Being asked to be a pallbearer at someone’s funeral is a real honour. As a result, it is understandable that such a responsibility can fill those chosen with a great sense of apprehension.
What is a Pallbearer?
Traditionally, a pallbearer is associated as being one of a group of people chosen to carry the coffin of the loved one from the hearse into the church, crematorium or cemetery chapel.
While this is one of the most widely-recognised responsibilities of a pallbearer, it does not necessarily mean that all pallbearers will carry the coffin. Those chosen can be someone who escorts the coffin on its ceremonial journey, instead. Being a pallbearer, therefore, acts more as a symbol of your relationship to the deceased.
Carrying a Coffin
At a funeral service there are typically between four and six pallbearers selected to escort the coffin or casket throughout the funeral service. Together, they guide the deceased to and from the funeral venue.
It is important to remember that, when carrying a coffin or casket, the person inside is always carried feet first – the only exception is a vicar, who is carried head first to face their congregation. Coffins are carried feet first simply because of health and safety, rather than any kind of ceremonial tradition. An empty wooden coffin typically weighs around 20kg, with their design meaning they are top heavy. Carrying a coffin with the feet first helps keep it balanced and also means the deceased is being handled with great care. The funeral director will provide instructions on how to take the coffin.
The Funeral Service
Upon arrival at the funeral venue, pallbearers will be reassured and instructed by the funeral director as to what is required of you throughout the ceremony. This includes how to carry the coffin, where you will need to walk, and details of your position in relation to the other pallbearers.
During a traditional funeral ceremony, the pallbearers will proceed with the coffin down the church aisle, where mourners will acknowledge their respects. Once the service is over, the pallbearers will sometimes carry or guide the coffin or casket back to the hearse if the burial or cremation is happening elsewhere.
Ultimately, being selected to be a pallbearer is a great honour and a heartwarming reflection of your relationship with the deceased. It can be overwhelming for some, which is why the funeral director is there to help guide and support you through it.
If you would like to know more about our funeral director services, please contact us and we will be happy to advise and provide further details.