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How to Choose a Pallbearer

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Serving as pallbearer is a position of honor. Here are tips on who to ask.

If you're planning a funeral and there'll be a casket present, one thing you'll need to plan for is pallbearers. These are the people who will carry the casket from the service location to the hearse and vice versa.

You'll want to put a little thought into who you ask to serve as pallbearers. It's a position of honor, similar to asking someone to do a reading or perform a song at the funeral. 

You will probably need to have six or eight pallbearers, depending on the casket's design. The funeral home can confirm for you how many pallbearers will be needed.

Here are some tips on who you might want to ask to be a pallbearer.

Pallbearers can be men or women

In the past, pallbearers were generally all men. Today, it's not uncommon for women to serve as pallbearers too. If there's a woman you'd like to honor and she seems like a good fit in other respects, it's absolutely appropriate to ask her to be a pallbearer.

Ask friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even family members

Opinions differ on whether family members should be asked to be pallbearers. Some people consider it a no-no, while others are fine with including family members. It's possible that immediate family members of the deceased, like siblings or children, may be grieving too deeply to be tasked with this job. They should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and you might decide not to ask them.

However, there may be cousins, nieces and nephews, or grandchildren who would be appropriate pallbearers. Or you can choose to stick with non-family members, such as close friends, neighbors, church members, friends from school or local clubs, coworkers, and so on.

Consider physical ability

Carrying a casket isn't an easy task. It's heavy, and there may be some people who you wish you can honor but who just may be too frail or have an illness, injury, or disability that prevents them from being able to pitch in. It's best to choose pallbearers who are reasonably hearty. If you do want to honor someone who may not be able to help carry, you can ask them to be an honorary pallbearer. They will accompany the casket without shouldering part of its weight. You can have multiple honorary pallbearers if you'd like.

Look for people with a calm demeanor

Pallbearers need to be able to handle their duties without giving in to intense grief — and without joking around or being irreverent. It's best to ask people who you believe will be good at keeping their emotions in check while they're doing their job.

Once you've decided on some people who you'd like to be pallbearers, you'll need to ask them if they're willing to do it. Be prepared for the possibility that some might feel surprised to be asked or express some self-doubt about being able to do it. If someone has concerns that they won't be physically able to do it, you could ask them to be an honorary pallbearer instead.

But if anyone seems very uncomfortable with the whole idea of being a pallbearer, it's probably best to thank them for their honesty and ask someone else.

After the funeral, you should write thank-you notes to the pallbearers as soon as you feel able.


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