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Why do 6 people carry a casket?

Caskets are heavy, often weighing several hundred pounds when occupied. The weight requires multiple pallbearers to lift and carry the casket safely. Though the number varies between cultures and traditions, using six pallbearers is common practice for a few key reasons.

To Share the Load

A traditional full-size adult casket alone weighs around 30-50 pounds. With a body inside, the total weight ranges from 150 pounds for a petite person up to 300-400 pounds for a larger individual. Carrying that much weight requires significant strength and coordination.

Dividing the load across six pallbearers reduces the burden on each person. With six people, each pallbearer carries approximately 25-60 pounds depending on the casket’s total weight. This makes lifting and moving the casket safer and more manageable.

Average Weight Carried Per Pallbearer

Casket Weight Body Weight Total Weight Weight Per Pallbearer
50 lbs 150 lbs 200 lbs 33 lbs
50 lbs 300 lbs 350 lbs 58 lbs

As the table shows, with a total weight between 200-350 pounds, each of 6 pallbearers carries 33-58 pounds. This range makes lifting manageable for most physically fit adults.


In addition to raw weight, having six pallbearers makes maneuvering the casket easier. With two pallbearers grasping each side, the casket can be properly balanced and moved with control. Four pallbearers do not allow the same stability when navigating stairs, corners, doorways, etc. With six, the pallbearers can adjust their positioning as needed without the casket becoming lopsided or unsteady.

Having an even number also allows the pallbearers to be evenly spaced. This provides optimal leverage when lifting the casket from its stand and lowering it during the burial. A number like five pallbearers would lead to uneven spacing and increased difficulty maneuvering.

Honor and Symbolism

The number of pallbearers is rooted in tradition and symbolism just as much as practical considerations. Different numbers hold special meaning in various cultures and faiths. Using six pallbearers brings honor and tribute to the deceased in several ways.

Six As a Biblically Significant Number

In Christianity and Judaism, the number six is traditionally associated with creation and human imperfection. God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh, making six symbolically one short of perfection or completeness. Humans were created on the sixth day.

Using six pallbearers references the biblical meaning of six representing humanity and earthly life. This signifies that the deceased has finished their worldly existence and will now rest as God did on the seventh day. Just as God declared His creation good, the six pallbearers affirm the inherent value of the deceased’s life.

The Last Act of Service and Honor

Serving as a pallbearer is often viewed as a final tribute to the deceased. Friends, relatives, fraternal/professional organizations, or community members volunteer to carry the casket as an act of love and remembrance. Having six pallbearers means the honor can be shared among more loved ones to memorialize the impact of the deceased’s life.

Military funerals notably have six members of the deceased’s unit serving as pallbearers. This allows multiple comrades-in-arms to solemnly carry their fellow service member on his or her last journey.

Challenges of Using Six Pallbearers

While using six pallbearers has logical and symbolic reasons, it also comes with some potential drawbacks. These should be considered when planning funeral arrangements.

More Difficult Logistics

Coordinating six volunteers requires additional planning compared to fewer pallbearers. Availability, transportation, attire, and physical capabilities must be accounted for. Last minute changes or no-shows also become more likely with a larger group, possibly forcing rearrangements.

During the service, directing six individuals to remain orderly and focused can be challenging. The pallbearers must work in unison lifting, lowering, and moving the casket on verbal and non-verbal cues.

Higher Chance of Mistakes

With more people involved comes a higher chance that something could go wrong. Someone may get out of sync with the other pallbearers or trip over an obstacle, causing unsteadiness. Extreme emotional duress or lack of practice could also contribute to errors.

If a mistake does happen, the extra pallbearers help provide an additional fail-safe. The others can often compensate so any slip-ups are minimized rather than resulting in catastrophic accidents.

When Fewer Than Six Pallbearers May be Used

While six pallbearers may be most common, using fewer is appropriate in certain situations:

  • If the casket is designed to be lighter and carried by fewer people, such as a child’s casket
  • To represent cultural or religious traditions with symbolic meaning
  • For smaller, intimate funeral services
  • If limited pallbearers are available, such as a service member’s funeral in a combat zone

The number of pallbearers should ultimately honor the wishes and needs of the deceased and their family.


Carrying a loved one on their final journey is an ancient ritual rich with practical and symbolic meaning. The standard use of six pallbearers arose from this multilayered history. The number allows dividing the physical burden to safely transport caskets that can weigh several hundred pounds. Maneuvering the casket also becomes simpler with six versus fewer pallbearers.

On a religious and cultural level, the number six connects to biblical themes and lets more loved ones share the honor of this ceremonial duty. While more pallbearers complicate logistics and increase risks, the benefits for the deceased and their family remain an integral part of funeral traditions worldwide.

The solemn commitment shown by those who shoulder pallbearing responsibilities reflects the mutual bonds between the living and those they lay to rest. With compassion and care, six pallbearers walk in step to commemorate a life that touched their own.