What To Wear To A Funeral
Practical advice and outfit ideas
When you are planning a funeral or memorial service for a loved one, there are likely many things already on your mind. Taking care of relatives, delegating service duties, and managing your own grieving process can mean that finding the right attire for the service can fall to the bottom of the list.
It may not seem very important in the larger scheme, but when you feel comfortable in your clothing, you can more easily manage the challenges of the day. Here are some things you’ll want to consider when dressing for a funeral.
What To Wear To A Funeral
The tradition for many funeral services used to be all black, leftover from periods of mourning in the Victorian and Regency era that would last several years, when clothing came in dark shades to represent grief. Today, more leeway is given for the attire you wear to a funeral. Here’s what you will want to keep in mind.
Funeral Attire Basics
For men’s funeral attire, a classic suit and tie is usually a safe option, and chances are good that you won’t be overdressed. Common funeral outfits for men include suits and ties, button-down shirts in dark colors, dark sweaters, dress pants, and formal footwear.
Funeral attire for women follows similar rules to that for men, so basic dress clothes like a modest dress or pants and a blouse are often ideal. That said, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to clothing, accessories, and outerwear.
How Close Are You to the Family? If you had a close relationship with the deceased or you are close to the family, then you will want to dress more formally if the occasion permits it. If you are hosting the funeral service for a loved one, formal is better.
What Does Culture Dictate? Every culture has its own end of life ceremonies and traditions. Take point from how the family dresses and approaches the ceremony and follow their lead.
What Event Are You Attending? If you are going to a full traditional funeral ceremony in a church, for example, you will want to dress more formally than if you are attending an afternoon wake or a celebration of life ceremony. You may be attending the burial, as well, in which case you will want to ensure you have appropriate outerwear for the weather.
Dress for Comfort: There are many options when it comes to formalwear, but not all of them are comfortable. If you’re hosting a funeral ceremony, you can expect to spend a lot of the day speaking with people, following up on logistics, and managing your own grieving process. Clothing discomfort shouldn’t have to be handled on top of that.
Consider Your Footwear: Depending on what kind of funeral ceremony you’re hosting, you may be on your feet more than you expect. While high heels can be formal and lovely, you don’t want to have to take them off or walk around in pain all day. Flats or boots can be just as appropriate and much more comfortable.
There’s truth in the adage that the shoes make the outfit. Your shoes don’t need to be expensive, but dark-colored boots or flats for women or Oxfords or Chelsea boots for men can elevate your attire to match the (possible) formality of the event.
Funeral Attire Dos
After you’ve considered the above questions, there are certain behaviors and actions you’ll want to take in order to show your respect and share your love and support with the family or your friends. Here are some funeral attire dos you’ll want to keep in mind.
Do Pay Attention To The Colors You’re Wearing
The colors that are appropriate to wear to a funeral are highly dependent on what kind of ceremony it is. For example, it’s traditional for mourners to wear white to Hindu ceremonies, as it’s meant to show respect to the family of the deceased.
Attendees of Chinese funeral ceremonies tend to wear white as well, but more importantly, anyone attending one of these ceremonies should avoid wearing the color red, as it represents happiness and can be seen as highly disrespectful.
While wearing only plain black for Christian ceremonies generally isn’t required anymore, you’ll still want to keep to dark colors in order to pay your respects and avoid standing out during the service.
Do Wear Long Sleeves And Full Coverage
Of course, if the weather is extreme, you won’t want to dress in a way that makes you uncomfortable, but long-sleeve shirts or dresses can add a level of formality to an outfit, whereas short sleeves can make attire look more casual. Modesty and respect are usually important in funeral ceremony environments, so try to aim for coverage.
Do Take Care of Your Clothes
It’s far better to show up in a less expensive outfit that has been ironed and brushed than to make an appearance in a fancy dress with cat hair on the fringe. Take the extra moment at home to press and care for your outfit so that you may present yourself well and, in doing so, show your support for the family and the deceased.
Do Dress Comfortably
Even if you’re not hosting the funeral ceremony, you still want to dress both in accordance with the weather and in clothing that will be comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. You don’t want to have to leave early or sit down at an inappropriate time simply because your shoes aren’t comfortable.
Do Bring Layers
Layers can help to ensure that you’re comfortable, even if you’re moving from inside to outside, especially if the air conditioning is on or if it’s the chilly season. Layers also serve the purpose of allowing you to cover up in a religious institution, so you can pay appropriate respects during the ceremony.
Do Dress Children Like The Adult
If you decide that it’s appropriate to bring your children to the service, and there are circumstances where etiquette dictates that it is, then you’ll want to dress them formally, as well. Of course, with young children, it can be difficult to maintain a polished, formal look, but putting in the effort will show respect and care.
Funeral Attire Don’ts
There are also some things you’ll want to avoid on the day of the funeral when it comes to your attire.
Don’t Ignore Customs When It Comes To Hair
As with wild colors and outfits, you may want to avoid funky or unique hairstyles, although you should always adhere to customs for the kind of service that you’re attending.
Don’t Wear Bright Jewelry Or Accessories
Big accessories can be distracting and statement-making. When it comes to funeral attire, staid and respectful is always best, so consider smaller jewelry like a pearl necklace, stud earrings, or a plain gold bracelet.
As always, it’s best to consider the kind of ceremony that you’ll be attending. For example, any jewelry at all is generally discouraged at traditional Chinese funerals, while minimal jewelry is allowed at Hindu ceremonies.
Don’t Wear Flip-Flops
Some types of high-quality sandals and open-toed heels can be appropriate for a funeral, but you’ll want to steer clear of beach shoes like flip flops and bright sandals. These usually aren’t appropriate for funerals.
Funeral Attire On A Budget
Hosting a funeral can be expensive, and if you’re looking to plan a funeral on a budget, then you’ll want to find inexpensive funeral attire as well. While you have the option of renting semi-formal or formal-wear if necessary, you likely already have an appropriate outfit in your wardrobe. Just focus on the tips that we’ve laid out, and if necessary, consult with someone who is familiar with the kind of ceremony that you’ll be attending.
Managing your grief, planning a funeral, and being there for those in your life who need love and support can be very overwhelming and can make it difficult to think about anything else, especially what you’re going to wear.
When it comes to planning your funeral attire, focus on your own comfort and ease, wear respectful colors, and pick a pair of shoes that you’ll be able to wear all day. The more comfortable and confident you are in your outfit, the easier it will be to focus on what really matters, honoring your loved one and being with friends and family.