What to Wear to an African American Funeral

Are you looking for the right outfit to wear to an African-American funeral? Then read this guide on what to wear to american funeral and what to wear to a black baptist funeral. When attending an African American funeral, it’s important to be aware of the cultural differences between the way black Americans mourn and the way other cultures mourn. Dressing in somber colors is a good place to start. Black, gray, navy blue, and maroon are all appropriate colors for an African American funeral. If you’re not sure what colors are appropriate for your particular situation, ask someone who is familiar with the tradition to help you out. Some people choose to wear all-black outfits or suits at funerals because they believe that clothes should reflect how serious the occasion is. Others wear white or pastel colors because they want to show respect for the deceased person by wearing something light and cheerful.

What to wear to an african american funeral

You don’t have to be a fashion expert to know that African American culture is steeped in tradition. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you know what to wear at an African American funeral.

What to Wear To An African American Funeral

The first thing you should know is that there are certain dress codes and customs that will apply no matter where the funeral service is held. For example, it’s considered disrespectful if you show up wearing bright colors or patterns—that’s reserved for weddings and special occasions. You should also avoid wearing white, as it’s associated with death.

However, there are some variations on these rules depending on where your friend or loved one lived when they passed away. Some people prefer casual clothing at their funerals while others may want something more formal. The best thing to do is ask family members if they have any preferences before deciding what to wear!

When someone you love dies, you want to look your best. And that means dressing up for the occasion. But what do you wear to an African American funeral?

Well, there are a few things to consider when choosing your outfit. You want something that is respectful of the person who has passed away, but also something that makes you feel comfortable and confident in yourself. You don’t have to go overboard with your outfit either—just make sure it’s clean!

We’ve put together some helpful tips on how to dress for an African American funeral so that it shows your loved ones how much they mean to you at this difficult time.

You’ve been invited to an African American funeral. You don’t know the family, but you’d like to make a good impression. What should you wear?

The answer depends on who’s hosting the service and what kind of ceremony it is. For example, if it’s a religious service, you’ll want to wear more formal attire (suit and tie for men, dress for women), whereas if it’s a secular service, something more casual will suffice (jeans or slacks).

It’s common for Black funerals to follow a dress theme.For example, if the immediate family opts to wear navy blue, guests may be asked to coordinate by wearing various shades of blue. The theme often continues to other elements of the funeral and repast, with complementary flowers and decor.

7 Elements of African American Mourning Practices & Burial Traditions
Dr. Kami FletcherBy DR. KAMI FLETCHER February 8, 2021
The gut-wrenching murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 put African American mourning and burial practices on international display. From the ways in which white supremacy undergird African American deathways, to the ways in which Black mourners courageously used their grief to demand societal change in policies and laws that long oppressed Black communities, the world took notice of Black grief, mourning, and burial.

Not too long ago, the passing of Aretha Franklin illustrated to the world the stylish and lavish ways Black folks bury their dead. From her open-casket viewing revealing her ‘red bottoms,’ to her gold Promethean casket (the same model George Floyd was buried in), African American last rites and mourning are steadily moving from margin to center. Although coverage of the Homegoings of George Floyd and Aretha Franklin ran non-stop on many national news networks, the vast majority of white folks and people deemed outsiders of the American Black community, still did not know exactly what they were looking at.

Well, let me put you on game by answering the most pressing question, “what is a Homegoing?”

Why is it Called a Homegoing?
Isn’t it just a funeral? Well, no.
A Homegoing, like its name implies, is the symbolic return of the human spirit back to its heavenly home, invoking the Christian idea of God as Father and so therefore going back home/to heaven to be with one’s Father/Creator of life. It is a culturally distinct end-of-life ceremony within the Black American community that is steeped in the religious culture of the Black church – although the decedent does not have to be a practicing Christian. Fundamental to the Homegoing are the gospel songs and church hymns, and it is usually set in a church, namely the church home of the decedent or the bereaved family.

The hymns, gospel songs and the designated solos frame the Homegoing encouraging public displays of grief. At my maternal grandmother’s Homegoing, we made sure that her oldest child, my Auntie Jamie, sang “When You Hear of My Homegoing,” one of grandmama’s favorite spirituals and one she had long requested to be sung when her time came. Mourners clapped in unison, shouted, and cried. The relief provides the necessary steps toward healing for which the songs and the eulogy, which doubles as a sermon, both play a very important part. The syncopated sounds and rhythm can provide balm to a hurting soul while the eulogy reaffirms the importance of the decedent’s life and the notion that they are in a better place.

The Homegoing is the ceremonial send-off of the deceased to heaven. What’s important to remember is that it is a celebration of the decedent’s life. Its key elements–along with the public expression of grief and well-placed spirituals–are length, open-casket, style and flare. Time is generally suspended at a Homegoing and it is acceptable for songs to run long and for those in attendance to sing songs not on the program and even to come to the front of the church and share memories of the deceased, highlighting their importance to the community.

Upon entry, mourners, in pairs, are directed by church ushers and/or funeral home staff to file past the open casket stop and say last goodbyes and even remark on what a good job the funeral director did on making the decedent look so good. As ushers and funeral home staff direct them to their seat, they follow the path that leads them from the open casket to file past the front row–the immediately bereaved family members–where hugs and looks of encouragement are given. Upon departure, ushers and funeral home staff direct mourners to file past the open casket to say one last goodbye and file out the church to the outside.

Open Casket / ”Casket Sharp”
Traditionally speaking, Black folks have an open-casket Homegoing and when they don’t, the whispering may very well start as to why not. You may overhear comments that presume the funeral director could not ‘fix’ the decedent well enough to life-like status, or that the bereaved did not want ‘so-and-so’ all up on their deceased loved one (i.e. touching/kissing the body). Whatever the reason, it is more common than not for the body to be on full view throughout the entire ceremony. However, it is just as common for the funeral home staff to close the casket right after all mourners have had their viewing upon entering the Homegoing. That signals to all funeral go-ers that not only will they not get a customary second chance to view the body at the end of the Homegoing, but also that the family is asking for privacy as they grieve and mourn.

“Casket sharp” was curiously derived from the Homegoing being one of the only public appearances where Black folks were allowed to present themselves not as someone’s slave, servant or Jim Crow minstrel.
More than anything, the open-casket viewing is a time for the decedent to shine and look their very best–”casket sharp.” Casket sharp is a term commonly used in the Black community to describe not just that someone is wearing formal wear, but that the person is stylish and very well-dressed in a manner that is fit for the most formal of formal occasions – the Homegoing. The description of style and flair in the overall ensemble that includes coiffed hair, shoes, and accessories is simply unmatched. Casket sharp is not thrown around but intentionally invoked when someone’s outfit is clearly superior to all present. It is so flawless and thus should be the last outfit ever worn– their Homegoing.

“Casket sharp” was curiously derived from the Homegoing being one of the only public appearances where Black folks were allowed to present themselves not as someone’s slave, servant or Jim Crow minstrel. It is a colloquialism rooted in this defense mechanism so much so that once Black people were admitted to the American cash economy during Reconstruction, elaborate funerals were at the top of their list. This was dramatized throughout the first half of the twentieth century in movies like “Imitation of Life” where the co-star, Annie (played by Juanita Moore), had a deathbed scene where she has written out funeral instructions, right down to what she would wear in her casket.

In contemporary times, casket sharp is used not just to describe someone’s Sunday’s Best but more so a deliberate display of expensive clothing, jewellery and one’s socio-economic status that may or may not include upward mobility from higher education and stardom. This was directly illustrated in Rickey Smiley’s 2011 comedy stand-up routine entitled “Open Casket Sharp”, where he was dressed in a fashionable designer suit meant to display his accomplishments as a famed comedian, actor and radio show host. In contemporary times, casket sharp has expanded to mean class, wealth and social status that was illustrated by clothing and dress accessories.

Musical Selections
As previously mentioned, church hymns, gospel songs and spirituals all frame the Homegoing celebration. At its start, while mourners are escorted in by church ushers and/or the funeral home staff, the church choir sings hymns about heaven, God, hope, and the healing strength of the Lord. This is especially true for me when I hear “Total Praise” at a loved one’s services. It is not just the lyrics but the volume and passion accompanied by the organ and drums that extend hope and give comfort to mourners. They unify mourners and allow for funeral goers to give a choral embrace to the family who is suffering a loss.

In addition, and through their selected renditions, soloists are able to give condolence and pay respects. It is very common for soloists, as they prepare to sing, to first discuss their relationship to the deceased, shed tears through the memory and then use the song as a way to individually grieve but take the steps to publicly heal in the supportive environment.

As bereaved Courtney Humphrey prepared to sing “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” a popular song sung at Homegoings, you hear her say that she inherited her voice from her grandfather, he would want her to sing, so as emotionally difficult as it was for her, she was going to “push through it.” (Watch here). As she crescendos and sings the lyrics “When Jesus is my portion/My constant friend is he,” a fellow mourner shouts “sing Courtney” (2:00-2:18). This shout is heard among the many “amens” and claps that let her know she was not alone in her mourning and not alone in a new life without her grandfather.

Funeral Programs
During a ceremony where time is suspended, and just about every mourner wants to stand and a give a special tribute about the deceased or sing a solo, it is important to have a structured agenda of scheduled activities. This is one of the main functions of the funeral program. The following are the elements and the ordering of a Homegoing celebration, although other Homegoings may include more and have particular elements carried out by different members of the community, and may be arranged a bit differently.

Musical Prelude



Old Testament……………………………….….. Pastor

New Testament……………………………..…….Family Member


Words of Encouragement…………………….Pastor

Solo…………………………………………….……..Friend of the family

Obituary (Read Silently)

Special Tributes


Members of community organizations where decedent was a member

Members of volunteer organizations where decedent was a volunteer


Extended Family

Immediate Family

Reading of Resolutions…………………………..….Extended Family

Solo………………………………………………….………Friend of the Family



As the institution of slavery has made it extremely difficult to trace our family tree, funeral programs have served as a very important means of record keeping.
Kami’s newphew Willie
Courtesy of the author

The Homegoing is a celebration of life and the funeral program shouts this. At least one page of the funeral program is full of high-resolution color photos of the deceased posed with his/her family and friends, while it is common to have two full pages front and back.

When someone dies, appetite is usually the first thing to go. The repast, a feast shared between the bereaved, is a way to get back to eating, a way back to normalcy. It is a time of nourishment and fellowship–repairing your body with sustenance surrounding by family and friends. It is at the repast, usually the very last event in the last rites ceremonies, that there is a purposeful shift in mood, a shift to a celebration, sometimes even a party. At Davante’s repast, this is exactly what happened. The first five or six minutes of the video, as mourners are arriving to the repast, you see how folks are greeting one another and from the way that most are seeking out and hugging a middle-aged woman in the black mask wearing a black and white dress, that she is the mother of the decedent. And there is lots of conversation, laughter and joy at seeing family members and friends of family that one has not seen in a long time. This is all mixed with music and, of course, food.

There is joy in meeting people who have worked, volunteered and/or gone to school with the decedent. They share their memories of the deceased again highlighting his/her importance to a bigger community.

For more on this topic:
1) “The Repast: Self and Collective Love in the Face of Black Death” by Haile Eshe Cole.

What to Wear to an African Funeral

Are you attending an African funeral? Whether it’s your first time or you’re a regular, there are some things to keep in mind when choosing what to wear.

First and foremost, the most important thing about wearing clothes at a funeral is to respect the family and friends of the deceased. It’s hard enough dealing with the loss of someone close without having to worry about how awkward you’ll look in your outfit. So make sure that whatever you choose fits your personal style and makes you feel comfortable—but also consider what will be appropriate for the occasion.

If you’re not sure where to go from here, we’ve got some tips for what to wear at an African funeral so that you don’t end up making a misstep.

When it comes to dressing for an African funeral, there are certain guidelines that you’ll want to follow. There are a variety of different customs in different countries, but in general, there are some common themes that you can use as a starting point for your attire.

African funerals tend to be more casual than Western funerals. This means that you don’t need to wear a dress or suit—but it also means that you shouldn’t wear flip flops or jeans. Instead, opt for something that is smart and formal without being too formal (e.g., slacks instead of a suit). You should also avoid wearing anything too bright or colourful—that’s better left for the party after!

If there is going to be dancing during the funeral service, make sure that your shoes have rubber soles so they won’t slip on the floor. Similarly, if there will be more than one service (for example, one for the family and one for friends), then make sure that your clothes are appropriate for both events!

The funeral is a time to pay tribute to the departed, and it can also be an opportunity for you to show your respect for their culture. This is especially true if you’re attending an African funeral.

In most African cultures, dressing well reflects the level of respect you have for the dead and their family. If you’re going to an African funeral, here’s what you need to know about how to dress appropriately:

Attire for African funerals is very formal, with many people opting to buy new clothes and shoes or wearing their Sunday church outfits. Women tend to prefer all black, possibly with a dash of white or red, while men wear black or navy suits. The wearing of either a black, blue or white shirt with a suit is acceptable.

What To Wear To A Funeral

South Africa is a multicultural country filled with a mix of fascinating cultures and religions where we can freely experience each other’s different lifestyles and practices. In doing so, we will inevitably attend a funeral of another culture at some stage. This can put us out of our comfort zone and leave us with a dilemma about what to wear to a funeral where we are not familiar with the customs.

Appropriate Funeral Attire

The guidelines for what is and what is not appropriate apparel for events such as viewings and funerals have been greatly relaxed over the last few decades. Men are no longer required to wear ties or suit jackets, women can wear pants, and no one is required to wear black anymore. However, one should try to exercise common sense and good taste. For instance, bathing suits and flip-flops are probably best suited for the beach or pool and not for a viewing or a funeral. It will also be regarded as disrespectful to the family and the deceased if you arrive at the funeral dressed in a revealing outfit.

While it is true that the standards for appropriate funeral attire have been relaxed in recent years and unless forbidden for religious reasons, women nowadays wear slacks and a blouse instead of the traditional skirt or dress. Men no longer are required to wear a tie and jacket. Apparel should be modest, in muted tones or dark colours, and should be clean and without holes. Flip-flops should be avoided because not only are they too casual, but the noise that they make when one walks might be disturbing or offensive to other mourners.

Funeral Colours

The wearing of dark colours to a funeral, mainly black, has been associated with death in Western cultures since the Victorian era when Queen Victoria wore black for 40 years to mourn the passing of her husband, Prince Albert. The wearing of black “widow’s weeds”, which included a black hat and veil in public for up to two years after a husband’s death, became standard practice for women. Men, however, were only expected to mourn their wives for up to 6 months while wearing a black suit and were then able to continue wearing regular suits, usually of dark colours.

In other countries such as Cambodia, France and even the Aborigines from Australia, white mourning clothes represent purity and rebirth. The Aborigines wear a white mourning cap made of clay throughout the grieving period. This cap is laid on the husband’s grave after that. Even Queen Victoria requested that white play an integral part in her funeral. She wore a white veil over her face, and her coffin was also draped in white and drawn by a white horse.

In China, red symbolises happiness and is strictly forbidden at funerals, yet in South Africa, red has been adopted as a colour of mourning and suffering. When national hero, Senzo Meyiwa, passed away, his mourners packed the stadium dressed in red to pay their respects to him.

Purple is another colour used to define sorrow and loss, and in Brazil, many Catholics combine black and purple while in mourning. The colour purple is so sacred in the country that it can be disrespectful to wear it if not attending a funeral. In the East, in Thailand, purple is reserved for widows in mourning for their spouse, while other mourners must dress in black.

Gold was associated with the afterlife in Egypt as it is imperishable and indestructible. It, therefore, quickly became the royal colour of mourning – which is indicated by the discovery of treasures and artefacts in ancient Egyptian burial chambers. The golden funeral mask of King Tutankhamun is a well-recognised example of this.

Grey is another colour used for mourning, particularly in Papua New Guinea, where women apply grey-coloured clay to their skin after their husband has passed away. Some also wear several strings of grey grass and remove one each day as the end of their mourning period draws closer.

In many instances, the person who has passed may have expressed a wish for mourners to wear light, bright colours or a ribbon of a specific colour in aid of a cause or a charity. These details will usually be communicated by either the family or the funeral director.

We also need to know what to expect when attending a funeral of someone from a different faith or culture.

Christian Funerals

Christian funerals either involve a burial or a cremation. Some families may have an open casket, where the body is displayed before burial or cremation so that friends and family can say their last goodbyes. However, we do not have to view the open casket if we do not wish to. A priest or pastor usually leads the funeral service where hymns are sung and prayers said. If you are unsure of where to sit or stand, watch what others do. It is advisable not to talk during the ceremony as it is considered disrespectful. Although it was customary to wear black or dark colours, these are lately combined with other lighter colours, depending on the denomination or even cause of death.

African Funerals

South Africa has 11 recognised cultures, and when it comes to traditional African funerals, the practices are beautiful, unmistakable, and intricate. African funerals are characterised by a desire to celebrate the life of the deceased through song. Some of the mourning processes may involve a ritual sacrifice or a cow, ox or goat. The meat is fed to the mourners, and this process is then repeated on the anniversary of the death to ensure that the deceased may be called upon as a guiding ancestor.

Rituals are very important for African people as they believe that the essence of the deceased is not destroyed but moves on to live in the ancestors’ realm. They believe that the ancestors protect and guide the living and should be respected. Bereavement rituals also provide the people with an occasion to express their profound grief through crying and lamentations.

Attire for African funerals is very formal, with many people opting to buy new clothes and shoes or wearing their Sunday church outfits. Women tend to prefer all black, possibly with a dash of white or red, while men wear black or navy suits. The wearing of either a black, blue or white shirt with a suit is acceptable.

Muslim Funerals

Muslim funerals require that the deceased is buried within 24 hours. Cremations are forbidden. The body is carefully wrapped in a plain white cloth, with which it is buried, and the body is never displayed for mourners. An Imam will lead the funeral service, and there will be prayers and readings from the Quran. Woman are expected to dress modestly and to cover their heads. Everyone who enters the mosque should remove their shoes. Traditionally, only men attend the burial where the body is placed in a grave and covered with a layer of stones and then soil.

Hindu Funerals

Hindu funerals also take place as quickly as possible after death, preferably before the next dusk or dawn. Again, the body is wrapped in a shroud, placed in an open casket with a garland of flowers and holy basil. Traditional offerings of rice balls called “pinda” may be placed near the casket. Except for babies, children and saints, most Hindus are cremated. People usually wear white to the funeral, and flowers are welcomed.

Jewish Funerals

Jewish funerals need to take place within 24 hours of the deceased’s passing. The coffin is simple, and the body is not displayed. Traditionally, the Jewish faith only allows burials. Men cover their heads, and the Rabbi reads various prayers. Like the Christian burial, the coffin is lowered into the ground, and mourners place soil on the coffin’s top. People attending the funeral are expected to dress formally but do not have to wear black.

There are many more guidelines of what to expect when attending a funeral of a different faith. If you doubt what to wear or what to expect, ask a friend or the bereaved if you can. Alternatively, you can call the funeral home, church, mosque or venue where the funeral will be held for more details.

What to wear to a black baptist funeral

If you’re attending a funeral at a black baptist church, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • The service will probably be very formal. You’ll likely be seated at tables that seat 8-10 people, and the meal will be served buffet-style. This means that you need to dress appropriately—no jeans or shorts. Wear a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt, or a skirt and blouse. Keep your jewelry simple and avoid flashy colors (a classic black dress is always appropriate). If you’re not sure what to wear, ask someone who works at the church for help!
  • Some people may wear hats, but it’s not required. It’s also not taboo for women to wear pantsuits or pantsuits with jackets instead of dresses; just make sure they’re modestly appropriate for the occasion (no miniskirts!).
  • At most black baptist funerals, guests will receive a program listing the events of the evening—how long they should stay after dinner (usually 15 minutes or so), when they should arrive (usually around 6pm), etc. Check your program before you leave!

Hope this helps!

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