We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Pallbearer?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A pallbearer is someone who carries or attends a coffin as it is transported during funeral ceremonies. The position is primarily ritual in nature, with most being intimate friends or relatives of the deceased. In the case of funerals for prominent public figures and members of the military, the pallbearers may also include important public officials; the coffin for a police chief, for example, might be accompanied by a mayor and high-ranking police officers in addition to more intimate acquaintances of the deceased.

The pall is the cloth that traditionally covers a coffin, especially in Catholic funerals. Pallbearers may carry the coffin, or they may walk along side as it is carried in by professionals, sometimes touching or holding the pall. In many cases, the coffin is actually rolled on a lightweight cart, so there is no need for anyone to worry about coordinating with other people, and for formal funerals, the coffin may be carried by horses or other animals. If a large number of people are asked to serve as pallbearers, some of them may carry the coffin, while others accompany it as attendants.

Usually, pallbearers carry the coffin from the hearse or private car to the church or other facility where the funeral is to be held. After the ceremony, they accompany the coffin again as it travels to the graveyard or crematorium; if the deceased requires hearse transport, the attendants walk the coffin to the hearse and then accompany it again at its final destination. In a burial, they may help lower the coffin into the ground with the assistance of cemetery staff.

Being asked to serve as a pallbearer is a great honor, as it suggests that the deceased or the family regard the person as a special friend to the deceased. As a general rule, these people are expected to dress in somber colors and formal clothing, and in addition to carrying the coffin, they may assist the family at the funeral. For example, they may circulate among the funeral guests or support the family through the ceremony.

People who have been asked to be a pallbearer and who have not accompanied a coffin before should inform the priest or other officiant and the funeral director, if the family is using one. They can show the individuals what they need to do and how to handle the coffin. It's a good idea for the pallbearers to coordinate with one another to determine who will walk where, and how to dress. If these people will be actively carrying the coffin, they should make sure to keep an eye on each other to ensure that they are all walking at the same pace.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Kristee — On Oct 21, 2012

@kylee07drg – I think that pallbearer etiquette calls for six pallbearers. At every funeral I've ever attended, there have been six of them.

Three pallbearers walk on each side of the coffin. There are enough handles for them to safely move it around.

If the pallbearers will be actively carrying it, then strong men are generally chosen. I've never seen a weak or sickly pallbearer.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 21, 2012

How many pallbearers does it typically take to move a coffin around? Is there a certain number that generally serve, even if the coffin is being carted around?

By JackWhack — On Oct 20, 2012

Obituaries always mention who the pallbearers at the funeral will be. Often, many of them have the same last name as the deceased.

My grandmother had eight children, so she had plenty of kids to serve as pallbearers. I don't think I've ever seen a female pallbearer, though. Only the boys served as pallbearers at both her funeral and my grandfather's funeral.

By seag47 — On Oct 19, 2012

@summing – I would think that the funeral home workers would take over the pallbearer duties in this case. Most likely, they would use the cart, and it would only take a couple of them to push it along.

By summing — On Oct 16, 2012

What do they do at small funerals when there are not enough people to act as pallbearers?

By truman12 — On Oct 16, 2012
I have had the unfortunate honor of being a pallbearer at several funerals, most recently my grandmother's. It is not by any means a fun job, but it is one that has to be done and I think it is a very respectful thing to do for the person that has passed away. You carry them gently to their grave. What could be more thoughtful?
By StormyKnight — On Mar 12, 2011

@grumpyguppy- Honorary pallbearers do not actually carry the casket. For example, if a police officer dies, there are the the active pallbearers that carry the casket but the entire police department can be listed as the honorary pallbearers.

By GrumpyGuppy — On Mar 11, 2011

What exactly are honorary pallbearers?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.