Choosing what to wear to a funeral can be difficult. Black clothing is a well-known funeral tradition, but every service (and every family) is different. You have many factors to consider, including formality, location and time of year. Before you get overwhelmed, remember that supporting the grieving family is far more important than the clothes you wear.
Bearing that in mind, there are a few helpful guidelines you can follow. Here are a few things to consider if you’re not sure whether to wear all black to a funeral service.
Why Do We Wear Black to Funerals?
Throughout history, people have worn many colors to symbolize their grief – not just black. For instance, gold is the most popular color for funerals in Egypt, as it represents the sun (and gold materials that are frequently used in funeral traditions). Other cultures, such as Hindu culture, wear white during mourning as a symbol of purity. In Ghana, red is most traditional. In the United States, however, it is still popular to wear black to a funeral.
According to historians, many people in the early Roman Empire wore dark-colored togas as a sign of mourning. Much later, Queen Victoria of England popularized black as a mourning color when her husband, Prince Albert, passed away in 1861. The devastated queen wore black for the rest of her life as a symbol of her grief. Because the British upper class frequently mimicked the dress of the royal family, wearing black as a sign of grief became the norm in the West. It has remained that way for decades.
Wearing Black (Or Other Dark Colors)
Today, it’s not necessarily required to wear black to a funeral, but many people still choose to wear it as sign of respect. Wearing subdued clothing shows that you are there to focus on the deceased and their grieving family – not to draw attention to yourself.
Along those same lines, many people choose to wear muted colors that are not necessarily black. Colors such as navy, olive green and dark gray are popular choices and are perfectly acceptable. Just try to avoid wearing anything bright or boldly patterned. Also avoid bold or flashy accessories.
Whether you choose to wear all-black or not, you want to maintain a certain level of formality. One popular rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would this outfit be appropriate for a formal job interview?” If the answer is no, it’s probably not appropriate for a funeral service.
Unique Funeral Services
Today, many grieving families choose to forego traditional elements of a funeral service, including the need for guests to wear black. Celebration of life services focus on exactly that: celebrating the life of the deceased, and all the joy that he or she felt during their lifetime. To reflect this, some families request that guests dress in bright, vibrant and joyful colors.
If you are attending a celebration of life service and you’re not sure whether this is the case, don’t worry. If a family has a particular dress code and does not want you to wear black to a funeral, they will let you know beforehand.
Whether you wear black to a funeral service or not, the most important thing is to focus on why you are there. Clothing can be a meaningful way to respect the deceased, but it should never be the focal point. Funeral services are an important time to find closure, honor the deceased and comfort grieving family and friends. Everything else is secondary.
If you are planning a funeral service for a loved one and are feeling overwhelmed, Bevis Funeral Home has a variety of resources available to assist you during this difficult time. You can also give us a call at (850) 385-2193 to speak with one of our expert Funeral Directors or send us a message here.