How to Practice Respectful Cemetery Etiquette

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Cemeteries are serene spaces that allow people to reflect and pay respects, whether in solitude or community. However, visiting a loved one’s final resting place isn’t the only reason to visit a cemetery. Especially in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, cemeteries act as beautiful natural spaces to walk, cycle or jog in, or even have a picnic.


These many reasons to visit a cemetery make it essential to be mindful of how you share the space with others.


Let’s explore the main dos and don’ts of practicing respectful cemetery etiquette.


DO give mourners space.

While there’s nothing wrong with giving a polite nod as you pass by, cemeteries are one place where you should usually avoid striking up a conversation with strangers. You don’t know why someone might be visiting the cemetery. It’s crucial to ensure that you’re not interrupting any rituals they may be performing or disrupting how they want to grieve and reflect.


DO show respect.

When visiting a cemetery, there are many ways you can show respect.

For example, if you see a funeral/burial service, give lots of space to avoid unnecessary interruptions.

As a reminder, keep your phone on silent and refrain from taking phone calls, at least near other visitors. If you must talk, ensure that it’s at a low volume so as not to disturb others and avoid using profanities or offensive language.


DO check the cemetery’s website before visiting.

In Canada, cemeteries are either private, public, or not-for-profit. While most public cemeteries are open 24/7, check the hours before visiting. In addition to checking their visiting hours, remember to check whether the cemetery has any restrictions on putting items such as flowers or mementos on graves and monuments.


DO keep an eye on children.

Taking your children to a cemetery can be a meaningful way to open up a conversation with them about the subject of death. Make sure before you go that you have a conversation with them about how to show respect to both the deceased and the grieving.


DO clean up after yourself.

Treat the cemetery grounds with respect, and don’t litter. If you’re using the space for a picnic, be sure to pick up any food that may have fallen. Most cemeteries should have garbage bins throughout the site. If you have a pet and they’re allowed on the cemetery grounds, make sure to put them on a leash and clean up after them.


DON’T walk over burial sites, whenever possible.

When walking around burial sites, try to avoid stepping on them, and avoid standing on top.

DON’T touch cemetery monuments.

Many cemetery monuments, especially older ones, can become delicate from weather and age. Refrain from touching them or keep touches very gentle.

DON’T photograph strangers or other people’s burial services.

Cemeteries often make beautiful spots to take scenic photographs. While it’s perfectly okay to take photos of the landscape, under no circumstances should you photograph people without their consent. These are often very private and vulnerable moments, so it’s best to give space and find another area to photograph.


DON’T speed on the roads.

In Canada, most cemeteries have a speed limit of around 20km/h. Please respect the limits so everyone can enjoy these spaces’ safely and tranquilly.


Plan your visit to one of Arbor’s cemeteries.

At Arbor Memorial, we have cemeteries and memorial gardens across Canada that are open to the public. To visit your closest location, enter your city or postal code on our Locations page.

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