When Do Pallbearers Carry the Casket?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Pallbearers carry the casket during a traditional funeral or burial service.
  • At a cremation service, they carry the casket into the crematorium and place it on a stand called a catafalque.
  • Typically there are 4-6 pallbearers depending on the weight of the casket.
  • Pallbearers carry the casket at waist height, on their shoulders, or using a wheel bier.
  • They are responsible for moving the casket to and from the hearse and grave site.


The solemn duty of carrying a casket is performed by designated pallbearers during funeral and burial services. Their role is both practical and symbolic, requiring strength and care to convey the deceased to their final resting place with dignity. But when exactly do pallbearers carry the casket?

This article will comprehensively examine the key occasions when pallbearers lift and transport caskets. It covers traditional funerals, cremations, the number of pallbearers and carrying techniques used. The information can help readers understand the significance of this funeral custom, what it entails and when it takes place.

With detailed facts and considerations on pallbearers and casket carrying, readers will gain valuable insight into this time-honored tradition and responsibility. Understanding the nuances of when and how pallbearers perform their duty can provide comfort and meaning for grieving families.

When Do Pallbearers Traditionallly Carry the Casket?

The fundamental role of pallbearers is to manually carry the casket during funeral and burial services. The key occasions when they perform this solemn task are:

At the Beginning of the Funeral Service?

Yes, pallbearers traditionally carry the casket at the beginning of the funeral ceremony. After mourners have assembled at the funeral home or church, the pallbearers emerge and slowly carry the casket down the aisle to rest it at the front of the room. This procession delivers the deceased to their funeral and enables mourners to pay final respects.

From the Hearse into the Funeral Venue?

Pallbearers will often carry the casket from the hearse into the funeral home or church at the start of the service. They carefully remove the casket from the back of the vehicle and solemnly convey it inside. This continues the casket’s respectful journey to the funeral venue.

From the Funeral Service to the Hearse?

At the conclusion of the funeral ceremony, pallbearers once again lift and carry the casket back down the aisle to return it to the hearse. This completes the casket’s time at the funeral venue before transportation to the cemetery.

From the Hearse to the Gravesite?

After arriving at the cemetery, pallbearers emerge to transfer the casket from the hearse to the gravesite area. With utmost care, they lift the casket and slowly walk to the burial plot, where final committal rituals can proceed.

During the Burial Ceremony?

Pallbearers remain standing solemnly by the casket at the gravesite during the burial service. In some cases, they may also lower devices to cradle the casket over the open grave before final interment.

Are There Any Other Occasions?

Pallbearers may also carry the casket for burial rituals outside of the funeral venue and cemetery. For example, carrying the casket onto and off boats for burial at sea. They may also move the casket for customs inspections international repatriation of remains. But the main carrying occasions are outlined above.

What About Cremation Services?

Do pallbearers still carry caskets at cremation services? The answer is yes, their role remains pertinent. Here are key occasions for casket carrying at cremations:

Into the Crematorium?

Pallbearers solemnly carry the casket from the hearse into the crematorium building in preparation for cremation. With care and reverence, they convey the deceased on this final journey.

Placing on the Catafalque?

Inside the crematorium, pallbearers transfer the casket onto a stand called a catafalque. This is a raised platform where the casket rests during the cremation ceremony before advancing to the cremator unit.

From Service to Cremator Unit?

Following the service, pallbearers lift the casket from the catafalque and respectfully carry it to the cremation unit. They slide the casket inside in preparation for the cremation process to commence after the service concludes.

So even without burial, pallbearers retain an important role carrying the casket with dignity and care into the crematorium. Their service facilitates meaningful viewing, rituals and final farewells.

How Many Pallbearers Are Typically Used?

When carrying a casket, what is the typical or recommended number of pallbearers? Guidelines include:

Minimum of Four

Most standard adult caskets require a minimum of four pallbearers, one positioned at each corner. This enables stable and balanced carrying throughout the funeral proceedings.

Six Pallbearers Also Common

For larger or heavier caskets, six pallbearers are also commonly used. Two pallbearers take the head of the casket while four carry the foot end. This provides additional support and handling.

More Allowed Based on Weight

More than six pallbearers can also be used for exceptionally heavy caskets based on family wishes. But they will need to coordinate closely during carrying. Eight is generally the maximum recommended.

Consistent Numbers are Ideal

Ideally, the same number and arrangement of pallbearers carries the casket at all stages. This provides consistency through the funeral service. Switching numbers risks unstable handling.

So standard practice is four to six pallbearers, with variations based on casket size and weight. Families should consult funeral directors on ideal numbers for smooth, safe casket carrying throughout the ceremonies.

How Do Pallbearers Physically Carry the Casket?

Pallbearers must carefully and solemnly carry caskets in a consistent formation. What techniques and positions are typically used?

Carrying at Waist Height

The most common method is for pallbearers to carry the casket at waist height. This minimizes back strain and enables stable movement down aisles or pathways.

Carrying on Shoulders

For longer carry distances, pallbearers may hoist the casket up onto their shoulder area. This provides security and minimizes jostling during the procession.

Using a Wheel Bier

A wheeled device called a wheel bier can also assist pallbearers in moving the casket smoothly and easily. This is advisable for exceptionally heavy caskets.

Consistent Throughout

Whichever carry method is selected, it should be used consistently by pallbearers throughout the ceremonies for seamless transitions.

Synchronized Movement

Pallbearers also move slowly and in sync with one another. This prevents instability while they solemnly convey the casket through each step.

So there are several appropriate physically carrying techniques. Funeral directors can advise families on which method suits the casket size and proceedings best.

Common Questions About Pallbearers and Casket Carrying

Several additional questions sometimes arise around pallbearers and when they carry the casket:

Who Can Be a Pallbearer?

Usually close relatives, friends, or associates of the deceased are selected as pallbearers. They should have the strength and solemnity appropriate for the role. There are no formal gender restrictions.

Do Pallbearers Need Special Attire?

Pallbearers typically wear formal dark suits and white gloves as a sign of decorum and respect. Their special attire distinguishes their esteemed role.

Is Casket Carrying Difficult or Strenuous?

It requires some physical strength and coordination to steadily carry a casket’s weight. But normal, healthy adults can perform pallbearer duties with proper posture and lifting techniques.

How Are Caskets Carried in Bad Weather?

For outdoor carrying in rain or snow, pallbearers are often provided with protective capes to stay dry and maintain grip. The casket may also be covered.

What If a Pallbearer Trip or Stumble?

While extremely rare, several remaining pallbearers can still support the casket if one loses grip. The casket’s stability is usually not significantly threatened by a single misstep.

Pallbearers take their somber responsibility very seriously and prepare diligently to avoid any mishaps that could detract from the dignified ceremonies.

Conveying Loved Ones with Utmost Care

Pallbearers play a central role in funeral and burial ceremonies, which necessitates carrying the casket on key occasions before, during and after the services. Their careful handling provides families comfort, knowing their loved one is conveyed with the utmost dignity and care to the final resting place.

Witnessing pallbearers solemnly lifting and moving the casket can be an emotionally meaningful part of finding closure. Their composure and unison signify the collective support of those gathered to honor the deceased. By understanding when and how pallbearers perform their duty, families and friends can appreciate the depth of this time-honored custom.

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