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What not to do at a graveyard?

Graveyards are sacred places that demand respect and reverence. When visiting a graveyard, it is important to act appropriately and avoid any behavior that could be seen as disrespectful by grieving families. Understanding graveyard etiquette can ensure your actions do not disrupt the peace or offend others. Below are some important guidelines on what not to do when visiting a graveyard.

Why is graveyard etiquette important?

Showing proper graveyard etiquette demonstrates respect for the deceased and their loved ones. Gravesites are solemn places that require dignified behavior. Disrespectful actions can cause deep hurt and pain for grieving families. Some key reasons to follow graveyard etiquette include:

  • Showing sensitivity – Graveyards can evoke strong emotions in visitors. Being respectful shows you recognize the grief and pain of others.
  • Honoring the dead – The deceased and their families deserve peace and dignity. Following etiquette honors their memory.
  • Maintaining the atmosphere – Well-behaved visitors help maintain a quiet, contemplative atmosphere.
  • Preventing disruption – Disrespectful actions disrupt the peace and can disturb funeral services.
  • Complying with rules – Graveyards often have codes of conduct to follow. Etiquette shows you take the rules seriously.

In short, etiquette demonstrates you recognize the significance of the graveyard and want to act in an honorable manner. It shows respect for the dead and sensitivity to the bereaved.

8 Things You Should Not Do at a Graveyard

To avoid behaving disrespectfully, here are 8 important things not to do when visiting a graveyard:

1. Don’t Talk Loudly

Graveyards are designed for quiet contemplation and reflection. Loud talking can disrupt the peace and disturb other visitors. Keep your voice down and avoid shouting. If visiting in a group, do not hold loud conversations that carry across the graveyard. Be mindful of mourners who may be praying or grieving in solitude.

2. Don’t Use Your Cellphone

Using your cellphone for calls, texting, or other apps shows disrespect for the setting. The noise and activity can be distracting and break the atmosphere of calm. Turn your phone to silent or vibrate mode upon entering the graveyard. Move away from gravesites if you need to take an important call.

3. Don’t Listen to Music

Listening to music out loud defeats the purpose of maintaining a quiet, respectful environment. The sound dilutes the silence and can be deeply offensive to others visiting. If you wish to listen to music privately with headphones, ensure the volume is low enough that others cannot hear it.

4. Don’t Eat or Drink

Eating and drinking should be avoided in the graveyard, as it shows disregard for the decorum of the location. The exception is drinking water discretely to stay hydrated in summer heat. Otherwise, wait until you have exited the grounds to eat or indulge in other beverages. Consuming alcohol on the premises is extremely disrespectful.

5. Don’t Smoke

Many graveyards prohibit smoking on the grounds. The drifting smoke can be bothersome and the cigarette butts litter the area. If you must smoke, move well away from the graveyard. Never light up directly next to gravesites or memorials. Be sure to properly extinguish and dispose of cigarette butts outside of the graveyard’s grounds.

6. Don’t Touch Graves

Never touch, lean against, or sit on gravesites or memorials. These actions demonstrate a lack of sensitivity for the deceased and their monument. You can gently clean an ancestor’s gravestone if necessary but be very careful. Gravestones are fragile and irreplaceable. Report any damage or vandalism to the proper authorities.

7. Don’t Litter

Be sure to clean up any trash and do not leave litter behind. Graveyards have trash receptacles available. Leaving litter is equivalent to defacing gravesites. Take all your belongings when departing and dispose of any waste respectfully outside the grounds.

8. Don’t Allow Pets to Roam

Pets should be leashed and closely supervised. Do not let dogs or other animals run loose or use graveyard grounds as a bathroom. Their presence should be minimized out of reverence. Provide baggies and promptly clean up any pet waste, disposing of it outside the graveyard. Uncontrolled pets can damage graves or disrupt services.

What is proper graveyard attire?

Wearing appropriate clothing demonstrates respect for the solemn nature of a graveyard. Follow these clothing guidelines when visiting:

  • Opt for modest, conservative clothing. Avoid revealing, ragged, or dirty garments.
  • Dress neatly and avoid offensive slogans/images on clothing.
  • Remove hats and sunglasses when approaching a gravesite.
  • Keep dressed appropriately for the weather and wear proper footwear.
  • Avoid dressing in an overtly celebratory manner, like wearing party clothes.

It is not mandatory to wear black or formal mourning attire. Clean, presentable clothing shows consideration on par with the setting. Change any clothing contaminated by dirt, paint, or debris before entering.

When is it acceptable to take graveyard photos?

Photography should be limited out of respect for grieving families. However, the following guidelines indicate appropriate times for graveyard photos:

  • Taking pictures of your own relative’s gravesite to preserve family history.
  • Photographing headstones for genealogy research or ancestry documentation.
  • Taking pictures for volunteers recording graveyard inventory.
  • Photographing damaged gravestones to report vandalism.
  • Taking pictures of historic graveyards for education.

In these cases, avoid photographing other visitors without consent or exploiting graves for artistic purposes. Be discreet when photographing and don’t impede other visitors. Unauthorized photoshoots or selfies pose on graves are never acceptable.

What does a well-behaved child look like in a graveyard?

Children can easily disrupt the quiet graveyard environment. Keep kids behaved with the following graveyard etiquette:

  • Talk to children ahead on proper conduct and volume control.
  • Keep close supervision and hold their hands when near memorials.
  • Prevent running around, horseplay, or climbing on monuments.
  • Encourage quiet activities like reading gravestones or observing nature.
  • Provide drawing/reading materials to occupy them respectfully.
  • Teach them the significance of gravestones and proper conduct.
  • Promptly correct any inappropriate behavior and remove unsettled kids.

Well-behaved children stay close, move carefully, speak softly, and treat the space with sensitivity. Praise good behavior so they learn graveyard manners.

Should you limit graveyard visits after dark?

Many graveyards forbid entry at night, generally from dusk to dawn. Those allowing evening visits recommend the following precautions:

  • Proceed with extra care in darkness when footing is treacherous.
  • Visit in a group rather than alone for safety.
  • Use flashlights responsibly and avoid shining directly on graves.
  • Keep noise levels to an absolute minimum.
  • Restrict night visits to pay respects, not thrill-seeking.
  • Ensure you comply with posted evening hours and policies.
  • Leave immediately if you encounter trespassers or vandals.

Graveyards hold potential hazards at night. Limit visits to daylight hours if concerned about well-being or disturbing the peace. Always demonstrate the same respectful conduct.

Should you regulate your emotions at graveyards?

Graveyards naturally prompt emotional reactions. While feelings should be expressed genuinely, be mindful of how open displays affect others:

  • Allow yourself to grieve but do so quietly and privately.
  • Avoid hysterical, dramatic outbursts which disrupt the setting.
  • Comfort children and tell them it’s okay to cry calmly.
  • Be respectful if you see others overcome by grief.
  • Don’t be overly cheerful or laugh loudly as it appears insensitive.
  • Vent emotions before/after visiting to maintain composure.

Suppressing emotions is unhealthy. Find appropriate methods to express them without disturbing fellow visitors. This allows everyone dignified comfort when graveyards prompt powerful reactions.

Should you scold rule-breakers at graveyards?

When witnessing rule-breaking, consider:

  • Polite reminders often work for unintentional breaches like loud talking.
  • Speak firmly but civilly about more serious violations.
  • Report misconduct discreetly to staff instead of risking confrontations.
  • Don’t reprimand in front of children to avoid upsetting them.
  • Prioritize defusing problems over lecturing wrongdoers.
  • Focus on the rules rather than blaming the individual.

While improper conduct deserves correction, civility prevents tension and disruption. Seek appropriate ways to reinforce etiquette without embarrassing or shaming people.


Graveyards warrant dignified conduct that complements their significance as memorial grounds. Simple courtesies like moderating noise, dressing appropriately, supervising children, and keeping the premises tidy help maintain the solemn environment. Violating rules, even unintentionally, demonstrates disrespect for the dead and grieving visitors. By avoiding improper behaviors and following proper etiquette, you can ensure your graveyard visits are sensitive and considerate for all.