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Pallbearers carry the casket of Major Douglas A. Zembiec of the United States Marine Corps

A pallbearer is one of several participants who help carry the casket at a funeral. They may wear white gloves in order to prevent damaging the casket and to show respect to the deceased person.

Some traditions distinguish between the roles of pallbearer and casket bearer. The former is a ceremonial position, carrying a tip of the pall or a cord attached to it. The latter do the actual heavy lifting and carrying. There may otherwise be pallbearers only in the symbolic sense if the casket is on an animal or vehicle.

In Western cultures, the pallbearers are usually male family members, close friends, or colleagues of the deceased. A notable exception was the funeral of Lee Harvey Oswald, in which reporters, pressed into service to carry the coffin, outnumbered the mourners.[1] In some African cultures, pallbearers are not family members but are staffs of professional funeral agencies who are paid for their services.[2]

At times additional pallbearers, known as honorary pallbearers, walk either behind or directly in front of the casket in a showcase of supplemental distinction towards the deceased. This type of pallbearer is most often a gentleman in the profession of the deceased who has achieved significant merit within their position.[3]


Pallbearers at a dignitary's burial in Kenya

A pall is a heavy cloth that is draped over a coffin.[4][5] Thus the term pallbearer is used to signify someone who "bears" the coffin which the pall covers.

Method of carrying[edit]

Pallbearers in the US and Canada most commonly carry a casket by the handles, and at around waist height.[6] In the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, and most countries in Asia, the coffin is often carried on the shoulders.[7][citation needed] In Ghana, the pallbearers dance with the coffin as part of a celebration of the deceased person's life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cochran, Mike (21 November 2013). "How I Became Lee Harvey Oswald's Pallbearer". The Denver Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  2. ^ Lansah, Sulley. "Ghana's Dancing Pallbearers Bring Funeral Joy". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  3. ^ Taylor, Dorthy; Jacobsen, Linda (1969). Planning and Financing a Funeral (PDF). Texas A&M University, Agricultural Extension Service.
  4. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pall" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. ^ "Making Funeral Preparations: A Guide for Preparing Death and the Funeral Liturgy" (PDF). Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. p. 2. Retrieved 28 August 2014. The coffin may be covered with a pall, recalling the white garment given in Baptism, the robe of Christ's righteousness that clothes us. The pall also reminds us that in death and before God all people are equal, regardless of whether the coffin is simple or elaborate. The white color of the pall is a reminder of Easter and Christ's victory over death.
  6. ^ "Funeral Held for Canadian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan". The Telegram. 25 September 2009. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  7. ^ FuneralFriend (26 July 2012). "What Is a Pallbearer". Retrieved 8 December 2018.