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The Debate Regarding Funeral Attire

Changing world views have caused the issue to no longer be so black and white.

By Cheryl E PrestonPublished 4 years ago 5 min read

I was taught that wearing black to a funeral represented being in mourning and expressed respect for the grieving family. Truthfully all the funerals I attended were indeed very sad. In the early 2000’s however I was the member of a church where the pastor said the final service should be a celebration of life. Shortly after this a church member who was in his 50’s passed away. It was announced that his widow wanted everyone to dress in white and light colors to celebrate her deceased spouses life. Since that time, most everyone uses the term “celebration of life” service, yet feuneral goers continue to dress in black as if they are in mourning.

I believe those who attend services should be mindful of the wishes of the family regarding the colors to wear. I’ve heard a lot of complains that young people today dress very inappropriately when attending church services and funerals. Certainly young men should be respectful enough to not wear their pants sagging and young women should not expose all their cleavage or wear dresses slit up to their rear ends. Some things should be common sense. As for everyone uniformly wearing black, this could be handled while the deceased is alive. He or she should make their wishes clear and let family know verbally or in writing what they desire.

This does not, however, indicate that the final wishes will be carried out. I had an older cousin who died at 95. She told everyone that she did not want a wake at night and the funeral the next day. She also said she desired her service to be at the funeral home with a visitation one half hour prior to the funeral. The cousin who was in charge ignored all of this and had the wake the night before the services. Everything took place at the church we all attended as children and was 10 miles away from the city where we all were now living. Those who wanted to pay their last respects had to drive 10 or more miles at night to sit in a church where only about 30 people showed up. We drove back home only to repeat it all the next day.

Had my cousins final wishes been carried out, only four or five people would have traveled from our home town to the services, instead of the other way around. When my brother drowned in 1993 my mother told us she did not want the family in black and ashes that we not go overboard in crying because she did not like funerals where people were screaming and crying out loud. The family members wore light colors and no one’s mourning got out of hand.

I have read obituaries in the news paper where certain things are asked of those who will attend on behalf of the deceased. The bottom line is that those in charge of the funeral home or church where the service will be held have a right to keep things in order in their establishments and who ever is paying for the services should also have a say so in what goes on. There should be mutual agreement regarding the final rite but one thing must be kept in mind. There really is no way to police the attendees and force them to comply with your wishes. In days gone by, certain things were simply understood but now we live in a culture where there is a lot of rebellion against previous norms.

Older people who were raised to dress modestly often cringe when they see young women at funerals dressed as if they are headed to a night club. Adult males who grew up with Sunday suits often shake their heads at the way young men wear street clothing to church services. The generation gap seems to have widened and there needs to be a bridge. Singer Arianna Grande looked absolutely out of place at the funeral of the late Aretha Franklin. She wore a black dress but it was very short, exposed her cleavage and drew attention to her body at a time the focus should have been on the deceased.

The majority in the church were in black, traditional funeral sttire, a few were wearing white but it was pretty much uniformed and Ms. Grande stood out. She offended so many that her attire continues to be talked about to this day. I wondered had this young woman never attended a funeral before and was curious why no one talked to her about what was expected. I personally felt she was not the best choice to honor the queen of soul but that’s my opinion. The bottom line is there needs to be communication regarding what is desired when it comes to funeral attire and it can be spread through social media. I have seen numerous posts where people give details regarding the final service for loved ones. Make your wishes known, Hope for the best and expect the worst.Ghe truth is, that no matter what you express as your desire. there may be some rebellious soul who does not comply.

Older adults of the baby boomer generation grew up following rules and not questioning things but today it’s different. I can just hear the younger folk faking what’s wrong with showing cleavage or wearing a very short dress because they have the “I’m gonna do me” attitude. I’m sure many question the purpose of black mourning clothing when you are saying the service is a celebration. Long ago children had church clothing, school attire and clothes to play in. It was understood that church dressed and suits were only for special occasions. Today children go to church wearing what we older folks would call the play clothing, many young people and their parents don’t even own dark suits or dresses.

These are just some things to keep in mind when you attend the next funeral, home going service,memorial, celebration of life etc.


About the Creator

Cheryl E Preston

Cheryl is a widow who enjoys writing about current events, soap spoilers and baby boomer nostalgia. Tips are greatly appreciated.

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