Victorian Era

Death and Mourning


As the saddest of all events, death, calls for the sympathy of relatives and friends, there are certain forms to be observed out of consideration for the mourners and respect for the occasion.

It is customary to intrust the details of the ceremony to some relative or near friend, who will proceed to make all the necessary arrangements, thus relieving the members of the family from many painful discussions and interviews. Should there be no one to attend to the matter, the whole arrangement should be placed in the hands of the undertaker.

The expenses should depend upon the position in life of the deceased person, or the means of the survivors. The arrangements for the funeral should be such as to show proper respect for the dead, rather than a pompous display, denoting vulgarity and ostentation; on the other hand, illiberality or meanness in expenditure is to be avoided.

If invitations are issued, the following form is customary, either written or printed on note paper, edged with black, the envelope to correspond: Yourself and family are respectfully requested to attend the funeral of MR. JOSEPH L. ELLIOTT, from the residence of his mother, Mrs. Mary Elliott, on Thursday 27th inst., at two o'clock. Interment at Greenwood. No. 27 AVE Oct. 24th.


The director of the ceremonies should have a list of the invited guests in the order in which they are to be placed in the carriages.

Should no invitations be issued, the notice in the newspapers should read "without further invitation." In this case no especial order is requisite for the placing of the guests, who simply follow in the carriages after the members of the family.


Guests should not present themselves at a funeral before the hour appointed, the family paying their last sad visit to the coffin previous to that hour, when all intrusion upon them is a breach of good manners.

The remains are usually exposed in the parlor, while the family congregate in another room. As the period approaches for the last visit, the undertaker will notify the family, who, after paying the last respects to the remains, will immediately return to the apartment from which they issued, remaining there until the close of the ceremony.

In case of the services being held in church, the remains are placed in front of the chancel, the lid removed, and the friends (at the end of the service) will pass from the feet to the head, up one aisle and down another.

Should the funeral take place at the house, it is proper that some relative not immediately connected with the family of the deceased should receive the guests and do the honors of the occasion.

As the ladies of the family are not expected to see the guests at such a time no one should take offence at being refused admittance to their privacy; in fact it is not customary to see the family before the funeral, but cards can be sent, and services offered by note. As to the gentlemen of the family, it is optional with them.

Ladies attending a funeral, if not in mourning, should dress in grave, quiet colors.

Gentlemen should remove their hats on entering the house and not replace them while there, and should conversation ensue, let it be in low grave tones; loud talking or laughing shows disrespect for the dead and slight consideration for the grieving family.

All quarrels or ill feeling between individuals meeting at a funeral should be forgotten, and all such, more especially in the presence of death, are bound by the common usage of society, if not by feeling, to salute each other with a quiet gravity.

The privilege of following the remains to the grave is denied the ladies of the house by strict etiquette.

After the services the clergyman leaves the house first and enters the carriage (which must be sent in time for him to be at the house at the appointed hour) preceding the hearse.

Then follow the remains; the next carnage is for the family and relations, and while the mourners are passing the visitors should uncover.

The undertaker must precede the family as they pass to their carriage, open the door, assist them in, then closing the door, motion to the driver to move forward, while the next carriage advances, and so on until all those guests who intend following the remains to the grave are seated.




The same order is to be observed at the church, where the undertaker or director of ceremonies assists the mourners to leave and re-enter the carriages, the visitors following after.

It is left for the family decision as to flowers: for children, pure white, and for adults, white and purple, ivy, pansies, etc.

When arrived at the cemetery the clergyman walks in advance of the coffin, while the guests assemble around the grave.

In returning from the funeral it is optional with the visitors as to returning to the house; each may direct the driver where to convey him.

Should the family physician attend the funeral he should be seated in the carnage immediately following that of the family.

The nearest friends of the deceased are designated as pall-bearers, should such arrangement be determined upon.


And for young people the pall-bearers should be such of their young friends as they most associated with while living.

People in deep mourning are not expected to pay visits of condolence, neither can they accept funeral or other invitations; but all those out of mourning should never hesitate in responding by their presence to an invitation of this kind.

In the purchase of the necessary mourning for the ladies of the family an intimate female friend or near relative is the proper person to attend to it, and for that of the gentlemen, a male friend or near relative.


Cards for the family should be left during the week following the funeral, and calls can be made on members of the same a fortnight later.

In the interval of the death and burial no female member of the family should leave the house upon any pretext whatever.


Should the deceased have belonged to a society, the members of such order should be invited through a note sent to the president of the order, who will arrange with the director of the ceremonies as to any special forms the said society or order would like to have observed, if agreeable, always, to the family, and should the notice of such death be published in the newspapers the name of the lodge, society, or other order to which the deceased may have belonged should be carefully specified.

It is not customary, neither is it proper, to send invitations to attend the funeral of one who has died of a contagious disease; a simple notice of the death, and the statement "funeral private," is all that is required, and will be readily understood.


When visiting a cemetery never stand and stare at mourners assembled in a lot, neither in any way notice those who may be decorating the graves of friends.

Dunbar's Complete Handbook of Etiquette, By M.O. Dunbar, 1884. From original text, may contain OCR errors.


Copyright © Angel.S 1997