A Guide to being a Pallbearer

How to Choose A Pallbearer for the funeral

Popular in some cultures and often witnessed in films and television programmes is the act of a pallbearer.


We see this procedure carried out on Irish American police processions, where several people, six to eight carry a coffin or a casket on their shoulders.


It is a ceremonial process and one of high honour if you are chosen to be a Pallbearer. The task is usually begun when the coffin first leaves the hearse and is carried into the Church or towards the final resting place. 

It may form part of leading others into the Church or people may be standing inside and witness the casket being carried in for the start of the funeral.

What Does Pall Mean In Pallbearer? 


Not all coffins or caskets have these. A Pall is a heavy cloth which can be draped across the top of a coffin.

  • There are certain funerals which require all the procedures and where no expense will be spared for a royal send off.
  • In London that might be the use of a a horse drawn hearse and funeral coach in keeping with local traditions.
  • In other parts of the country a long funeral procession of cars from a Church service to a Cemetery​.

Another way is the use of Pallbearer but who to choose?

Rarely does a person plan their funeral so meticulously that the person who has passed, requests certain people to carry them but it can happen. In some families there might already be an order in place.


  • For most however it will be up to the bereaved and closest family members to choose.

  • They need not all be relatives, close friends are often given the responsibility.

  • The Pallbearers do not need to be all men either.

  • Women can be selected too, as long as the weight of their share of the coffin can be carried or they are capable of bearing the weight.

  • Height need not be too much of an issue. While the people will be paired to match heights, if height is an issue you can always make the person an honorary Pallbearer instead.
  • Select people who were closest, Brothers, Father, Uncle, Sons.
  • They can be of any age as long as strong and tall enough to cater for the weight they will carry.
  • Not just physically but emotionally too.

Not all Pallbearing duties need the coffin to be carried aloft, some will use handles and carried at waist height and during other services, a trolley might be utilised.


If you don’t think you will have enough people to form a team of six or eight, you can always use the services of the Funeral Director, Cemetery or Church.


They can supply individual Pallbearers or all to provide a professional feel. This will probably come at extra cost however.

How To Be A Pallbearer And Best Practice

  • Usually the most concerning aspect of attending a funeral is ensuring you dress appropriately and look smart.
  • Being a Pallbearer might require you to think of a few additional items and prepare differently.
  • The shoes you wear will be important, ensure you are comfortable walking in them, tripping would not be welcome.
  • Because you will be lifting a coffin above your head, perhaps ensure your jacket and shirt is loose enough to accommodate the stretch of arms being held up high.
  • It may be a good idea not to drink too much beforehand, be relaxed and try to focus.
  • Be attentive to any directions offered by the lead Pallbearer or Funeral Director and turn up for any rehearsal to ensure you are a part of the team and all have confidence in you.
  • Perhaps empty contents of your pocket, leaving mobile phone and keys and coins in the car so you don't create additional jingles.

Deciding Not To Be A Pallbearer Or Accepting Honorary Title

Taking on the role of a Pallbearer will not be for everyone, some people do not consider the emotional effect of being a part of that process.


The weight of the coffin and silly realisation that there is a body and someone you cared for in the coffin can actually be a shock.


If you are asked to be a Pallbearer you do not need to take the position on, nor will the person asking feel offended.

Simply explain your reason why. If you are arranging the Pallbearer team, you could instead off an honorary Pallbearer position so all feel at ease with the decision.