For most people, funerals don’t come around very often. Most people only attend a handful in their lifetime, so there’s a lot of confusion around funeral etiquette. One of these questions is around tipping or who to pay at a funeral.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Who Do You Usually Tip at a Funeral?
- Who Do You NOT Tip or Pay at a Funeral?
- How to Tip at a Funeral or Memorial
- How to Say Thank You Without a Tip
While it’s understood that most of the funeral costs fall upon the family of the deceased or the estate, is it still appropriate to tip or pay? Who gets gratuity on these occasions, and who doesn’t?
To clear some of the misinformation around funeral gratuity, let’s answer this question once and for all. Who do you tip or pay at a funeral?
Tip: Figuring out funeral etiquette is just one task you might be facing for the very first time. If you've lost a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help you navigate the process.
Who Do You Usually Tip at a Funeral?
Though tips are rarely required, there are many occasions when it makes sense and is considered appropriate to tip. You’ll want to tip for exceptional service, and you’ll also want to tip as a way to say “thank you” to someone who went above and beyond.
If you’re a funeral gift, there are times when you should tip the family. If the family asks for donations for funeral expenses, you can assist them with these costs with a tip of any size.
It’s appropriate to send this prior to the service so they can put the money towards the venue, burial, food, or another expense. To tip the family, ask how they’d like to receive the funds. They might ask for a check, online transfer, or even cash.
Virtual funeral tip: If the family is using a service like GatheringUs to host an online or hybrid funeral, they may also have a memorial page set up. If so, the memorial page might feature a link for donations. If you don't see a link, and you're not sure how to donate, it's always best to reach out and ask the funeral host directly.
Funeral minister, clergy, or religious leader
If you use a minister, clergy member, or another religious leader to officiate the service, they don’t usually charge any fee. This is considered a service as part of the church or religious place of service, and many of these professionals do funerals out of their own care and concern.
While there isn’t usually a fee for this practice, it’s appropriate to leave a tip. Don’t feel pressured to pay more than you can afford. Anything from $50-$300+ is fair, and this money is usually given directly to the church or religious organization.
A funeral musician is anyone who performs at a funeral or graveside service. This could be someone hired by the funeral home, church, venue, or even a close family member. Some funeral musicians are volunteers who dedicate their passion for music for families in need.
Even if there is a fee for this service, it’s considered proper etiquette to pay gratuity. This is typically between 10-30% of their fee. Remember that even if the funeral musician is organized through a funeral home, they might not be an employee of this business.
The flowers at a funeral are a thoughtful, powerful touch that bring brightness to an otherwise gloomy space. Many of the flowers delivered to the funeral home are paid for by friends and family, but it's still customary to tip the delivery person a few dollars for their time.
If you’re hiring professional florists, it’s normal to tip between 10-30%, depending on the service. A lot goes into preparing, arranging, and delivering professional flowers, so it’s considerate to tip for this time and service.
Like most other types of food service, you should be prepared to tip the caterers. This gratuity should be around 15-25% of the total bill. This will be shared amongst the staff, especially if there are servers or delivery drivers.
Funeral procession drivers
Funeral procession drivers ensure the family and the casket arrive at the funeral service and graveside safely.
These are professionals, and it’s common to tip an additional 10-25% of the fare. Some limo or transportation services actually include this gratuity as part of the bill, so check what’s included in the cost before leaving an additional tip.
Who Do You NOT Tip or Pay at a Funeral?
A lot of families believe they have to tip everyone who helps with the funeral. While they might have kind intentions, this isn’t usually appropriate or necessary. Here’s who you shouldn’t tip or pay at a funeral.
The funeral director receives a fee directly from the funeral home. When you pay for the funeral service, you get a certain number of services included, such as the transportation, preparation of the body, and the funeral venue. All of this is included in your fee, and there is no need to tip the funeral director any extra.
However, it is nice to say “thank you” to your funeral director if they went above and beyond. These professionals are there in our darkest of days, and their skills ensure the day service runs smoothly. Gifting a thank you note, small gift, or online review goes a long way.
Funeral home staff
Similar to the funeral director, there’s no reason to tip or pay the funeral home staff any extra. These individuals are also paid from the bill you pay to the funeral home. If someone is exceptional with their service, it’s still very kind to say “thank you” in-person or with a note.
Keep in mind that some of the professionals who work with the funeral staff might not be employees of the funeral home. For example, they might work with a local florist. In this case, you might feel comfortable leaving a small gratuity for them individually (10-30%).
The pallbearers are those who carry the casket. These people are chosen as a sign of honor and respect, and the family typically chooses close friends and relatives. Because these are volunteers who are close to the family or the deceased, it’s not typical to tip.
If you need to hire pallbearers, however, a small tip might be appropriate. If the hired pallbearers are not a part of the funeral staff, tipping anywhere from $5-15 is fair for this service.
How to Tip at a Funeral or Memorial
If you choose to tip anyone at a funeral or memorial service, there are some best practices to follow. These are encouraged even outside of funerals to make things easier for everyone. Whether you mail or hand-deliver your tip, keep these tips in mind:
- Clean bills: Use crisp, clean bills. Never use bills that are torn, excessively dirty, or damaged. If possible, get new bills from your bank.
- Use an envelope: It’s not always appropriate to hand over money directly. Instead, place your cash inside a white envelope. Write the name of the individual or their role (musician, director, etc.) on the outside.
- Keep it brief: Avoid the urge to go overboard in person. A simple “thank you” is more than enough when handing your envelope to the individual.
- Thank you note: It’s always a good idea to include a personal thank you note whether you’re delivering the tip by hand, mail, or alongside the bill.
Remember that a fee is rarely necessary, but it’s always appreciated. Funeral professionals go to great lengths to make these difficult occasions a little bit easier. If someone impacted you with their service, let them know.
How to Say Thank You Without a Tip
Because a tip isn’t required, feel free to say “thank you” with another gift. There are so many ways to show support, and many of these are free or low-cost. Here are some appropriate ideas that might fit depending on the circumstance:
- Thank you card: A handwritten thank you note is always appreciated, and it gives you an opportunity to share why their work was so beneficial.
- Flowers: Flowers are also appropriate, though keep the bouquet simple.
- Online review: Many of these funeral professionals get their business through online reviews. Leaving a detailed, positive review matters more than you think.
- Baked goods: A small baked good like cookies, brownies, or muffins is a nice gesture to say thanks.
- Gift card: Lastly, a small gift card to a local coffee shop, restaurant, or food delivery service is an easy way to give back.
While tipping is usually welcome, it sometimes might not be in the budget. These other gifts are inexpensive, easy to find, and show that you really appreciated their service. “Thank yous” come in many shapes and sizes.
Know When to Tip at a Funeral
Planning a funeral is hard enough on its own. With so many costs to worry about, don’t let tipping get you confused. This simple guide above makes it simple to know when/if to tip your funeral service providers.
Remember that those who help with this important day are professionals. Any professional deserves respect, a thank you, and appreciation for their role on this day. However, that doesn’t necessarily need to come in the form of a tip. There are endless ways to let someone know you’re thankful for their service.