Funerals are an important time of mourning for the family of the deceased, and the family takes the time to hold a service to remember their lost family member where they invite their closest friends and other family members.
In order to attend these events, you will need to know some important information about attending a funeral and what you should and should not wear in order to offer the proper level of respect to the family members and the deceased.
By learning the information given here, planning your attire for a funeral will be much less stressful.
What You Need to Know About Attending a Funeral
In addition to figuring out the appropriate funeral attire, you will also need to know about proper funeral etiquette. Funerals are events in which you will provide an immense amount of support and sympathy to the families that are affected by the loss of their loved ones.
Maintain the proper amount of tact and respect towards the affected family members and keep these etiquette tips at the forefront of your mind while you are attending a funeral.
Type of Service
The first basic step would be to figure out which kind of service you will be attending since different services require different types of funeral attire. Either way, you will be dressing modestly and respectfully.
You would normally wear dark or neutral-colored clothes to a traditional funeral, but to a memorial service or a celebration of life, you would normally wear a clean white shirt, dress pants, and a decent tie.
Always make sure your shoes, clothes, and accessories are clean and ready to wear and that you put a bit of time and effort into your appearance.
In some cases, however, the family of the deceased will provide their guests with specific instructions on what to wear to the service, which may require a change in wardrobe from the standard black, white, or neutral colors.
Respect the family’s wishes and follow the instructions accordingly in order to pay the proper respects, since those colors may represent something significant to the deceased. If there are no instructions within the invitation and you are unsure of what to wear, do not be afraid to contact the family members to confirm what attire should be worn to the service.
Respect Cultural Differences
You should also be mindful and respectful of cultural differences and traditions when you are searching for attire. If the family and the deceased are part of a different culture than you, it will be imperative to do research about their culture, their customs regarding services, what attire should be worn, and what attire should be avoided completely.
Some colors hold great significance or offense depending on what culture the family is a part of, so it is important to avoid colors that represent something offensive to their funeral services.
Offer Your Sympathy
Aside from attire, make sure that you can always go to the funerals of the friends or family members whom you are closest to. In a time of loss and grief, it is important to give them your unwavering love and support and assure them that you will always be around when they need you. Showing this level of support in a time of need will make a tremendous impact on them.
If you are considered to be one of the family’s closest friends or family members, take some time to visit them before the funeral to express your sympathy regarding the loss of your shared loved one.
If it is possible, take some time out of their day to do some of their errands or take care of the children of the family so the older family members have the opportunity and time to process their grief without having to worry about chores. It will also be tremendously helpful if you bring them food upon your arrival so they will not have to worry about cooking later.
However, if you attend the funeral but you are not close to the family members of the deceased, take the time to introduce yourself to the family and how you knew their loved one. This would ease any lingering confusion they would have about someone they have barely met or maybe never met at all.
Offer your condolences and reassure them about how much you cared about their loved one if they were a prominent figure in your life.
In case you are unable to attend a service for any reason, take the time to send letters of sincere condolence to the family members who were affected by their loss. It is best that you send those letters with your own writing rather than through an email or social media. That is one special way to ensure the family members of your sincerity.
Avoid Disruptions During the Service
Disruptions are hugely detrimental to funeral services, so take measures to avoid them at all costs. Do not be late or too early to the funeral service and do not disturb the other attendees when you are in the process of getting settled.
Make sure to turn off your phone to prevent it from going off in the middle of the service. If you bring a child with you and the child starts to cry or whine, discreetly take them somewhere else to calm down and return with them just as discreetly once they have calmed down.
Buy Flowers or Other Gifts
Flowers are some of the most common gifts that you can give to the grieving family you are offering your condolences to. For Western funerals, you can never really go wrong with flowers as long as you are careful of allergies and you know what flowers the deceased favored.
In other cultures, however, some flowers and colors hold really strong cultural significance, and they may represent something you are unaware of. If you are attending a funeral for someone outside of your culture, you may have to do a bit of research to see what kind of flowers are acceptable to give to the family in order to avoid offending them by sending the wrong message accidentally.
If you are exceptionally close to the family members, you may even want to give them your own personal gifts to bring some joy into their time of sorrow. You could bring some food for the family or some toys for the younger family members to their houses if you want to visit them personally.
They will be grateful for your goodwill in a time of great confusion and sadness, and it will help to set the right impression for the funeral service even if you are already well-acquainted.
Set the Right Impression
Whether you are close to the family of the deceased or not, it is highly imperative that you set a good impression for them. You can do this by showing up to their viewing before the funeral to meet the family, dressing properly for the funeral, offering the family your sincerest condolences, telling them how much the family member who passed away meant to you and how you knew them.
They will be pleased that you arrived to see the family, but just showing up will not be enough all the time. The family of the deceased will gain a good impression of you if you act kindly and sincerely towards them when you interact with them, dress in proper funeral attire, and behave accordingly to regular funeral standards of behavior.
Avoid doing anything that would give them a weird or bad impression of you. This may involve wearing bright colors, casual clothes, or flashy clothes to the funeral service. Never be rude or disruptive to any of the family members or other attendees.
Appropriate Attire for Men
Traditional Black Suit
One of the most traditional Western forms of funeral attire is the black suit combined with a white collared shirt, a slim black tie, black dress pants, and some clean black dress shoes. Men should have at least one traditional black suit outfit in their closets since they are suitable for any occasion.
This attire is also appropriate for any age, so you can have a suit for your child to wear to a funeral service as well.
Alternatives to Black Suits
Gray, navy blue, charcoal gray, or any other neutral colored suits are also acceptable to form of attire to wear to a funeral if you would prefer to wear any other color over black.
As long as the colors are muted and the rest of the outfit matches the suit, it should be considered as proper attire. Muted colors fit the tone of the service just as well as a black suit would.
All Black Attire
An all-black outfit combination is stylish, conservative, and appropriate for the tone of a funeral service. This outfit normally involves a black button-up shirt, black socks, and clean black dress shoes, along with the optional choices of a black suit jacket and tie. Adding an accessory to the outfit combination, such as a watch, will add an extra level of style to the whole outfit.
Classiness, Conservative, and Elegant
Any kind of funeral attire that involves muted colors can be classy in their own way as long as they maintain the appropriate amount of modesty. Black may be the traditional color for Western funeral services, but you can add a bit of variety into your attire even with more muted colors.
Black, deep and dark colors of green, charcoal gray, or navy blue offers classiness and elegance while remaining conservative.
Nontraditional funeral attire may not appear to be as formal as most other types of funeral attire, but they still maintain the tone and elegance that you would have with a traditional suit.
A black cashmere sweater and black or otherwise dark slacks or trousers usually fit the standards of nontraditional attire. Accessorize with a watch or a funeral appropriate hat to complete the outfit.
Funeral Attire for Warm Weather
Spring and summer funerals normal equate to outdoor funerals, and it can become difficult to keep yourself from being affected by excessive heat. Darker colors will work wonders in regards to hiding sweat stains, and you can opt-out of wearing a jacket to avoid overheating. Simply wear a color appropriate dress shirt with matching pants and a tie.
Funeral Attire for Cold Weather
Since you will be dealing with colder temperatures in the fall and winter, it may be advised to wear a few extra layers and accessorize appropriately in order to stay warm in the freezing cold. A black turtleneck with black slacks and a black jacket will be optimal. You can also choose to wear gloves and scarves as long as they match the outfit, and you can also wear boots as long as they are not too flashy.
Memorial or Celebration of Life Attire
Memorial or celebration of life services usually happens weeks or months after the original funeral in order to remember the person who passed away, how much they were loved, and how much of an impact they made on the lives of other people. These services are less formal than funeral services, so it is acceptable to just wear a button-down shirt, gray jacket, and dark pants.
Make sure your attire maintains the same level of modesty and classiness that you would have at a funeral.
Attire for Funerals with Dress Codes
Some services will require certain dress codes, whether it be matching outfits or non-traditional color schemes. It is important to find out whether or not the family of the deceased has set up their own dress code for the service before attending so that you can put your funeral attire together in time.
Make sure to respect the family’s wishes and match the dress code accordingly, even if you may have to go out and buy a new outfit.
When you are choosing accessories to go with your funeral attire, take the weather and the appearance of the accessories into account. If it is warm outside, you may consider bringing a pair of sunglasses with you to protect your eyes from the sun. If it is cold, you will want to wear gloves, scarves, or a nice overcoat to keep you warm. If rain is in the weather forecast, bring a black umbrella with you to keep yourself dry.
Watches are also a good accessory and can also help you keep track of time in the middle of the service. Hats may not always be needed, but a black or gray fedora would complement your outfit if you choose to wear one. If you want to place a pocket square into your suit as an accessory, be sure to avoid bright and flashy colors unless otherwise specified.
Belts are one of the most common accessories to wear with funeral attire. They will add to the elegant or classy look of the rest of your attire as long as they are not too flashy or stand out too much. A simple formal dress belt will work just fine with funeral attire.
As far as shoes go, always opt for dress shoes or loafers. Footwear is just as big of a focal point to your funeral attire as the rest of your outfit is. Furthermore, the socks you wear should match the color of the outfit you are wearing in order to maintain the overall coordination of your outfit.
The general rule of any funeral attire is to avoid anything that is too flashy. The only exception would be if the family of the deceased specifically requests a certain color scheme either in your clothes or your accessories.
Funeral Attire: What to Avoid
Casual Attire and Accessories
Clothes such as jeans, normal t-shirts, shorts, or khakis should be left in the closet or inside of your vehicle to change somewhere else once the service has ended. Avoid embellished pants, graphic tees, tank tops, and cargo shorts as well. You may think that casual clothes can be completed with a good blazer or a nice button-down shirt, but casual clothes will never have a place to belong during a funeral service.
Along with clothing, casual accessories should also be avoided at all costs. Baseball caps and beanies should not be worn to a funeral service at all, along with most other types of hats. If it is too cold, however, some families may allow their guests to wear a beanie but they should be removed if they are holding an inside funeral.
No type of casual attire will ever be appropriate for funerals. They also would not even be appropriate to wear to memorials or a celebration of life. They will be a distraction to the other guests and would not make a good impression upon the family of the deceased.
Anything Too Colorful
Colorful blazers, ties, or other forms of clothing set the correct mood for a wedding, but they most definitely do not do the same for a funeral service. You should typically avoid any type of bright and colorful clothing when selecting an outfit for a funeral. One exception to this rule is that the family may sometimes request their guests to wear a certain significant color somewhere on their person in order to honor the deceased. Otherwise, stick to darker, more muted color schemes for your outfit.
Flip Flops, Boots, Sneakers
Flip flops, boots, sneakers, and any form of open-toed shoes should never be worn to a funeral. Flip flops and sneakers are too casual and most boots are too flashy. An exception for boots might be made for winter funerals since they normally help you keep your feet warm (as long as they are not too flashy or distracting), but there are absolutely no exceptions for flip flops or sneakers.
Weird Jackets or Blazers
Blazers and dress jackets are some of the most prominent pieces of funeral attire, but you should always keep the color toned down to more muted colors.
Additionally, if the jacket or blazer has any strange designs on them, do not wear them to a funeral at all. You may wear them for any other special occasion that calls for flashy colors, but you should always maintain a more somber tone for funerals.
Flashy accessories such as wristbands or brightly colored wristwatches should also be avoided. Keep the accessories to a minimum and keep them as simple as possible so that they do not become too much of a distraction.
Metal bracelets that are meant to be worn in multitudes could make a lot of noise, which could cause frequent disruptions during the funeral service. A nice wristwatch should suffice to complete the overall elegance of your funeral attire.
Understanding what kinds of attire to wear for a funeral attire will also help you understand the importance of making a good first impression. The family will appreciate that you went to the service to honor their loved one and that you dressed appropriately for the occasion. As long as you stick to muted colors and elegant or classy funeral attire, in addition to toned-down accessories, you should be fully prepared to dress properly for a funeral.