Understanding the Role of Pallbearers in Funeral Services

Written by Fraser Stewart
Reading time 3 minutes
Understanding the Role of Pallbearers in Funeral Services image

Pallbearers play an important role in traditional funeral services. They are responsible for physically carrying the casket during the funeral procession and may also be involved in transporting it from the funeral venue to the hearse and from the hearse to the gravesite. The selection of pallbearers is a way to honour and remember the deceased and to offer support and comfort to their family and loved ones.

Introduction to Pallbearers

Pallbearers are chosen to carry a casket during a funeral or burial service physically. They are typically present when there is an open or closed casket at the service. They may also be involved in transporting the casket from the funeral venue to the hearse and from the hearse to the gravesite. Pallbearers are an important part of a traditional funeral and symbolise respect and support for the deceased and their family.

When are pallbearers appropriate?

Pallbearers are only appropriate if a casket is present for the service. This means they are usually not part of a memorial service, a ceremony without a casket present. If you plan on having an open casket at your funeral, the casket will already be set up at the funeral venue by the funeral home staff. If there will be a closed casket at the funeral, it is traditional to have pallbearers bring it into the venue and remove it from the space to a hearse after the service. If there will be a cemetery burial after the service, the pallbearers can again carry or escort the casket from the hearse to the gravesite.

Who should be a pallbearer?

Anyone can be a pallbearer, but they are often either family members or close friends of the deceased. Siblings, adult children, grown grandchildren, nieces and nephews, close friends, and colleagues are all common choices for pallbearers. However, anyone can serve as a pallbearer. Your pallbearers can be the same people you’ve chosen to participate in the service in other ways (such as people delivering eulogies or readings), or you can select people who are important to you but who will not be speaking at the service.

It is traditional to have six pallbearers at a funeral, as there are usually six handles on a casket (three on each side). However, some caskets may have two handles on the front and back sides, allowing eight pallbearers. It is important to consider who can carry the weight of the casket when choosing pallbearers physically. If you’d like to select someone to be a pallbearer and don’t believe they can physically carry the casket, consider making that person an “honorary pallbearer” (explained below).

Choosing pallbearers

Being a pallbearer is often seen as an honour. When choosing your pallbearers, think about whom you’d like to have this honour, but also consider who might not have the emotional wherewithal at the funeral for this job. It is important to talk to the people you’re considering as pallbearers to let them know that you’d like them to participate. You might want to explain what the role entails and why you’re asking the person to participate in this way. If a person has concerns about their ability to perform the function, you can address them.

You might also consider talking to your family about the people you’d like to serve as pallbearers. By letting your family know whom you’d like to have as pallbearers at your funeral, they can more easily follow your wishes. In addition, by making these decisions for your family, you can relieve any stress they may have had about choosing people to serve as pallbearers.

Alternative participation: Honorary pallbearers

If any people whom you would like to have as pallbearers are not physically capable of carrying the weight of a casket, those people can be made “honorary pallbearers” and can walk in front of, beside, or behind the casket. There is no limit to the number of honorary pallbearers you can have at your funeral.

Honorary pallbearers are a way to include people who are important to you in the funeral procession but who may not be able to carry the casket physically. This could be due to age, physical limitations, or simply a desire to participate differently. Honorary pallbearers may walk alongside the casket as traditional pallbearers carry it or walk in front of or behind it.

If you would like to include honorary pallbearers in your funeral, it is important to let them know in advance and explain the role that they will be playing. Also, discuss any specific instructions or preferences you have for their participation. It is also a good idea to coordinate with the funeral director to ensure a clear plan for the honorary pallbearers to follow during the service.

In summary

Pallbearers are an important part of a traditional funeral service and serve as a visible symbol of respect and support for the deceased and their family. It is important to carefully consider who will serve as pallbearers and to communicate with them about their role in the funeral process. If necessary, honorary pallbearers can also be included to honour and remember the deceased and offer support to the family while allowing alternative participation in the funeral procession.

Additional Resources

Our features

Powerful features to help you organise your life

Learn More
About us

We are here to make life planning simpler

Learn More