what to wear to a funeral

What To Wear To A Funeral: 6 Tactical Tips

Deciding what to wear to a funeral should not have to be an added stress on top of paying final respects to a loved one. So we’re here to break down funeral attire etiquette as well as provide several funeral outfit ideas. Whether you’re a man, woman or child and regardless of the type of funeral service you’re attending, the following tips will help you look appropriate, presentable and respectful. 

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What Do I Wear to a Funeral? Best Types of Funeral Attire

Though today’s etiquette no longer demands that funeral attendees wear all black, opting for dark muted colors is always a smart choice. Unless specifically asked for by the host, bright colors, flashy prints and trendy accessories won’t be well received. The best way to decide what to wear to a funeral is to think about what you would wear to a professional business meeting or your “Sunday best”. 

We provide more specific ideas and tips below. 

Funeral Outfit Ideas for Men

Traditional funeral attire for men typically means a suit. This option is a safe play as it is appropriate for any type of funeral service. While a tie is not necessarily required, it can be a tasteful selection. If the family of the deceased does not specify otherwise, a dark colored suit (think blacks, navys, and charcoals) is most fitting. Additional funeral attire choices for men include: 

  • Slacks and a button down shirt (with or without a vest)
  • Slacks and a polo or golf shirt
  • Slacks and a sweater 
  • Boots, loafers, or dress shoes

Men should avoid wearing jeans, shorts, sneakers, baseball caps, non-collared or sleeveless shirts, and sandals or tennis shoes to a funeral or memorial service. 

Depending on the type of funeral you attend, a traditional dress code may not be required. However, if the decedent’s family does not address attire in the invitation, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. 

Funeral Outfit Ideas For Women

There are far more choices for women compared to men when it comes to dressing appropriately for a funeral or memorial service. But don’t worry, we’re going to break down all the options and reveal some important do’s and don’ts. 

Any of the following outfit ideas — in subdued color palettes — are deemed acceptable by the experts: 

  • Pant suit
  • Skirt suit 
  • Dress
  • Skirt or slacks paired with a blouse or sweater 
  • Close-toed shoes that are flat or with a small heel

Any of the above options can be paired with tasteful accessories like a strand of pearls or modest hair piece; so long as none of the items make too much of a statement. 

One of the most important things for women to keep in mind when dressing for a funeral is to avoid anything too immodest or revealing. This means no low cut tops, exposed midriffs, high stilettos, form-fitting clothing, or skirts and dresses that hit above the knee. Other attire choices women should steer clear of include athleticwear, denim, sundresses, uncovered shoulders, shorts, and tennis shoes or flip flops. 

If ever you’re unsure, best practice is to keep it conservative. 

Funeral Outfit Ideas For Children

Children and teens should dress similar to their mothers and fathers when attending a funeral. If your child has accompanied you at any type of formal event, wedding, or religious service in the past, the same outfit will likely work at a funeral or memorial service.

The key phrase to keep in mind when dressing children for funerals is: “comfortable but nice”. The last thing you’ll want to deal with is a cranky toddler complaining of an itchy dress or uncomfortable tie; so keep it simple. Sticking to solid colors and avoiding any silly prints and patterns will ensure your child is properly dressed. 

3 Things To Consider When Dressing For A Funeral 

Now that we’ve covered a number of appropriate outfit ideas for men, women, and children, let’s dive into other factors that come into play in dressing for a funeral. These include: 

  1. The season and weather 
  2. Whether you’re attending a traditional funeral service or memorial service
  3. If the family of the deceased has any religious or cultural preferences 

The Season

Like any event, the season, weather, and time of service will play a role in what you should wear, and a funeral is no different. If the funeral you’re attending is in the spring or summer (especially if a graveside viewing is on the agenda) wearing breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen, will be key. 

Men should still avoid wearing baseball caps of any kind and women should still avoid short skirts and spaghetti strap tops, but a modest umbrella — preferably black — or subtle sunglasses are appropriate. In the case of a spring or summertime funeral, dress sandals are acceptable for women; just keep in mind that there’s a chance you’ll be walking at the cemetery. 

If the funeral you’re attending is in winter or fall, stick to the tips above while adding a layer of outerwear. A traditional wool coat is suitable for men, women, and children, and women can pair black tights or a cardigan with skirts and dresses. 

The Type of Funeral Service

There are many types of funerals which include full or traditional services, graveside services, viewing or visitation services, wakes, memorial services, and celebrations of life. While most outfit ideas will overlap regardless of type, there are a few caveats we should mention: 

Traditional, graveside, and viewing or visitation services are typically more formal while memorial services and celebrations of life can be slightly more casual. Again, it’s always best to play it safe and conservative if you’re unsure (after all, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.)

The only time it’s okay to dress more liberally is if the family of the deceased explicitly states so in the invitation or obituary. For example, family members may include a note like “Because Andy was a devoted Chargers fan, feel free to wear a Chargers jersey.” Or “Katie’s favorite color was pink, so wear your brightest pink outfit if possible.” Or “Everyone who knew John knew he never left the house in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt, so we ask that you do the same to honor his memory.” 

These types of requests are most often associated with celebrations of life ceremonies and are only appropriate if specifically asked for by the family or funeral host.  You may know that Andy loved the Chargers but it would be disrespectful to dress for his funeral in a casual jersey if the family is opting for a more traditional service.  

The Religious or Cultural Preferences

If a particular religion is being observed at the funeral you’re attending, you may be asked to dress in a more specific manner. In certain instances, women may be asked to wear skirts while men cover their heads. Catholic services will differ from Jewish services which will differ from Muslim services and the choice to observe a speicifc tradition will depend on the preferences of the funeral host.  This will normally be addressed in the obituary, but it is also acceptable to reach out to the family if you’re unsure.

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