Wear black at my funeral

A few weeks ago I went to a colleague’s funeral and noted, not for the first time, a trend for funeral-goers to wear colours other than black. I was brought up to believe that the “correct” colours for funerals are black, more black and perhaps grey if that’s the colour of your only suit. Maybe my upbringing wasn’t typical, but I do think the tendency to wear other colours is a relatively new thing.

The justification is usually the same: “It’s a celebration of [the person’s] life.” But it just doesn’t work. For a start, most of us are cursed with crappy communicators as our next-of-kin, so it’s rare for all the funeral attendees to get the “no black” memo. Secondly, funeral-goers almost never actually wear celebratory clothes. If black is banned, you tend to get a wintry mix of browns, blues and greys. Maybe that’s because people feel that party wear is disrespectful, or maybe they just feel too sad to wear anything fun. Either way, that should be a massive clue as to why avoiding black is bad: because funerals are not a celebration of the person’s life. They’re a time for saying goodbye, for sharing the grief with others who will understand. You’re remembering the person and their achievements on a sad occasion, and that’s OK. True celebration happens in other ways.

The colleague whose funeral I attended was definitely a man who deserved celebrating. And he was a man who loved fun, who loved partying. A real celebration of his life would have involved men in dresses (and I’m definitely not counting priests here), Cuban rum, Irish whisky, beautiful women, bright colours, music, dancing. We had a little post-funeral party where the drinks flowed, the music played and beautiful women were in attendance, and that’s great. But the actual funeral was a depressing affair – of course – and the people who turned up in beige fleeces instead of black clothes didn’t change that.

I write as someone who avoids wearing black in the normal course of things. Right now, I have perhaps six items of black clothing in my bulging, colourful wardrobe, including three pairs of jogging bottoms and a brewery T-shirt.  I used to wear a lot of black in my gothier days, but now it seems a waste when there are so many nice colours to wear. I also think that wearing non-black to work is a way of “levelling up” in your wardrobe choices. Choosing a different base colour –  even if it’s a safe option like navy, beige, brown or grey – somehow makes you look more sophisticated.

But I want people to wear black at my funeral. Maybe you admired alive-me for wearing nice colours, for being unconventional, for having an upbeat attitude (unlikely, I know). But my funeral won’t be a celebration of my life. Celebrate my life by drinking my favourite wine, chatting about me to others, doing things I would have approved of. Don’t do it at my funeral, because funerals are sad, and that’s OK. There’s no need to think outside the box once I’m inside the box.

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