The elaborate and expensive white wedding dress is an innovation of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is increasingly a component of wedding ceremonies in all parts of the world, often in parallel with non-Western costumes and customs. For example, Japanese brides may now dress several times, in the traditional Japanese wedding costumes, then appear again in a Western wedding gown.
The dead are honored with a funeral and often a reception or a wake following. Anyone attending the funeral is expected to wear black or at least sombre or drab-colored clothing. A widow may wear a black veil over her face.
Following the funeral, family and friends now resume their normal clothing. This is a modern innovation. Until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, relatives were expected to wear mourning for periods that varied depending on the closeness of their relation to the deceased. The rules for mourning wear were strict and complicated. They may only have been observed in their entirety by the wealthy with money and time for a course of mourning that started with black clothing, progressed to grey, then violet, and ended with the wearing of colors again. The poor might just wear a black armband over their regular clothing as a sign of mourning.
Mourning bore heaviest on the widow. In many Mediterranean countries, she might wear black for the rest of her life. In England, she wore a cumbersome outfit called widow's weeds: an all-black dress surmounted with a widow's cap trailing a long black veil.