Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Obituary /Pall Bearer Etiquette


I recently lost my Uncle, my Mother's only brother. He was preceded in death by my Mother, to whom there was no mention. My siblings and I are devastated there was no mention of our Mother. My Grandparents only had three children and they were close. I'm a well grounded person and have always been close to my cousins. My Mother was a single parent and my Uncle was our Father figure. My cousin that handled the arrangements lived with me for several months last year while going through a divorce, during the time she was unemployed and my Husband and I welcomed her with open arms. I love my cousin dearly. I've felt like we can talk about anything. Now I'm at a loss for words. I'm not sure if this was an over-site while grieving. She also did not choose any of my brothers or my Aunt sons to be Pall Bearers. What is obituary / Pall Bearer Etiquette?

Dear Melonie:
I am so sorry to hear of your loss.  Obituaries have no strict etiquette attached other than they must include the complete formal name of the deceased, date of birth and date of death.  They usually also have location of death.  Other than that basic information, it is completely up to the writer to decide what to put into the notice.  Your cousin most likely didn't have any guides to follow common writing inclusions for the death notice.  When mentioning who preceded the deceased the most common mentions are parents, spouse and children.  Rarely are siblings mentioned as having preceded in death so I could not fault your cousin for not including your mother.

As far as choosing pall bearers, usually they are chosen from the men who are closest to the deceased.  This list includes brothers, father (if he would want to do this service) and friends.  If one of your Uncle's nephews was particularly close to him, the nephew should have asked to perform this service for his Uncle.  If none of your siblings or cousins fit this description as well as his friends, then you have no ground to be upset.

I suggest you let your cousin know your condolences for the loss of her father and let everyone grieve in their own privacy without judgment.  She hasn't disrespected anyone for whom you are responsible.  You are also welcome to print your own version of the death notice if you wish, with the details you want known.  There is no etiquette that says you can only have one.  I often see several notices for one person in our newspaper (The Washington Post) that are placed by family, organizations and friend groups.

Family is special and you mention that you love yours.  Give them the love they need more now than ever since their loss is so new.

I hope this helps.

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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