Four Things You Need to Know If You are a Pallbearer or Honorary Pallbearer
The role of pallbearer or honorary pallbearer is both an honor and a great responsibility.
The duties primarily consist of helping to carry or accompany the casket throughout a traditional funeral or burial. Below, we have outlined what a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer is responsible for, as well as the etiquette attached to this important role.
1. Pallbearers are utilized in funerals or burials that include a casket.
Active pallbearers carry the coffin from one point to the next throughout the funeral service. Traditionally, there are six pallbearers to align with each of the six handles on the sides of the coffin. There are also handles in the front and back, so it is possible to have eight total pallbearers carrying the casket. The number needed depends on the size and heft of the coffin and its contents. Coffins alone generally weigh between 150-250 pounds and must be carried at waist height. Those chosen for this essential responsibility are often close to the departed or the bereaved family. Individuals who are unable to carry the coffin can still participate by walking alongside as the others carry it. This role is referred to as an honorary pallbearer.
2. They carry the casket during critical parts of the funeral service.
Every pallbearer should arrive early at the funeral home, as lateness could hold up the entire service. It is important to choose pallbearers who are dependable and have reliable transportation to get to the funeral home. The first key task for pallbearers is to lift the casket onto a church truck (a sturdy platform that holds the casket), which then retracts as the coffin is placed inside the hearse. The pallbearers then take a designated car or limousine that follows the hearse so that they and the casket arrive at the funeral site together. Once at the church, a religious leader may bless the casket. Then, the pallbearers carry the casket down the aisle to the front of the church, with the immediate family walking either ahead or behind the casket. At the service’s conclusion, pallbearers will again lift and carry the casket back to the hearse where it is driven to the burial site. Once at the burial site, the pallbearers lift the casket a final time and carry it to a platform at the burial site. At this stage, pallbearers have fulfilled their duties and may join the rest of the funeral attendees as guests.
3. Despite their vital role, pallbearers should not attract undue attention.
Pallbearer funeral attire is typically a dark suit or dress that matches or blends in with what other guests are wearing. It is also advisable to wear dark shoes that are both comfortable and sturdy. Being a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer requires standing for long periods of time. It also entails walking on hard surfaces, such as the sidewalk, as well as on softer and uneven surfaces, such as the ground at the gravesite.
4. Being a pallbearer is not a task to be taken lightly.
If you are considering asking someone to be a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer, or if you have been asked to be one, take time to think it over. Not everyone is suited to the task. If you are making the request, inquire if the potential pallbearer has any concerns about their ability to fulfill their assigned duties. The more open the conversation is from the start, the more smoothly the funeral services will go.
If you have additional questions about what a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer does, or if you need help determining who to ask, please contact our compassionate professionals. It is always our pleasure to assist you.
About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. With two convenient locations serving North and West Philadelphia, it is always our pleasure to be of service. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, repast, and grief counseling services, please visit batchelorbrothers.com.