Pallbearers are a customary part of the traditional funeral services of many different faiths. If you are making detailed arrangements for your funeral, as part of a prepaid funeral plan, it is important to consider who is most capable of performing the duties of a pallbearer for your funeral service. Leaving a shortlist of people who you’d most like to accompany your coffin and remains during your funeral adds meaning to your send-off.
Shouldering the responsibilities of a pallbearer can be regarded as an honour for those asked to perform the duty, as your friends and family bid you a final farewell.
Their role throughout your funeral is to protect your coffin and deliver you safely through each stage of your funeral arrangements to your final resting place.
In cases of cremation, your pallbearers may only be needed to carry, or simply accompany, your coffin from your hearse to the front of the crematorium.
If you prefer to be buried, they may be required to carry your coffin from the funeral home to your hearse, from your hearse to the church and then from the church to your hearse once your funeral service is over, before a last leg is walked from the hearse to your burial plot.
Choosing who will be your pallbearers can be a challenging process as all of your pallbearers must possess a certain set of attributes to do the job.
There are several things you will need to take into consideration when selecting the best people to nominate as pallbearers in your funeral plan.
How many pallbearers should I put in my funeral plan?
Traditionally, there can be anywhere between four and eight pallbearers at a funeral.
There are typically two elements which determine how many pallbearers you should choose to put in your funeral plan.
The first consideration is regarding the number of handles that will be on your coffin.
Most coffins are made with six or eight brass handles, depending on the size of the box. Typically a pallbearer is assigned to each handle.
The next thing to assess is the final weight of your coffin.
Naturally, a larger coffin is required for a larger person and generates more weight to be carried on the day of your funeral.
In such cases six or eight pallbearers is recommended, whereas only four may be required for a lighter load.
Who should I nominate as a pallbearer in my funeral plan?
Pallbearers are often chosen by the deceased when planning their end of life arrangements.
Prepaid funeral plans offer an ideal opportunity to nominate individuals to perform the role of your pallbearers.
Men, women and non-binary individuals can be pallbearers at any funeral service of any faith.
Pallbearers are usually close family members and friends who are over the age of 16 and who cared deeply about the deceased.
However, neighbours, business associates, teammates and even close friends of your family members may all perform the role.
If you wish your coffin to be carried at shoulder height, selecting people of similar stature will make your coffin easier to carry.
The distance that your coffin will be carried should determine how physically fit your pallbearers should be.
And while they must be strong enough to bear the weight of your coffin, they must also be sufficiently steady on their feet to traverse uneven ground if you plan to be buried.
Pallbearers must also be able to bear the emotional weight of the job as well. For some, their grief may make it too difficult to accompany your coffin.
You should consider the emotional maturity and stability too of those persons you identify in your funeral plan to perform pallbearer duties.
They should be comfortable with loss, funerals and large crowds to complete the tasks involved.
On a practical level, they should be good listeners and capable of taking and carrying out your funeral director’s detailed instructions at various moments during your funeral.
What pallbearer duties should I put in my funeral plan?
Pallbearers’ duties can be extensive, or restricted to a few short steps in accompanying your coffin.
Your funeral director is responsible for directing your pallbearers, according to your funeral plan.
That may mean that your funeral director asks them to meet at your designated funeral home, or chapel of rest, to help with lifting your coffin into your hearse.
Once your coffin is safely in the hearse, they may join the funeral procession on foot or in a limousine behind it.
Pallbearers meet your coffin at the church or crematorium of your choice, and wait facing forward in silence at the back of the hearse, before carrying or accompany your coffin inside.
When prompted by your funeral director, they bow to your coffin before taking their seats for your funeral service.
In the case of your cremation, your pallbearers’ duties will largely be complete at this point.
When a burial is required, your pallbearers will carry your coffin from the church into the hearse.
At your burial plot, they will lift your coffin out of the hearse again and deliver it to your graveside.
There, it is fitted with straps and lowered into the ground by the church’s grounds staff or, more commonly these days, placed on a machine that lowers it into the ground.
At your graveside, the role of the pallbearer is to console your family and friends.
In addition to nominating your pallbearers in your funeral plan with Rest Assured Funeral Plans you may also wish to stipulate that your pallbearers observe some specific traditions.
- To be punctual or early in the role as pallbearer
- To wear smart, modest and dark clothing
- To observe your funeral director’s instructions
- To accompany you with dignity, grace and respect
- To offer emotional support to others attending your funeral
Do I have to include pallbearers in my funeral plan?
Although pallbearers are common at funerals, there are cases where they are not needed.
Some people wish to skip the tradition entirely. In those cases equipment known as a wheel bier can be used to transfer your coffin into the church or crematorium. Pallbearers are not necessary when this method of transport is used.
If you choose a direct cremation in conjunction with a ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony, you may not need pallbearers.
If you prefer your funeral director to appoint pallbearers that can also be arranged through a funeral plan.
Alternatively, an honorary pallbearer can be appointed to simply accompany your coffin without carrying it. Honorary pallbearers walk alongside a coffin and are appropriate when:
- They aren’t physically, mentally or emotionally capable of carrying a coffin
- There is a height differential between the appointed pallbearers
- A cremation has taken place and ashes are to be scattered from an urn
- The coffin is carried on a wheel bier rather than on shoulders or at waist height
Did You Know?
The term pallbearer comes from the word pall, which is a weighted cloth first used to cover coffins in the Middle Ages.
When individuals were asked to secure all four corners of the pall, as others lifted the coffin, they were considered to be “bearing the pall.” Hence, they became pallbearers.
For more information about funeral plans and how we ensure every customer is happy with the funeral plan they buy, please contact Rest Assured Plans on 0800 065 4514