What is a pallbearer? – Open prepaid funerals

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What is a pallbearer?

Being asked to be a pallbearer at a funeral can be a very daunting experience, as it is hard to imagine carrying the casket of your loved one. However, being a pallbearer is considered a great honour, as asking someone to be a pallbearer usually means an awful lot to the deceased’s family. So, what exactly is a pallbearer, and what does it involve?

Pallbearer meaning

A pallbearer is responsible for carrying the coffin or casket to its final place of rest. In a cremation, the casket or coffin is carefully placed onto the catafalque of the crematorium. Whereas, in a burial service, pallbearers tend to carry the casket to the place of worship, or an alternate place of service. In this instance, the casket lays on wooden trestles at the front of the service.

What is expected of a pallbearer?

When being asked to be a pallbearer, there are a few responsibilities that are expected of you:

  • Arrive before the funeral starts: this is so the funeral director can explain your duties and advise you on how to carry the coffin.
  • Walk steadily with the casket or coffin: it is important to carry the coffin in an honorable manner, so that people can pay their respects. Ideally, you will walk at a steady pace in time with the other pallbearers. Your body language should also reflect dignity, keeping your head held high and looking forward.
  • Wear smart attire: most likely, you will be wearing black. However, some families prefer an alternate dress code, be sure to double check what is required of you. The pallbearers also may be asked to wear gloves on occasion, but not always – however, these would typically be provided by the funeral director.
  • Carry the casket on your shoulders: traditionally, pallbearers carry the coffin on their shoulders. Though, in modern times, coffins can be carried in many ways. For instance, it may be held at waist height or on a wheeled bier. This will be discussed with you before the funeral begins by the funeral director.

How to carry a coffin

When becoming a pallbearer, there are many things to take into consideration. For instance, you will need to think about the height of the people carrying the casket as, ideally, they will be of similar height. Traditionally, four to six pallbearers are chosen for the funeral, however this can be dependent on the weight of the coffin. It is also important to consider the distance the coffin will be travelling - if there is a long way between destinations, the family could consider carrying the coffin on a wheel bier to ease the weight.

A wheel bier is a wheeled stand that is placed in front of the funeral service. Using a bier means that pallbearers can hold the coffin by the handles at the side, rather than their shoulders.

COVID regulations and pallbearing

During the height of the pandemic, pallbearers were not allowed, as they didn’t comply with social distancing measures. However, now that the restrictions are lifted funerals can resume as normal. Restrictions are now mainly dependent on the venue where the funeral is held. Learn more about planning a funeral in a pandemic from our guide.

Choosing to be a pallbearer

As pallbearing can be an intimidating responsibility, it’s important to remember that it is an option, not a mandatory requirement. If you do not feel physically or emotionally capable of carrying out this duty, then you don’t have to. Alternatively, you could be made an honorary pallbearer – which means you are acknowledged as being an important part of the funeral, however, you do not have to physically carry the coffin. Instead, you may follow the coffin in the funeral procession.

Where do pallbearers sit at a funeral?

Usually, the pallbearers will sit together in the front row of the service, as most of the time pallbearers are close friends or family. As the pallbearers will have to carry the casket out of the service, this is another reason why it’s more convenient if they sit close.

Do pallbearers ride in the hearse?

No, the hearse typically leads the procession and contains the coffin. Sometimes, pallbearers will ride in a limousine within the procession. However, this decision is made by the deceased’s family.

We hope this article answers any questions you may have about pallbearing. For any other funeral-related questions, then do not hesitate to get in touch. Here at Open Prepaid funerals, we work to alleviate the emotional and financial stress of funeral preparation by providing funeral plans. Get in touch to speak to one of our specialist funeral directors today.

  • Posted 1st November 2021
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