The preparation made for a funeral often takes place behind the scenes, which leads many families to wonder how their loved ones are dressed in the funeral homes and whether the body is treated with care and respect or not during this process.
In this article, we’re answering all your questions concerning this topic so you can have peace of mind during this difficult time of your life. With that being said, let’s get right into it.
Why Is the Body of the Deceased Dressed for the Funeral?
Before we get into how funeral homes dress bodies, it’s better to have a general idea first about why bodies are dressed for funerals and the real purpose of burial clothing.
Burial clothing has cultural importance in different parts of the world—in some cultures, it serves as a means of easing the person’s journey to the afterlife. In other cultures, bodies are only dressed as an act of respect towards the deceased person. No matter what your belief is, burial clothing is important because we all want our bodies to be handled with care and respect.
Some families plan to hold an open casket funeral, so it’s important to ensure that the body is presentable in this case. Additionally, some people have specific preferences for the attire they want to be buried in, and the family and the funeral director should respect their wishes.
The funeral director is responsible for making sure the body is properly presented during these final moments because not everyone passes away wearing their favorite attire. The director also respects any last wishes of the deceased, including items like a cherished sports jersey.
Who is Responsible for Dressing the Body for a Funeral?
Regarding who is permitted to handle dead bodies, each state has its own rules and regulations. But in general, a licensed embalmer and funeral director are the ones who handle this process. Although bodies don’t need to be embalmed in order to be dressed, this is still the most typical scenario in most states.
The family may choose to dress the body themselves in the case of a green funeral or home funeral. Keep in mind, though, that dressing the body may become a traumatic experience for the family because bodies naturally change in appearance at this stage.
Funeral directors and embalmers are well-trained individuals that can properly prepare the body of your loved one for the funeral and burial. You can trust them to treat the body respectfully and dress it properly to be presentable at the funeral. As a result, it’s always recommended to let the experts do it for you, even if the laws and regulations in your area allow the family to dress the body themselves.
Finding a trustworthy funeral director is one of the essential aspects in choosing a funeral home. A skilled director can help select the appropriate funeral attire and ensure the whole family feels as comfortable as possible throughout the process.
Who is Responsible for Bringing the Clothing?
In most cases, the family members are the ones who choose the clothing for the funeral. As mentioned earlier, some people mention the type of attire they want to be dressed in when buried in their last wishes.
If they don’t mention this, the family prefers what they want to dress the deceased in. Making these last decisions concerning loved ones may be very sensitive for families and a significant part of the grieving process.
Usually, the deceased is dressed in fancy outfits like dresses and suits. But if the deceased wished to dress in a certain outfit, this wish should be respected. Families can also seek the help of funeral homes to choose the appropriate attire for their loved ones.
How Do Funeral Homes Dress Bodies?
There are typical steps that the majority of funeral homes follow to dress a body:
To stop the decomposition process from happening too quickly, human remains are preserved by embalming. Although it won’t completely stop the process, it can make the body seem like it has some life in it, particularly if it will be displayed at a viewing in a casket.
If the body is present at an open casket funeral, many states require it to be embalmed. The body should first be embalmed before it can be dressed, which is common when the family wants the deceased to wear certain attire.
Embalming is not a simple process; it requires tons of complex fluids and chemicals. As a result, the body is carefully dried after being embalmed.
After drying the body, it’s moved to a clean dressing table, ensuring that the chemicals used in embalming will not affect the burial attire. Additionally, a dressing table gives more room for professionals to handle the body.
3. Putting on the Undergarment
Although the family provides the undergarment, the funeral director might make recommendations to make sure they select something appropriate. Professionals put these on the body first to provide modesty for the body and protect the outer clothing simultaneously.
4. Putting on the Outer Clothing
The outer clothing is now put on the body, which is usually cut straight down the back (not put directly on the body as you would with a living person).
Regardless if it’s embalmed or not, the body naturally stiffens and swells after death—attires that may have fit flawlessly when people were alive probably don’t fit the same after death.
Furthermore, stiff limbs make it challenging for professionals to maneuver clothing. So to have more control and make the body look more natural, they cut the clothing down the back.
- Note: it would be preferable to choose the burial clothing conservatively if the deceased tended to dress otherwise. Choosing suitable attire gives both the deceased and the visitors the respect they deserve.
5. Putting on the shoes
Shoes are not a necessary part of the burial clothing. It’s typical for the casket to only partially open during viewing and not to be able to see the lower half of the body.
So, while bringing shoes for the deceased is not common, some families still like to bring them to their loved ones. Some even bring the favorite shoes of the deceased to be buried in. But more commonly, families bring slippers or socks because they’re much easier to put on.
6. Putting on the Makeup
Putting on makeup is necessary to ensure the body looks presentable, whether the deceased is a man or a woman. Because skin can lose its natural color and look more pale than normal, professionals try to equalize the skin tone by applying thick cream to it.
They also apply the lip color to give the face a more life-like look. The family is allowed to bring some cosmetics for their loved ones, like nail polish.
7. Styling the Hair
Ensuring that the hair of the deceased looks good in these final moments is important to many families. Sometimes, the family pays a professional hairdresser to make their loved one look their best. Otherwise, the hair is simply styled to ensure a presentable appearance.
8. Putting on the Jewelry
Families are allowed to adorn the deceased with jewels in funeral homes. During the viewing, circumstances typically allow placing mementos and personal objects in the casket. Before burial, items with sentimental value to the family (like wedding rings or jewelry) can be removed.
9. Placing the Body in the Casket
Finally, the body is lifted and lowered into the casket. This step is handled by special body lifts that help move the body safely into the casket. The professionals then position the body properly and arrange the attire to ensure everything is prepared for the family to see.
Losing a loved one can be agonizing, and it’s normal to want its body to be treated with care and respect, especially because we don’t know much about this process behind closed doors.
But remember that the ones who dress the body of your loved one are professionals and know exactly the best way to do so. And know that funeral directors manage each step of dressing the body professionally and respectfully, despite it being a difficult process. Their job is to treat the deceased the way they deserve to be treated and ensure that they look presentable before their family sees them for the last time.