Catholic Cemeteries

Visiting a cemetery is an experience that requires sensitivity and respect for both the place and the people around you. Whether you are attending a funeral, visiting a loved one’s gravesite, or simply exploring historical markers, understanding and adhering to the etiquette of these sacred spaces is crucial. 

In this blog, we’ll explain general guidelines for visiting a cemetery, appropriate attire for different types of visits, and specific rules about visitation hours, decorations, photography, and more. By following these practices, you help maintain the dignity and serenity of these resting places, ensuring a respectful environment for all visitors.

General Etiquette Guidelines

While specific cemeteries may have their own guidelines and regulations, there are many universally accepted etiquette approaches that you can follow.

  • Avoid loud conversations, music, or other disturbances, as you share the space with other families and visitors. Maintaining a quiet and reverent tone will be universally respectful. 
  • Respect the graves by avoiding walking on them. Instead, walk on designated pathways or between headstones when you must. Don’t touch or lean against other headstones or markers, as they may be easily damaged.
  • Clean up after yourself and don’t leave litter around the cemetery. Consider picking up any trash you see and disposing of it properly, or alert a staff member if it’s a larger problem. 
  • Respect the speed limits when driving in a cemetery and the right of way of a processional—wait for the entire group of cars to pass before continuing on your way. Park only in designated areas to avoid blocking pathways. 

Attending Memorial Services and Events

When attending a memorial service, funeral, or burial at a Catholic cemetery, you should follow the family’s advice on appropriate dress and behaviour. Dress nicely and behave respectfully, allowing the services to proceed without interruption. 

Proper Attire

Dress according to the occasion. While modest and appropriate dress is always respectful when visiting a cemetery, there may be different levels of formality depending on the specific reason for your visit. For example, a more professional dress code may be expected when you are attending a funeral or burial. If you are just visiting a gravesite, a smart casual outfit may be more appropriate. 

Visitation Hours and Rules

Before you visit a cemetery, you should check its website to see what the visiting hours are or if it has any specific rules regarding visiting. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for posted online, reach out to the cemetery staff either by e-mail, phone, or in person and ask your questions. It is important that you respect and adhere to all applicable regulations, and knowing them ahead of your visit can be helpful in doing so.

Pets and Animals

Whether you can bring pets into a cemetery will vary greatly. Check posted regulations or ask the staff whether you can bring your pet to a visitation. Service animals are always allowed by law as long they are controlled by their handler. If other pets are allowed, ensure that your pet is kept on a leash and that you dispose of their waste properly so as not to disrespect the site.  

For a funeral or burial process, communicate with the cemetery staff to see how you can incorporate a pet or animal into the ceremony. They may have a particular approach that needs to be followed.

Respect for Other Visitors

Everyone you encounter in a cemetery is there for a wide variety of possible reasons, so it’s important to respect their privacy and space when you’re visiting. 

  1. Don’t interfere with a procession or visitation that’s taking place while you’re visiting.
  2. Consider waiting until a ceremony has finished to visit your loved one if they’re buried nearby. 
  3. Aim to give individual visitors or small groups their privacy as you pass through the cemetery.

Maintenance of Gravesites

Responsibilities in maintaining gravesites will vary between cemeteries. Cemetery staff typically perform general maintenance, such as lawn care and removing snow from pathways, but maintenance of the gravestone or marker may fall on family and loved ones. A portion of the purchase price for the lot may include gravesite maintenance, or you may be expected to pay another fee for it. 

Decorations and Offerings

It’s best to research whether decorations and offerings are allowed in a particular cemetery before you bring sentimental items. Keep in mind that flowers, candles, and other memorial-type objects are generally allowed unless the imagery is offensive or inappropriate for the respectful environment of the cemetery. 

Additionally, some cemeteries require you to remove any offerings in a certain time frame so they can mow or conduct cleanings. Adhere to these regulations as closely as possible. Leaving items may be considered littering, so proper disposal is as important as respectful placement.

Visiting Catholic Cemeteries of Ottawa and Cornwall

At Catholic Cemeteries, we understand the importance of keeping a respectful environment to ensure that all families and loved ones visiting our cemeteries can do so peacefully. We are open on all holidays, and our regular operating hours are:

  • Summer (April-November): 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Winter (December-March): 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Opening hours will vary between all cemeteries, and not all will have winter operating hours. Please contact the specific cemetery you wish to visit to enquire about their hours and any specific rules or regulations.

If you will be visiting a Catholic cemetery or attending a service and have further questions, contact us today. We will be happy to answer any inquiries.