What’s proper funeral attire?

I recently attended a funeral and noticed that a lot of women were not wearing black and some were wearing pants. I always thought one had to wear a black suit or dress. What is appropriate to wear?

In respect for the solemnity of the occasion, you do not wear sunshine yellow or your favorite red ensemble, but you don’t have to wear black. You may wear black, and many women do, but a range of not-bright colors, from navy blue to various gray tones to olive or dark green or a deep burgundy are perfectly fine, and it is also fine to wear pants as long as they are more formal than casual, worn with a jacket or subdued but dressier top, such as a tailored shirt, cardigan sweater or tunic. You wear shoes appropriate to your attire, not flip flops or sandals. Men must usually wear a suit and tie or jacket and tie with slacks.

We’re in the process of writing our thank-you notes for wedding gifts we received and it will probably take us almost a month to finish. We were about to deposit the checks given us as gifts, but my husband’s mother says we have to write the thank-you note before we deposit the checks. Is this true?

 No, not true. Actually, you should deposit them as soon as possible so as not to cause bookkeeping problems for those who gave you checks. It’s probably not a bad idea to put these people’s names at the top of your thank-you note list, however, so they don’t say, “They were quick to deposit our check, but where’s the acknowledgement?”

We’re planning a holiday party and I need help with what to say when invited guests say, “What can we bring?” First, is it OK to accept that offer (I would love to; I have two small children and a full-time job, so would welcome help!); and then, if so, how do I make sure everyone doesn’t bring the same thing?”

It is fine to accept offers from your invited guests, and it’s fine to suggest something for them to bring, but it’s easiest to do this by category rather than requesting a specific recipe. For example, “Thanks, Sarah! That would be great – how about an appetizer you love to make?” or, “That would be wonderful, Jane – we’re having a buffet and it would be great if you could bring some of your favorite cookies or something else for the dessert table.” Since you are hosting the party, you wouldn’t ask anyone to bring a main entrée dish, but you could ask for vegetables, or you could ask a couple of people to bring a salad so no one feels burdened by having to make salad for 20 or 30 or whatever the size of your guest list is. Tip: Be sure you know whose dish is whose to make clean-up and returns easier.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to arts@hersamacorn.com