Do I Have to Wear Black to a Funeral? Etiquette and Alternatives

Wearing black to a funeral is a long-standing tradition across many different cultures. For those in the UK, it became the standard to wear black at a funeral during the Victoria times (the 1800s) and this trend continues today. Queen Victoria is believed to have been the trailblazer behind this trend as she famously wore black for her beloved Prince Albert’s funeral and continued to do so afterwards.

Within the past couple of years, there has been a shift in this attitude as more people are wanting to celebrate their life rather than be mourned in a traditional sense. Over 35 million British adults want their funeral to be a celebration of life with over a fifth of people wanting mourners to wear bright colours (Co-op Funeralcare, 2021).

This suggests that attitudes are changing and black outfits are no longer considered the norm at a funeral. In this article, we’ll dive into the changing attitudes of black formal wear and advise you on the right attire for a funeral. Hopefully, this will make arranging a funeral simpler and easier for you.

Why wear black?

Traditionally, black has been the colour of mourning and grief as it is often viewed as a way to show respect and sympathy for both the people who have died and their loved ones. Whilst it’s not mandatory to wear black, many people choose to do so as it’s unlikely to cause offence and will not draw attention away from the event.

Imposing a black ‘uniform’ on the occasion will allow everyone to focus on remembering the loved one instead of the outlandish outfits that can often seem out of place. Some people prefer this for their own funerals so the focal point will be mourning them.

Alternatives to black

Whilst black is seen as the most traditional colour to wear to a funeral, there are other smart colours that are seen as acceptable. Dark grey or navy outfits are a close alternative to black but are still considered suitable and respectful.

Other neutral colours such as dark green, brown or maroon are some other modern alternatives that lighten up the event without taking the spotlight away from the funeral. While these colours may not be the traditional black choice, they are still considered appropriate for a funeral.

A splash of colour

There is a steadily growing amount of people planning their own funerals and stating that they want the guests to wear something colourful. The rise of bright and colourful funerals also reflects the multicultural side of the UK. For example, people at Hindu funerals traditionally wear white as this represents purity. Many non-religious funerals have also taken inspiration from this.

Funerals today are often seen as more of a celebration of life that focuses on the individualism of the deceased and what people love about them. They want the event to be remembered as positive and more representative of the person who died rather than just mourning them.

Some people even have themed funerals that remember their hobbies or favourite pastime. This could include everyone dressed as brightly coloured superheroes or adorned in graphic football shirts.

Depends on traditions and personal preferences

In conclusion, wearing black to a funeral is traditional but not necessarily a requirement. It’s  worth considering the culture, religion and preference of the person who died and their family as well as basic etiquette. After all, you would never wear something too revealing or flashy to a funeral.

When deciding on the outfit choice, it’s important to consider what the person who died wants. Some people love traditions and want to keep it simple with black, but others instead want to light up the room with different colours. In most cases, those wanting a non-traditional funeral will have made this clear beforehand. Therefore, the funeral attire will most likely be agreed upon before the event.

The most important thing is to show your respect and support for the person who died and their family during this difficult time.

Words by Charlie Vogelsang

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