so who can, and cannot, be a pall bearer?

Posted on 2009-04-17
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
From what I've seen at the 5-6 funerals I've attended, it seems there are 6 pall bearers, all men, 3 on each side.
1. can it be done with 4?
2. women not qualified?
3. are they appointed by a certain member of the family?
4. can the family ask for volunteers?

My father has 3 brothers, 2 can not walk so they have been eliminated. Then there is 76 year old brother who is hard of hearing but nothing else. Then there is me, a son, and 4 male nephews 2 of which were adopted. That gets to 6.

If the family chooses people, how to they avoid offending the ones that would like to have done it?

What if the deceased has no family?
Does the funeral provide persons from their employee list or ask for volunteers from the friends that might show up for a service?

The funeral home charges for "everything" including copies of the death certificate. No telling what they would charge to provide pall bearers.

Question by:nickg5
    LVL 17

    Assisted Solution

    Anyone can be a pall bearer but it is normally men as the coffin is quite heavy.  (done this a few times myself)

    Persons who maybe could have been (disabled brothers) can be named as honorary pall bearers.

    Usually the family will ask persons they think would be honored to act in this capacity.  In some cases the deceased may have made prior arrangments with persons also....military friends etc.

    If anyone is offended for not being asked that is rather shallow.  They will get over it...don't waste any time thinking about that one.

    A pall bearer doesn't have to be family.  It could be a friend, a neighbor, the mail man, or an co-worker etc.
    LVL 18

    Accepted Solution


    A pallbearer doesn't necessarily have to do any carrying.  These persons or persons can be "a member of the escort or honor guard of the coffin."  See  "A pallbearer is someone who carries or attends a coffin as it is transported during funeral ceremonies."  See  This could apply to someone you mentioned who is not otherwise physically able yet should be honored.

    Additionally, the funeral home usually always has staff or people it can drawn on for this purpose.  It's part of the services, as an option.  See "Mutes and professional mourners" at

    As as side note, given what you've told us about your dad, at the same link, see "Control by the decedent of the details of the funeral."  

    LVL 25

    Author Comment

    should a person choose their desired pall bearers or just let it be decided by the survivors?
    LVL 18

    Expert Comment

    It can go either way.

    The person can always express their desires.

    I don't think there is any hard rule for this.

    Then there can also be confusion and misunderstanding.  For example, as between you and your sister ("well he told me this" and "I thought that's what he meant").

    That kind of thing can be as difficult as who gets invited to stand-up at a wedding.  I think the easiest thing is do what ever makes the least unhappyness among the potential attendees.

    This can be compared to good contract negotiation.  Sometimes you cannot make both parties (or everybody) happy.  So you settle on something where everyone gets some things they want, and nobody is too unhappy with the result.

    LVL 25

    Author Comment

    well, with this particular issue, the naming of pall bearers, if my fathers decides to do it, we'll accept his choices. If he does not make his own list, we'll do it.
    At least this partucular part of everyone's dying process won't be that critical.
    versus, say, by example, the decision to cremate or not. You've already heard that story.
    100% of the people said it should be his personal decision and to leave it to others is leaving a burden  to someone.
    LVL 25

    Author Comment

    well, my idea was all 6 of the remaining males of the family, 4 nephews, myself and my father's brother.
    Then someone suggested that the other two brothers, who are wheel chair bound could be honorary pall bearers and be in the wheel chairs at the bottom of the steps to escort the pall bearers to the waiting vehicle. So, we started calling nephews, one did not want to participate, another lives out of state and then when I called my Uncle, the one brother who is able to assist, he and his wife both confirmed that almost always, close relatives like brothers and sons are not pall bearers, so that leaves me and my Uncle out. He will contact his two sons, and we have other relatives and neighbors so the 6 postions will be filled. I never thought that the closer relatives were almost never chosen.

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