How to Choose a Pallbearer

The Nana Otafrija pallbearers aren't afraid to get filthy. Their signature coffin moves include lying on their backs with the coffin on top of them and legs moving in time with the music. Sometimes, they'll even crawl together on all fours.

The group's leader, Benjamin Aidoo, told The Guardian he began working as a pallbearer in 2003. He created the notion of dancing with the coffin to allow people to honor their deceased after witnessing that many would faint or hurt themselves during the funerals. Aidoo reasoned that focusing on the dance would reduce the risk of injury and uplift everyone's spirits.

It's no surprise that the dancing pallbearers are from Ghana. After all, funerals in Ghana are frequently costly affairs, with weeks or months of preparation. Ghanaians believe that a luxurious funeral equates to showing more respect for the deceased.

When Are Pallbearers Appropriate?

You may have witnessed numerous people helping move the coffin at a funeral. Pallbearers help carry a coffin during a traditional burial or funeral ritual. They're often present in Christian and Catholic funerals.

In some cases, pallbearers can be included at Jewish funerals. It's a privilege to be a pallbearer, but it's a physically taxing job.

Generally, you'll need the help of pallbearers since a closed coffin should be carried into the funeral place and then taken to a hearse. They can then return to the burial with the casket. However, the funeral home will have the coffin ready for the family for an open casket ceremony.

While pallbearers are typically seen in a traditional funeral, they can also carry the casket before cremation. Pallbearers may carry the urn or walk with it after or before a memorial ceremony.

What Does a Pallbearer Do?

A pallbearer leads the procession inside the church and to the burial. They frequently assemble at the funeral home after the family leaves and must carry the coffin with dignity.

When the family leaves the funeral home, the pallbearers will hoist the coffin into the vehicle. This apparatus is on wheels and folds down when put inside the hearse.

Upon securing the coffin, pallbearers will join the funeral procession. They frequently come in a separate limousine or car to meet the coffin at the burial. This car trails the hearse and the other vehicles.

Pallbearers will bring the coffin to the front and down to the church's aisle during the mass or funeral ceremony. If the tradition is Catholic or Christian, the casket may be blessed by a religious leader or priest at the church's entry.

During this period, religious hymns or funeral songs are often performed. In the procession, immediate family members will walk behind or in front of the coffin. It's meaningful for them to enter with the coffin as others bow and offer prayers and condolences.

After the ceremony, they'll take the coffin to the hearse. They'll assist in unloading the hearse and carrying the coffin to the burial. The coffin is then put on a mechanism that lowers it into the ground.

The pallbearers don't lower the coffin. After the ceremony, the funeral director and their team lower the coffin. At the gravesite, pallbearers stand or sit to join relatives and guests.

What to Consider When Selecting Pallbearers?

Most families pick about six active pallbearers to carry the coffin, but eight active pallbearers aren't unusual. If the family chooses six pallbearers, three will carry each side of the casket. If the family decides on eight pallbearers, one is put at each end of the casket.

Besides this, being a pallbearer usually includes the following.

Pallbearers Can Be Men or Women

Some think gender prejudice, cultural, or religious conventions restrict women from acting as pallbearers. But this isn't the case; there's a practical reason for it. A casket (together with the person's corpse) might weigh 400 pounds, depending on its materials.

Metal caskets, in particular, are used to contain bigger corpses because of their exceptional endurance. This also presents a challenge for pallbearers since the weight climbs to 600 pounds, obliging six pallbearers to carry around 100 pounds each.

While this weight might not seem heavy to a healthy person, bear in mind that it must be carried while wearing formal attire.

Men are physically stronger than women and can bear this weight more readily than the latter. But on second thought, so long as she can manage the casket's weight, a woman is free to serve this role.

In some cases, pallbearers consist of 1-2 women. They're often positioned in the center on either side of the coffin since the casket's weight is less there.

It should be noted that a funeral ceremony might involve two or three groups of pallbearers to help carry the coffin up to its final resting place. This ensures that anybody wishing to pay their last respects to the deceased may do so.

Ask Friends, Neighbors, Coworkers, and Even Family Members

Whether to invite family members to be pallbearers varies. Some people frown upon it, while others approve. The departed's children or siblings may be too distraught to be assigned this responsibility, so it's acceptable not to ask them in some instances.

There may, however, be nephews, nieces, cousins, or grandkids who would make suitable pallbearers. You may also opt to stay with non-family members such as close friends, church members, neighbors, local club or school buddies, and even colleagues.

Families may opt to arrange a modest funeral shortly after someone's death and restrict attendance to close relatives only, mainly if the deceased had a very private life.

In most circumstances, it's suggested to contact possible pallbearer candidates personally to communicate the family's intention and ensure easy communication between the two parties.

Depending on the situation and the bereaved family's preference, it may also be done via social media chats.

Consider Physical Ability

Many believe that a body is heavier after death than when they were alive, but that's just a myth. In fact, it weighs the same in its original state.

However, Richard Dey, Chairman and Professor of the West Virginia University Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, revealed that embalming does add a significant amount of weight to the body. It's common for someone who weighs 250 pounds to reach a weight of 350 to 400 pounds after being embalmed.

Note: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other state authorities compel funeral directors to inform clients that embalming is optional except in specific circumstances. For instance, when a corpse crosses state boundaries in Arkansas, New Jersey, and Alabama, the family will likely be obliged to embalm the corpse.

Due to this and the coffin's additional weight, it's only logical to appoint pallbearers who are physically fit for the job. Consider which arm the pallbearer has the greatest strength in so you can decide which side of the coffin they should carry.

Moreover, any impairments may limit their capacity to bear the weight. By paying attention to these details, the family can reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries occurring during the event.

Look for People with a Calm Demeanor

Carrying out their duties as pallbearers requires that they remain composed and courteous, even in the face of intense grief. Consider picking those skilled at keeping their emotions in check while performing their role.

Since they're in a highly visible position in the funeral procession, pallbearers can't afford to be emotional while touching the coffin. Some may even consider a loud expression of mourning insulting to the departed. 

For this reason, pallbearers are often no younger than 16 years old due to the sensitivity of the situation. Research showed that teenagers are emotional due to the changes their bodies are going through in this period, so putting this stress on them may not be the best option.

Similarly, picking the elderly may be too emotionally and physically taxing, so it may be best to invite them to join the procession instead.

Who Can Be a Pallbearer?

The average weight of a 20-year-old American guy is 197.9 pounds, while a typical American woman weighs 170.6 pounds. Pallbearers may be requested from any of the following persons if the deceased fall within this range:

  • Nieces/Nephews
  • Colleagues
  • Close Friends
  • Siblings
  • Children

Debbie Swales' husband's casket fell open at his funeral, exposing him to almost 400 people. Swales claimed she had been in agony since her husband's remains were revealed to hundreds of mourners during his funeral.

Worse, the family's chosen pallbearers fled the scene. So it's only reasonable that you select someone with integrity to fill such a position and avoid the same misfortune.

Your local funeral home may be able to assist you in finding pallbearers if you haven't already done so. You might also try to locate a youth leader or a senior church leader who could lend you a hand by connecting you to a local church.

Don’t Forget Your Honorary Pallbearers

There are no formal restrictions on who may be a pallbearer. Still, conditioned deterrents make certain people better options than others. People who want to be pallbearers but can't undertake the responsibilities might be elected as honorary pallbearers.

They might go ahead of or behind the coffin as the active pallbearers carry it to the grave. This is a fantastic alternative for the elderly or crippled who can't move the casket independently. Plus, the number of honorary pallbearers at a funeral is unlimited.

Pallbearers' names are frequently given in the funeral program. If you're making your own funeral program instead of hiring a professional, add a section listing the pallbearers. If you have a memorial website, provide the link to the Events page for the details.

Pallbearers have a crucial function, and naming them is courteous. These people are often chosen for the following reasons:

  • This individual was a veteran, close friend, coworker, or a part of the deceased's inner circle.
  • This person's life was prolonged upon receiving the deceased's organ donation.
  • This individual is the deceased's child from their previous marriage.
  • They were acquainted with and admired by the deceased but weren't necessarily a member of his immediate family.
  • They were a long-distance family friend that may have made a great deal of effort and sacrifice to offer comfort to the family.
  • This individual served as the deceased's spiritual mentor or advisor throughout their life.

Many families send thank you cards to express their gratitude for the pallbearers after the ceremony as a symbol of the family's appreciation and gratitude to these people.

These thank you cards are particularly effective because of the thoughtful details included inside each one. Your pallbearers want to know that their service was appreciated by you and your loved ones and that it somehow helped ease your grief.

If you're struggling to find the appropriate words to express your gratitude, these examples thank you cards may help.

  1. Thank you for your help and support during Claire's funeral. Your assistance as a pallbearer meant the world to our whole family. We appreciate your dedication to your best friend and our family during our time of need. Thank you so much for everything.
  2. We are very grateful for your love and support at Mark's funeral. We want to thank you for your work as a pallbearer, especially since you've always been with us both in good and bad times. Rest assured that our family won't forget your kindness.
  3. Thank you for your kindness at our family's mourning for Ysabel. Your presence at her burial as a pallbearer put us at peace when we needed it the most. You were one of her closest friends, and she would have loved your thoughtfulness. Please accept the warmest thanks from the entire Johnson family.

Pallbearers typically carry a lot of weight on their shoulders. They don't just carry the casket, but they also lead the funeral service. These small gestures link us together when we need each other the most, and it's only proper that we recognize their efforts.