Why do we wear black to funerals?

group of people wearing black and sitting down at a funeral while a celebrant stands next to the coffin to lead the service

Black is still the most popular colour to wear at a funeral in the UK. But why do we wear it? And what are the alternatives?

Why do people wear black to funerals?

Black has a long tradition of being associated with funerals. This is because it’s often seen as a symbol of dark moods and sadness. Today, it’s often worn so that no one stands out at the funeral, which is considered a mark of respect.

The history of wearing black to funerals

People have been wearing black at funerals as far back as Roman times. In those days, they’d wear a dark-coloured toga, known as a toga pulla, to show they were in mourning.

But it wasn’t until Victorian times (the 1800s) that it became common for everyone to wear black at a funeral. This was because black dye was expensive to make compared with many other colours. So only wealthy people wore black to funerals, while everyone else would wear colours like brown or white, which were cheaper to make.

Victorian mourning clothes

Formal mourning became popular during the Victorian era. This meant more rules about how people should dress for months or years after the funeral. People were expected to wear black every day during the mourning period. After this ended, they sometimes they had a second mourning period called half-mourning, when they could wear grey or purple clothes.

How long someone had to wear mourning clothes depended on their relationship to the person who had died. The longest mourning period was for a wife mourning her husband, which could last up to 2 years. A man mourning his wife only needed to wear mourning for one year. Read more about Victorian mourning rules.

Mourning jewellery was also popular. This was usually a ring, pendant or brooch specially made to remember a loved one. It would often have their initials and date of birth/death. It might also have a painting or photo of them or contain a lock of their hair.

Other traditional funeral colours

White

The association of black with funerals is rooted in Roman Catholicism and Christianity, but for other religions, white is often the colour which best represents mourning. In Buddhist and Hindu countries, for example, white is seen as a symbol of purity and innocence. This is why places like China and India often feature all-white funerals. People sometimes wear white to a Muslim funeral too.

Yellow

In Egypt, yellow is associated with the sun, a symbol of everlasting life. This is why many Egyptian mummies have masks painted in yellow and gold. It’s also why yellow is often worn to funerals. Ethiopia, Mexico and Myanmar are other countries where yellow is associated with mourning.

Purple, blue and grey

In Thailand, purple is the main colour worn when a widow mourns the death of her husband. Brazil also has purple as a colour of bereavement, while in recent years the Catholic Church in Europe has also adopted it. Elsewhere, blue is favoured in South Korea and grey in Papua New Guinea.

Modern funeral clothing trends

Less formal funerals are becoming more popular in the UK. Rather than an occasion for mourning, some people prefer to view them as a chance to celebrate someone’s life.

As a result, it’s becoming more common for people to wear bright colours to a funeral, or even to dress for a specific theme. For example, people could be asked to wear a football shirt for a football fan, or to wear someone’s favourite colour.

In fact, 22% of people would prefer friends and family wear bright colours to their funeral, suggesting this trend is here to stay (Co-op Funeralcare, 2021).

What to wear to a funeral today

What should you wear to a funeral today? As well as choosing the right colour, there are sometimes rules about what type of clothing, footwear or headwear you should wear. It depends on the type of funeral you’re going to and where it’s taking place. Learn more about what to wear to a funeral.

Funeral Choice is a free online resource that helps people plan funerals and find local funeral directors. Visit our funeral planning advice hub to search for more articles.

 

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk via Pexels

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Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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What is a Direct Cremation?

A Direct Cremation is an alternative to the traditional funeral. This involves the cremation of the deceased without a funeral service. A Direct Cremation is generally the most economic option because costs of the coffin, preparation of the body, funeral service and expensive transportation are not included. However, many people choose Direct Cremations for reasons other than expense, for example:

  • - Wanting to have a memorial at a different time to the cremation
  • - Expressed desire from the deceased to not have a ceremony
  • - Individuals with relatives who face big physical or geographical challenges in coming together for a ceremony

The prices quoted for Direct Cremations include:

  • All charges, meetings and paperwork for the cremation
  • Collection of deceased and care prior to cremation
  • A simple coffin and urn for the ashes
  • Cremation fees and delivery of ashes to the family
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Attended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees for an Attended Funeral, which is where family and friends have a ceremony or service for the deceased person at the same time as they attend their burial or cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Taking care of all necessary legal and administrative arrangements
  • Collecting and transporting the deceased person from the place of death (normally within 15 miles of the funeral director’s premises) into the funeral director’s care
  • Care of the deceased person before the funeral in appropriate facilities.
  • Providing a suitable coffin
  • Optional viewing of the deceased person for family and friends, by appointment with the funeral director
  • At a date and time you agree with the funeral director, taking the deceased person direct to the agreed cemetery or crematorium (normally within 20 miles of the funeral director’s premises) in a hearse or other appropriate vehicle

In addition to the Funeral Director’s fee, there will be third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements) to cover the other aspects of a funeral (such as the crematorium or burial fees). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to provide these for you.

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Unattended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees and the crematorium fee for an Unattended Funeral, which is where family and friends may choose to have a ceremony, event or service for the deceased person, but they do not attend the burial or cremation itself. This is also known as a Direct Cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Funeral Director's fees
  • Crematorium fee (for an unattended funeral) as selected by the Funeral Director

In addition to this fee, there might be additional third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to explain these for you.

If you wish to attend the funeral, you should view the “Attended Funeral” price instead.

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Why is this price Estimated?

We work hard to ensure the Funeral Director Fees we display are accurate and up to date. However, unlike with our partners, we cannot guarantee this price is correct today.

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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Funeral Choice charity donation

To redeem the £20 charity donation all you have to do is select the charity from the dropdown list in the Make Contact form. Once you have confirmed arrangements with that funeral director send us an email to info@yourfuneralchoice.com confirming the service has been arranged. After we receive this email we will make the donation to the chosen charity and confirm back to you.

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