What are pallbearers?

A pallbearer is one of the people who helps to carry the coffin into the funeral service (and sometimes back into the hearse and on to a burial ground or crematorium).

At White Rose Modern Funerals, we can provide a team of professional pallbearers – or we can guide friends and relatives who wish to pallbear.

Funeral pallbearers

Family pallbearers – what you need to know

Having family and friends carrying the coffin is a final act of kindness that makes them feel more involved. People should not feel duty-bound to do this, only those who wish to do it should volunteer. An alternative to pallbearing is for immediate family to follow the coffin as it is carried into the service.

How many pallbearers are needed?

You can have either 4 or 6 people carrying the coffin – and this could be made up of a mix of family and professional pallbearers if needed. We always provide a detailed briefing to those wishing to carry and are on hand to assist at every step.

If the person who has died is of larger than average build or if a solid wood coffin has been chosen, there should be a minimum of 6 pallbearers. This includes any of the following coffin choices:

  • Ascot Solid Wood Coffin
  • Natural Grey Wicker Coffin
  • Water Hyacinth Coffin

Who is suitable for carrying a coffin?

Most men and women over the age of 16 are suitable to carry the coffin, as long as they are fit and able to bear the weight. Pallbearing is not suitable for anyone with any musculoskeletal problems where carrying weight is an issue (no back, neck, shoulder or knee injuries). Selecting pallbearers of a fairly similar height will make it easier.

What will happen on the day?

We will gather the pallbearers together for a briefing on what they need to do. These instructions will cover:

  • Taking the coffin out from the hearse (supporting the coffin in hand)
  • Carrying the coffin on the shoulder
  • Walking with the coffin (slow and steady, follow in step)
  • Placing the coffin on the catafalque / trestles
  • Lowering the coffin into a grave (for a burial funeral)
  • The route to be taken, including any turns or trip hazards

We will assess the height of the pallbearers – the tallest are always at the head end of the coffin and will be at the back as the coffin is taken in, with shorter bearers at the foot end (the front). We will always assist with lifting at each end when the coffin is placed on the shoulders.

Our funeral directing team will be on hand to reassure, guide and assist at every step.

Pallbearing tips

  • Keep the coffin close to your body at all times when carrying.
  • Listen out for instructions from the funeral director (e.g. “in hand” for supporting the coffin in your hands, “on the shoulder” for shouldering the coffin).
  • When the coffin has been placed onto trestles, the catafalque or lowered in to a grave, the pallbearers should bow their heads briefly as a mark of respect before joining the other mourners. The funeral director will normally signal this by saying “Thank you”.
  • There may be decorative handles on a coffin that are not weight-bearing, so always support the coffin weight from the base of the coffin.
  • For a burial funeral, bring black gloves for the lowering of the coffin, as the lowering straps can be uncomfortable to hold otherwise. Avoid letting the straps slip through your hands, you have more control if you lower the straps hand over hand. Do not gather the straps or wrap around your hands, let them lie loose on the ground behind you.
  • The coffin is always carried feet first, so if you are positioned at the head end you will be at the back of the coffin procession.
  • When shouldering the coffin (carrying on the shoulder) your arms can be quite relaxed as your shoulders will be supporting the coffin. If you wish, you can hold on to the coffin with one hand.
  • Try to keep in step with those in front of you, this will keep it smooth.
White Rose Modern Funerals team

We’re here to help

If you have any questions regarding arranging a funeral or planning ahead, please get in touch. Call us on 020 3281 1045 or send us a message.

Independent funeral director

helping families across London & Surrey

You can speak to us anytime on 020 3281 1045 – we’re open 24/7