium. The coffin is then placed on the catafalque where it remains until the service has finished.
What are pallbearers responsibilities during a burial?
A burial would usually involve a funeral service beforehand at a place of worship, such as a church, chapel or other building that is suitable. As with a cremation service, the pallbearers would be expected to carry the coffin from the hearse into the chapel and place it on wooden trestles.
Once the funeral service has taken place, the pallbearers will carry the coffin back out of the chapel and place into the hearse, ahead of going to the cemetery.
At the cemetery, the pallbearers will again remove the coffin from the hearse, carry the coffin to the grave and place it on wooden struts situated at the side of the grave. Once the lowering straps have been placed through the coffin handles, the coffin will be moved to over the grave and placed on two further wooden struts. The funeral director will request that the coffin is lifted slightly to allow them to remove the wooden struts and then the pallbearers will lower the coffin into the grave.
Are pallbearers always male?
The pallbearers don't always have to be male, if you would like to include female pallbearers that is perfectly acceptable.
Tips for being a pallbearer
- Carry the coffin with dignity and respect
- Carefully follow the funeral director’s instructions
- Wear smart and appropriate attire
- Walk slowly and steadily
- Arrive at the funeral slightly early
- Behave in a respectful manner
- Avoid talking loudly or laughing