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January 27, 2020 Beyond The Dash

Funeral Procession Etiquette: Who Gets to Ride in the Limo?

What to do during a funeral procession

Funeral Procession Etiquette: Who Gets to Ride in the Limo?
The rules of funeral etiquette can be confusing for the uninitiated. Learn what to do when a funeral service includes a procession with a limousine. (Getty Images)

A funeral procession is the ceremonial journey from the funeral home or church to the deceased's final place of rest — usually a cemetery. The procession involves transportation of the body, which is usually carried in a hearse. 


Protocol


The hearse typically heads a funeral procession, setting the speed and tone of the journey. Next often follows is a limousine or town car, followed by mourning guests in their respective vehicles. 


Who gets to ride in the limousine?


Funerals come in all forms, and there are no strict rules about who rides in a funeral procession limo, nor any law that states there can only be one. However, the laws of etiquette do apply to mourning rituals, and cultural rites of all varieties. 


Traditionally, the immediate family of the deceased rides in the limo or town car. A funeral limousine offers those who are in the deepest throes of the grief to focus on their lost loved one, rather than the road, other drivers, and making it to the service on time. There is also a sense of respect and decorum for the immediate family that is afforded by a limo ride. 


In many families, 'immediate family' now means 'closest loved ones'. Best friends, close cousins, and other members of the deceased's 'chosen family' now have a place in formal funeral arrangements, which may include the funeral limousine. 


In general, those who handled the funeral arrangements themselves are the ones who take the place of honor in the limo. 


Etiquette tips



  • If you are not a close family member or friend of the deceased, it's likely not your place to ride in the funeral limousine.

  • If the deceased had many close loved ones, all deserving of a place in a limo, more than one car may be hired. However, this should be the sole choice of the hosting family.

  • Many funeral processions nowadays do not include a limousine. This level of formality may not be aligned with the family's values; and it's impolite to insist on a limo if it is against their wishes. 

  • Funerals can bring out surprising instances of family drama. If you believe you have been wrongfully excluded from the limousine, try to let it go. A day of mourning should be about the life and accomplishments of the deceased. 

  • When following a procession in your own vehicle, make sure you follow proper funeral procession driving etiquette:

  • Drive slowly so as not to rush the procession.

  • Funeral processions have the right of way in most states—never break the funeral procession line, even if it means going through a red light. Be sure to check with local laws before attempting this.

  • Always yield to emergency vehicles and personnel, and exercise caution.

  • Leave very little space between your car and the car in the procession in front of you. It's important that there is no space left for other cars to cut in who aren't part of the funeral procession.

  • When the procession arrives at the cemetery or church, an attendant will typically lead the procession to the gravesite or chapel.


The takeaway


There is usually a hierarchy of grief when a member of any community passes away. Though the idea that some grievers are 'more important' than others may seem backwards when everyone experiences grief differently, these cultural practices are part of mourning. If a family in mourning uses a limo for immediate family members in a funeral procession, respect their wishes. 


In the bigger picture of grief, this formality hardly matters. What does matter is that all who mourn have the chance to collectively remember the person who has passed, and begin individual journeys toward healing.  

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