In an unfortunate turn of events, I attended the funeral for my partner’s grandmother just over a week ago.
Although this was the first funeral I have been to, no one needed to tell me that there is a certain level of respect that you are required to show, especially if you are not immediate or even extended family of the deceased.
Your attendance at a funeral signifies that you are paying your respects to the deceased and their family, so the most important thing about your attire is that it reflects that intention.
If you wear a low-cut blouse and show too much cleavage (women) or have too many shirt buttons undone (men), you will appear unpresentable and therefore disrespectful. And the last thing that you want to do is offend or upset the family of the deceased.
As soon as my partner told me he wanted me to attend the funeral, I knew what I was going to wear. I only had one outfit appropriate for the serious occasion – a dark, past knee-length, simply and sparsely decorated dress. I knew I would style my hair into a neat bun using a bun enhancer, so that I would not need to touch or play with my hair during the service. But I didn’t have the appropriate footwear, so I bought a pair of black, simply decorated flats that I felt would be appropriate and comfortable to wear.
As I had never attended a funeral before, I felt that it was safest wearing dark colours. But as the family began arriving, I realised that maybe the dark colour palette was an older tradition that is beginning to fade. Floral patterns, white dress with bright red roses, daringly high stiletto heels, bared skin, short skirts, and tattoos on display alerted me that maybe it is acceptable to wear colours at a funeral. But I must admit that I didn’t think it quite so appropriate to show as much skin as some women were.
So, when looking through your wardrobe for a suitable outfit for that approaching funeral, please do not pass over that longer dress, that higher-necked blouse, those muted colours, or those sensible shoes, because looking respectful is just as important as behaving respectfully.
As I said, even though this was the first funeral I have attended, I didn’t need someone to tell me how to act.
My partner and I joined the line into the small lakeside chapel, collected a program and signed the guest book, and moved inside quietly to wait for his parents and sisters. We chose a row and sat as a group, and while waiting for the service to begin, I read the program. I turned my phone to silent and enabled flight mode before turning it off – I did not want anything coming through during the eulogies or any other part of the funeral.
Unfortunately, someone else seated at the back of the chapel didn’t have the same bright idea, because the Facebook Messenger tone was present throughout the entire service.
I had arranged myself and my small bag and water bottle comfortably on the seat, and sat with good posture with my hands clasped in my lap. I maintained this position for the whole service – I didn’t shift, or fidget, or look about me trying to spy something or someone interesting to look at because I was bored, nor did I slump in my seat or stretch or roll my neck along the back of it, or walk up and down the outside aisle trying to get a better view of the coffin during the benediction, or whisper loudly to my partner asking him what a benediction was.
I certainly didn’t thump an almost-empty tube of moisturiser into my hand and squeeze it to get out all the air bubbles it contained, or play with and scrunch up my loosely and messily tied hair, or smear too much sticky lip gloss over my lips and wipe the excess off with my hands.
The woman in the row in front of ours who was responsible for this behaviour was very distracting and irritating, so please do not be that person who disrupts a funeral service.
You should sit still and remain quiet during the entire service, unless you are joining a prayer or if you have been asked to stand.
If you are uncomfortable in these situations, that’s okay. Actually, it’s pretty normal – no one can say the social setting in which they thrive is a funeral. But remember that you’re at a funeral for a reason – to pay your respects to the deceased and their family, so make sure you get in at least one “I’m sorry for your loss”, because if anywhere, a funeral is the most appropriate place to offer your condolences.
Unfortunately, I met my partner’s father for the first time at his own mother’s funeral. I am always uncomfortable when it comes to what to say after someone has just told me about a loved one passing away, so I spent the few days before the funeral thinking about what I would say to him. I decided that “nice to meet you, I’m sorry about the circumstances” would be appropriate for these two situations that were mashed into one.
Remember that the reason you are attending the funeral is to pay your respects, so act and dress respectfully.
Until next time
Images and video sourced from:
eHow. 2008. “Funeral Planning: How to Behave at a Funeral.” YouTube video, posted November 29. Accessed January 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23-E3xyiZSs.
Koinonia. 2015. “With sincere sympathy.” Image. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://www.galvestonumchurch.org/koinonia.html.
wikiHow. “Dress for a funeral step 1.” Image. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://www.wikihow.com/Dress-For-a-Funeral.
wikiHow. “Dress for a funeral step 2.” Image. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://www.wikihow.com/Dress-For-a-Funeral.