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How Many Pallbearers are Needed at a Funeral?

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Pallbearers play an essential role at funeral services. But there are often questions about how to pick pallbearers and what to expect if you’re chosen for this important role. You might also be wondering, “how many pallbearers do you need for a funeral?”  

Pallbearers carrying a coffin

Below, our guide explains some of the main aspects of what pallbearers do – and how many will be needed for a funeral.  

What do pallbearers do at a funeral? 

A pallbearer is an individual that carries the coffin during a funeral service. They typically take the coffin from the hearse to the service in both civil and religious ceremonies. If the deceased is buried, the pallbearers also carry the coffin to the graveside.  

This role is extremely important during a funeral and is seen as an honour and mark of respect for the deceased. People that can’t physically carry the coffin are also welcome to be pallbearers. However, this role is usually referred to as a guard of honour.  

How many pallbearers are needed at a funeral? 

Usually, there are four or six pallbearers that carry the coffin at a funeral. You can choose your own pallbearers for this role. However, your Bristol funeral directors can also arrange a professional service if required. If you have pallbearers that would like to carry the coffin, the funeral director may offer additional individuals to help alongside them.  

How are pallbearers chosen? 

Choosing who to be a pallbearer is a family choice. It can be anyone close to the deceased. However, it does not have to be immediate family. For example, if the deceased is being carried into the funeral service, pallbearers of similar heights are often used to balance out the weight of the coffin. But, if the coffin is being wheeled in via a bier, anyone can escort it to the place of rest.  

Are pallbearers always male? 

Traditionally, pallbearers were male, and this is still the case at many funerals. However, you can select anyone to be a pallbearer, regardless of their gender. 

What to expect if you’re a pallbearer 

If you’ve been asked to be a pallbearer, you may wonder what happens at the funeral. Carrying or escorting the coffin from the hearse is an integral part of the service. However, don’t worry too much about what you need to do before the day. 

The funeral director is on hand to guide pallbearers and will demonstrate how to carry the coffin. They will also tell you where you need to walk and where you’ll be positioned in relation to other pallbearers. Depending on the type of service, you may also be guided on the pace of your walk and how to lay the coffin once you get to its resting stand. In some cases, pallbearers may need to carry the coffin back to the hearse for burial or cremation elsewhere.  

Once a pallbearer has carried out this role, family members often leave space so they can return to the congregation quickly.   

Whether you decide to accept the role of a pallbearer is your personal choice. However, if you are concerned about the physical capabilities required for carrying the coffin, your funeral director can advise on how this will work. For example, if the coffin is being held, an honorary pallbearer role may be suitable. 

Read more: What Questions Will a Funeral Director Ask?

Arranging pallbearers with your funeral director  

As independent funeral directors in Bristol, we can help you to arrange pallbearers for your loved one’s funeral. We can also assist if you would like to include family or friends in this important role.  

If you have any questions about pallbearers or other roles within a funeral service, you can get in touch with our caring and experienced team, who will be happy to answer your questions. 

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