Planning a funeral is never easy. When a loved one dies, it's an emotional time, and having to worry about proper etiquette on top of dealing with a loss can be overwhelming. Still, following proper etiquette can make the process a bit easier. If you are having a private funeral, sending funeral or memorial service invitations are a necessary part of the process.
It isn't clear when the practice of sending funeral invitations began, but it is known that in colonial America, the family of the deceased would send a pair of formal gloves to each person invited to the funeral. This was because gloves were expensive, and if a person did not have appropriate gloves to wear to a funeral, he or she might choose not to attend. If the budget was limited, only one glove might be sent, as a way to lessen the expense.
Never use the funeral invitations as a way to announce the death of a loved one. Always call close family members to let them know of the loss. Do the same when the funeral has been planned. Your family members deserve a phone call to let them know where and when the funeral will take place, rather than having to wait to find out when the invitation arrives in the mail. They may want to help with the planning anyway, so a phone call or in-person discussion is the best way to go. When you do send the invitations, include the people you called or told in person. Many people keep the invitations as a way to remember their loves ones, and some people may feel slighted if they do not receive an invitation, even if you did personally invite them.
What to Include
Keep it simple. You don't need to discuss the cause of death on the invitation, as this could cause emotional pain. Instead, simply list the date, time and location of the service, along with a brief statement from the family. If you wish, you may also include information about any gatherings held after the service, such as a graveside blessing. Conclude the invitation with RSVP information. Because planning a funeral is often an emotional process, you may wish to have guests RSVP to the funeral home or venue rather than to a member of the family.
If you wish for a family member to help out, such as by being a pallbearer, do not include that request with the invitation. Instead, call or ask in person. This is too important and sensitive a request to handle in writing.