When planning a funeral, you will be faced with many decisions you need to make. One of those decisions revolves around deciding who will carry the casket if there is one.  If there is not a casket (i.e. the deceased has already been buried or cremated), you may want to choose individuals to act as honorary pallbearers.

Whether you are choosing pallbearers, or have been chosen to act as a pallbearer, you need to understand exactly what is involved.  It is position that carries both great honor and responsibility.

When are Pallbearers Appropriate

If there will be an open casket at the funeral, the casket will already be set up at the venue by the staff.  If the casket will be closed, then it is traditional to have pallbearers bring the casket into the venue from the hearse and later, after the service, take the casket back out to the hearse.  If a cemetery burial is planned following the service, the pallbearers can carry or accompany the casket from the hearse to the gravesite.

Who Can be a Pallbearer

Men and women can both be pallbearers and they are typically either family members or close friends.  Common choices include siblings, grown children, grown grandchildren, nieces, nephews, close friends, and colleagues.  However, anyone can serve as a pallbearer.  The pallbearers you chose can have other roles in the service such as giving a reading or their sole role may that of pallbearer.  There are traditionally three pallbearers on each side of the casket, meaning that you need to choose a total of six pallbearers.

How to Choose Pallbearers

Most individuals consider being chosen to be a pallbearer as an honor.  Choose those individuals who you would like to honor in this manner, or who you believe the deceased would like you to honor. If the pallbearers will be carrying the casket, keep in mind that the casket is heavy.  Therefore, the pallbearers will need to be physically able to handle the task of carrying the casket.  You also want to choose individuals who are emotionally able to handle the task.  Funerals are emotional events and not everyone deals with those emotions in the same manner.

Talk with those individuals you are considering choosing to act as pallbearers. Make sure they have no concerns or reasons why they would not be able to accept the honor.  You do not want to put them on the spot of having to decline the offer of being a pallbearer.  This is uncomfortable for both individuals involved, and can create unnecessary feelings of hurt, disappointment, or misunderstanding.

Honorary Pallbearers

In today’s society when cremations are becoming more common and there is no casket at the funeral, pallbearers are technically not required.  However, many still want to honor individuals close to the deceased by naming them as honorary pallbearers.  These individuals are then typically listed in the program.

Tips for Those Chosen to Act as a Pallbearer

  • Understand that it is an honor to be chosen for the position.Treat it with the respect and dignity it deserves.
  • Arrive at the funeral at the requested time.
  • Dress conservatively.This requirement is changing so ask the family to see if they would like you to wear the traditional dark suit.
  • Listen and carefully follow the instructions from the funeral director and staff.
  • Usually there is a special spot for pallbearers to sit during the funeral.Try to sit with the group, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
  • Support the family of the deceased.Stay after the funeral to talk to them and tell them just what the deceased meant to you and the difference he or she made in your life.


Remember, this day is for the family of the deceased, and is not about you.  Put the family first and provide them with any support and comfort you can to help them through this emotionally trying experience.