By Sarah Jones
Deciding what to wear
A generation ago, deciding what to wear at a funeral was fairly straightforward. Most of those attending would arrive in something dark and smart. It was felt to be the most respectable thing to do.
However, just as things have moved on in relation to the format of the funeral itself, so too has the protocol on what to wear. As people choose to make funeral choices which are in keeping with the personality and wishes of the person who has died, colourful clothing is not only more acceptable, it is sometimes requested.
When you are attending a funeral
If there is a particular dress code, it is very likely that someone close to those organising the funeral will know what it is. Don’t be afraid to ask around to see if anything has been requested.
It is natural to worry about getting it wrong. If there is no clear guidance and you are unsure, opt for dark and smart. If, on the other hand, you know that the person who died would appreciate you dressing in a certain way or wearing a specific colour, you may feel a greater connection to the person and the day if you follow these instincts.
When you are arranging a funeral
If you are arranging a funeral and it is important to you that people dress in a certain way, it will be helpful to those attending if you give some positive guidance about what is expected. We would advise that you give people some direction on what you would like them to do “please wear a pop of colour”, rather than a less specific instruction such as “you don’t need to wear black”.
There is no right or wrong thing to suggest. Some people prefer everyone to be in black because they feel it is respectful. Some want people to dress in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Others have very specific ideas.
You might want everyone to wear a touch of pink because it was the favourite colour of the person who has died. You may choose to encourage everyone to dress as if they were going to a party so that it feels like a celebration. The person who died may even have made their own wishes known. It might feel very meaningful to those attending to be wearing a specific colour, if they know that fulfils their funeral wishes. They may even choose to go out an bug something in that colour to wear – and that process may be very consoling for them.
Whatever you decide, you should feel comfortable sharing these wishes with others. Having said that, it’s unlikely that you will want to phone around everyone who might turn up. Choose a few people to share your preferences with and ask them to be responsible for making sure everyone who might be there knows what is expected. It is also perfectly acceptable to share details of the arrangements, including dress code, by email or text. If you are placing a notice in the paper, creating an online memorial page or using social media to share details of the funeral then this would also be a great place to give instructions.
Don’t spend time worrying about what people might think about your requests if they are specific. People like to know what is expected of them and if they know a particular colour has meaning, then taking time to choose something will be a way for them to engage emotionally before the funeral and participate more fully on the day.
Dress codes for children
If you have a specific dress code, you will probably want it to apply to children as well. If you are attending a funeral with children and are unsure what they should wear, choose something smart and understated if possible.
Dressing for the weather
The time of year will have some influence on what you choose to wear. If it is a very hot day, heavy dark clothing may be uncomfortable. Make sensible decisions so that you don’t feel too hot or cold. If you have something black that is very thick and warm and something navy which is lighter and cooler, choose the navy outfit on a hot day.
What not to wear at a funeral
If there is no clear request to wear something colourful, choose subdued colours and dress smartly. It is rarely a good idea to wear, trainers, jeans, caps or anything too casual. If in doubt, dress respectfully and ensure your appearance is understated.
Your funeral wishes
If you are planning your own funeral, give some thought to how you would like people to dress. Would you like everyone to turn up in red because you always enjoy wearing a good splash of red? If what people wear will help them remember you with affection and add a personal touch to the proceedings, consider making your feelings known to those closest to you.