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Wherein Twistie Discusses the Opposite of Weddings | Manolo for the Big Girl

Wherein Twistie Discusses the Opposite of Weddings

Over the years we all wind up going to weddings. Over the years, we can also wind up going to a lot of funerals. Don’t worry. I’m not going all somber and miserable on you, nor am I preparing to attend a particular funeral. The fact remains that death is a fact of life, and we should all be equally prepared to attend a funeral as a wedding.

I do have to confess an inadvertent faux pas I committed in years past. It was a period in my life when I was stony broke beyond expression, so I had very few presentable clothes in my wardrobe. And since I tend toward bright colors and dramatic details, I was mortified to find that when a friends’ father died I had nothing to wear to the funeral but a raisin-colored skirt and blouse. The color was no problem. It was somber enough and shades of purple have just as long a history in mourning as black does. No, it was the fact that both the skirt and the blouse were decorated festively with shisha mirrors.

To this day I burn with shame at the thought of those festive mirrors.

Moral of the story: always make sure there’s something in your closet you can wear to a funeral without embarrassing yourself or scandalizing others. A simple black dress, a navy suit, or something in charcoal grey and a conservative cut…any of these is fine. Just make sure they don’t have shisha mirrors as decorative details. An ounce of prevention, my superfantastic friends.

And since the time may come in any person’s life when they are called upon to host a funeral (not that I desire it for any of you, but again taking precautions is always the intelligent route), it never hurts to have a guide to how to do it well. I found just such a book recently, and I’m going to recommend it to all of you right now.

It’s called Being Dead is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. After all, as much as I love my California home and as much of an unrepentant – nay, brazen – Yankee as I am, I have to admit that folks south of the Mason-Dixon line know how to throw an Event. And friends, a good funeral done well can be an Event.

Being Dead is No Excuse is filled with breezy – yet practical – advice on how to handle such matters as dressing for the funeral, writing condolence notes, choosing the proper hymn, and improving the inevitable deli platter presented in such a way as to leave any reader with a sense of humor doubled over and gasping for breath. It also has plenty of cautionary tales on How Not To Do Things (hint: never have someone sing the title song from Funny Girl during the service, no matter how big a Barbra Streisand fan the deceased may have been…and always remember if you’re driving the cremated remains to their final destination to keep the urn firmly closed and the windows up).

And then there’s the food. Seriously, do not wait for someone to die to try some of these recipes. From stuffed eggs (deviled to the rest of us) to Gruyere Grits to an entire chapter entitled Comfort Foods: There Is a Balm in Campbell’s Soup, you’ll find plenty of things you’ll want to eat. What’s more, the next time there’s a death, you’ll understand the importance of a good tomato aspic.

Death is a serious matter, but funerals are brimful of human foibles. Sometimes you just have to have a good laugh while learning the finer points of how to get along in the world.

10 Responses to “Wherein Twistie Discusses the Opposite of Weddings”

  1. Mrs. Hendricks June 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm #

    How timely! I just attended the funeral of the father of a good friend of mine, and was surprised to see as many people as I did dressed inappropriately. I know, I know, the “casual and comfortable” mantra has superceded all else here in America, but what was most amazing was the number of full-grown adults in capri pants, polo shirts and shorts. Yikes!

    Twistie’s right, folks: be prepared. It doesn’t have to be fancy: on the contrary. Something plain Jane in navy, black, grey (even brown) to be put on at the most unexpected time. It’s just one last thing you’ll have to worry about.

  2. Plumcake June 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Oh no you did not just scoop me. I had a post pretty much about this going up later this week. Don’t you look at the drafts queue?! That’s it short woman. It’s ON. It is a great book though. I knew Gayden’s people for ages before I moved to Texas. And of course you forgot the moral of the story:

    Episcopalians win.

  3. Cat June 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    At my uncle’s funeral about three years ago, I was shocked to see a girl of about 18 wearing a tight, black spaghetti-strap top, bright pink gaucho pants, and black hooker-heeled stilettos. W.T.F?

  4. Jenny June 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm #

    Agreed. I’ve been to some denominational funerals where black is not the norm, but a more modest style of dress certainly is. I’ve worn the same quarter sleeved black sweater to all attended funerals in the past few years (unfortunately there have been many), but I didn’t always wear black on the bottom. For one summer funeral I wore the above mentioned shirt + a just-past-the-knee linen skirt and sensible shoes. I know that this outfit probably sounds surprisingly casual or unmatched to some, but I was 18 at the time. Others my age were there in black dresses or skirts so short they couldn’t cross their legs properly in the pew and they tottered in stilletto heels in the dirt at the cemetery.

    I think the most important thing at a funeral is to dress sensibly – for the most part, this means black or another darker colour (or it does to me, at least). I remember one older woman in a slate grey dress suit that was entirely respectable. But I think that if it comes down to wearing an all black ensemble vs. a partially black but more toned-down ensemble, I would go for the latter.

  5. class factotum June 28, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    I helped at the church reception for a funeral a couple of weeks ago. I was shocked to see one of the mourners wearing faded, poorly-fitting jeans, ratty tennies, and a green t-shirt layered over a black one. Her two little children — who were running all over the place, although she had the sense to isolate them, were wearing shorts, tank tops and Crocs.

    I kept thinking that maybe this lady had nothing more formal in her closet than these clothes, but didn’t she at least have a pair of shoes that weren’t tennies? I am guessing they were not regular churchgoers because as casual as Ev. Lutherans are up here, they are not Crocs at church casual. (My Catholic people, OTOH. Oh my. We need some Southern Protestants to teach us how to Dress Appropriately.)

    (The Synod Lutherans, I would expect, would not even have jeans in church.)

  6. La BellaDonna June 29, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    Class Factotum, I feel confident that I’m shoring up the Roman Catholic end; my wardrobe is as funereal as you could wish.

    I don’t know what was going through the mind of one mourner at the funeral of a friend’s mother: the person attending wore bright yellow. And the deceased was not of the “wear bright colours to my funeral!” sisterhood.

  7. zuzu June 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    When my father died, it was August, and hot and humid as hell. And I was in school, so I had no money to buy more than the one linen dress I got for the funeral proper. I knew there would be a wake, of course, but I didn’t know, not having been involved in any of the planning stuff, that there would also be meetings with the priest and the funeral director, etc. So I needed not one but a minimum of three seasonally-appropriate outfits for all funeral-related business.

    Luckily, my sister and my brother’s girlfriend were also in the same boat, and also the same size. So we just rotated our outfits (including a romper. Sue me, it was 1995, and they were everywhere). Problem solved!

  8. class factotum June 30, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    LBD, I’m glad to know there are some RCs who know how to dress for church! I saw a teenager here at Saturday night Mass in plaid flannel pants, crocs, and a long t-shirt with a cartoon character on the front. I guess God doesn’t care what people wear, but if you wouldn’t wear it on a job interview or a date, why wear it to church?