Everything You Wanted to Know About Pallbearers but Were Afraid to Ask

Carrying the casket during a funeral as a pallbearer is not only a great honor but a tradition that dates back centuries. This is a big responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly.

If you have been asked to be a pallbearer, it is an honor and a privilege. You have been asked to accompany a dearly loved person to their final resting place, which means the family trusts and values you. This is your opportunity to help the family of the deceased in their time of need.

The tradition of pallbearing dates back to ancient times when family and friends would carry the deceased on their shoulders to burial. In Roman times, a soldier wore a cape or cloak called the pallium. In medieval times the term pallium was shortened to pall, and Christians would use a pall to cover their loved ones when burying them. Thus, the term pallbearer is used to signify someone who “bears” the coffin which the pall covers. Today, anyone who was close to the deceased can serve as a pallbearer.

What does a Pallbearer do?

So, what does a pallbearer do, exactly? In nutshell, pallbearers carry the casket. Pallbearers are typically responsible for carrying the casket from the hearse to the grave site.

Depending on the family’s choices and religious background, this could mean:

  • Carrying in and out of the church
  • Taking out of the church only (to the funeral car)
  • Carrying to the graveside
  • A combination of the above

They may also be responsible for carrying the casket during funeral processions and other parts of the service. In some cases, pallbearers may be asked to wear a special badge or ribbon to signify their role.

Pallbearers typically consist of family members and close friends of the deceased. In some cases, Honorary Pallbearers may also be included. These are people who were not as close to the individual but still played an important role in their life, such as a teacher or mentors.

Depending on tradition or preference, the casket is either carried at the waist or hoisted to the shoulder. Both men and women can perform this meaningful responsibility as they accompany a person to their final resting place.

How Many Pallbearers Do You Need?

The number of pallbearers you will need will depend on the size and weight of the casket. A heavy casket will require more pallbearers than a lightweight one. For example, a standard metal casket typically requires six pallbearers, while a larger, heavier casket may require eight. A good rule of thumb is to have one pallbearer for every 25 pounds of weight. For example, if the casket weighs 200 pounds, you will need at least eight pallbearers.

Standard caskets usually weigh 160 to 220 lbs, depending on the material. They can carry a body that weighs up to 300 lbs (136 kg). Oversized caskets typically weigh 220 to 280 lbs (100 to 113 kg) and have a weight capacity of around 500 lbs.

If you are unsure how many pallbearers to ask, your funeral director will be able to advise you.

Can women be Pallbearers?

Traditionally, pallbearers have been men. However, in recent years more women are serving as pallbearers. There is no hard and fast rule about who can and cannot be a pallbearer. Ultimately, it is up to the family to decide who they would like to ask.

How do you invite someone to be a Pallbearer?

If you are asking a close friend or family member to be a pallbearer, it is best to do so in person. This will give them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have and also gives you the chance to gauge their reaction.

When asking someone to be a pallbearer, it is important to be sensitive to their feelings. Some people may feel honored by the request while others may feel overwhelmed or even resentful. It is important to remember that being a pallbearer is not a requirement and that people should only agree if they feel comfortable doing so.

If you are unsure how someone will react, you may want to ask them beforehand if they would be interested in serving as a pallbearer. This will give them the opportunity to decline without feeling pressured.

How do you uninvite a Pallbearer?

There may come a time when you need to uninvite a pallbearer. Perhaps someone has had a falling out with the family or there are unforeseen circumstances that prevent them from being able to attend the funeral.

If possible, it is best to ask the person to step down as a pallbearer in person. This will give them the opportunity to ask any questions and also allows you to gauge their reaction. If you are unable to do this, you can always send them a letter or email explaining your decision.

It is important to be respectful when asking someone to step down as a pallbearer. Remember that this is not an easy task and that people should only agree if they feel comfortable doing so.

What if I don’t want to be a Pallbearer?

If you have been asked to be a pallbearer but do not feel comfortable performing this role, it is perfectly acceptable to decline. There is no shame in admitting that carrying a casket is not something you feel comfortable doing. If you decline, simply thank the family for asking and express your condolences.

What if you are shorthanded a Pallbearer during the service?

If you find yourself shorthanded a pallbearer during the service, there are a few things you can do. First, see if there are any other family members or friends who would be willing to step in and help. If not, your funeral director or the staff at the funeral home should be able to assist you.

Carrying a casket is a big responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. If you have any questions or concerns about being a pallbearer, be sure to speak with your funeral director. They will be able to put your mind at ease and help make the process as smooth as possible.

What should Pallbearers wear?

Pallbearers should dress in dark, formal clothing. This can be a suit, dress, or another similar outfit. It is important to avoid brightly colored clothing as this can be seen as disrespectful.

If you have any questions about what to wear, your funeral director will be able to advise you. They will also be able to provide you with any other information you may need about being a pallbearer.

What about a military funeral?

If you are attending a military funeral, there may be different rules about what to wear and how many pallbearers are needed. Your funeral director will be able to advise you on this.

Military funerals are a time to honor the life of a fallen soldier. If you have the honor of being a pallbearer, it is important to remember that you are representing the deceased and their family. This is an important responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly.

Find out more about Pallbearing and funeral planning

If you would like to learn more about being a pallbearer or funeral planning, there are a few resources for you. Your funeral director will be able to provide you with information and answer any questions you may have. Here are some resources to help: