When deciding what to wear to a funeral, the most important thing is to respect the wishes of the bereaved family. Black clothing is traditionally the most worn funeral attire, though wearing dark or muted colours is also generally considered appropriate.
This guide on what to wear at a funeral is ideal for contemporary Western culture; other cultures may differ and vary considerably. so do keep in mind the culture and traditions of the deceased’s family, heritage and religion.
The dress code for a funeral in the UK is typically quite formal and typically includes a dark coloured suit, smart dress or skirt, smart shirt or blouse, formal coat or jacket and smart shoes, and ideally dress shoes.
Most funerals have an all-black dress code, with many mourners opting for something smart and considered.
Attending a funeral is an emotional experience so look for an outfit that is respectful to those who have passed while ensuring you still feel comfortable and yourself.
It’s also a good idea to bring a jacket or coat with you as it can often get cold and you can use pockets to keep tissues at the ready.
If you are unsure about what to wear, it is perfectly fine to ask an immediate family member or the funeral director for advice and guidance. The family may request a certain dress code; it may be that the deceased expressed their wishes before they passed away.
Terminology for Funerals
A funeral is the traditional term for a service with the body present, while a memorial service is when the body is not present. Sometimes when the person has been cremated either term can be used.
When you are attending the literal burial, the service is traditionally known as a committal service but can also be called a graveside ceremony, graveside service, burial service, or simply a “burial.” Most often this takes place immediately after a funeral service and thus the dress code for one is identical to the other.
What is appropriate clothing for a funeral?
Traditionally, funeral etiquette suggests men and women wear black clothing that’s conservative and respectful. Black or dark colours are most common, but some cultures expect mourners to wear a less traditional funeral colour. The weather and location of funeral services can also play a factor, so try and consider these elements before you decide what to wear.
If you are attending a celebration of life, woodland burial or a funeral in an alternative venue to a place of worship or crematorium, you may find that the family of the deceased are expecting a less formal attire for these occasions. They may request a less traditional dress or may have a personalised theme they would like you to adhere to.
One accessory that people are often quite lenient about at funerals is sunglasses. Pack a pair in your bag or jacket pocket just in case. Grief can work in unexpected ways and if things suddenly get too much, or if you don’t want to feel watched, you can put your sunglasses on.
What to Wear to a Funeral: Funeral Outfit Ideas
More “formal” families will expect you to dress in traditional funeral attire. For others, there is may be no expectation of dress at all, and for some non-traditional funerals you may be expected to dress in bright, celebratory colours.
However, most people at most funerals want to pay their respects to the deceased and the family by dressing in a way that communicates sympathy and mourning.
What to Wear to a Funeral: General Guidelines
Black is a traditional colour and is always appropriate
A long sleeved shirt which should cover up to the neck; no open collars
Dresses should cover the knees; no shorts or miniskirts
Keep a formal jacket on hand; this basic addition can help make a funeral outfit passable
Wear subdued style and colours; you do not want to attract attention away from the deceased
Be considerate of any religious setting
Colours to wear to a funeral
Black is always the ideal; traditional, formal, or casual, you will never look out of place in black at a funeral
Dark grey and deep blue are also appropriate, especially with accents and accessories
Brown shades, lighter greys, and other earthy colours are generally acceptable for most funeral services
Avoid bright colours especially pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds
White is acceptable for jewellery, accents, and shirts worn under darker colours (i.e. a white dress shirt with suit and tie)
When attending a funeral, it is important to dress respectfully to honour both the deceased (whose body is present) and the grieving family.
You will still want to dress respectfully and bear in mind the culture and values of the family, but you are fairly safe to assume that a smart-but-casual outfit will be acceptable.
Clothing to wear to a funeral that is not black
There are many funerals and memorial services where black clothing is not required. You can still wear black to those occasions (unless it is a “celebration of life” or similar event where you are specifically asked not to wear black).
Not all cultures consider black as the appropriate colour for a funeral. For instance, black is considered inappropriate at a Hindu funeral or Sikh funeral; instead, mourners (both male and female) are expected to wear white. White is a colour of mourning and peace in Eastern cultures like Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. So, it is relative and depends on the kind of funeral/service you are attending.
Many African, Caribbean/West Indies funeral guests are requested to wear vibrant colours to reflect the life of the deceased.
Humanist and non-religious funerals will opt for more vibrant colours. Wearing bright colours to a funeral can reinforce the celebration of life.
In the UK, we’re seeing a shift towards more colourful funerals as families try to make the day as personal to their loved one as possible.
While you don’t have to wear black, you should dress in a way that shows respect. That means avoiding bright colours, flashy prints, and glittery fabrics unless specifically requested to do so.
A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you are attending a serious business meeting. That means what you choose may be guided by your location, the climate, and the culture of the deceased.
Why do we wear black to a funeral?
Wearing black for a funeral is a tradition that goes back centuries and continues in many cultures around the world today. Black is the ultimate understated, modest, and respectful colour that reflects the sadness felt by family and friends, especially on the day of the funeral. For the most part, black is considered a symbol of mourning.
Dressing in formal clothes is a way of marking the significance of the day, and by wearing casual clothes, you could be unintentionally sending the message that you don’t care about the person who has died.
Traditionally, black or dark coloured formal clothing is worn to a funeral, but this isn’t always the case as more people move away from tradition and opt for a celebration of life with bright colours. Before you decide what to wear to a funeral, it’s always important to find out if there are any particular wishes or colours that they’d like people to wear.
What to wear to a wake, viewing, or visitation
A wake is an open-casket viewing of the body and can also be called simply a viewing. More accurately, a wake is traditionally a Catholic ceremony but the term has been used more loosely in recent years. A visitation is a similar event but without the body present.
The wake, viewing, or visitation is a gathering for close friends and family to express condolences, share grief, and simply be together
Expectations for what to wear can range from highly formal to dressy-casual. If you are already familiar with the family you will be aware of their style and sensibilities, so dress accordingly.
Wake attire is less formal, and it’s more appropriate to wear clothes you already own.
On the other hand, if you are not very familiar with the family then it is always best to be safe and dress in more formal attire. Black or grey will always be appropriate.
What to wear to a memorial service
A memorial service is typically held without the body present. This can happen due to a variety of reasons, but in many cases the service can happen several weeks or even months after the person has died.
As it is a gathering in the memory of someone, it is considered less formal than a regular funeral.
The same guidelines for dress at a funeral are typically followed, but a memorial service can lean towards being more casual and informal. At a minimum, you should dress in subdued colours, and follow the dressy-casual outfits worn to a job interview or church.
When in doubt, err on the side of more formal and more traditional.
What to wear to a celebration of life
The term celebration of life has come into vogue in recent years, and the idea is to celebrate the life of the deceased as opposed to mourning their death. If this term is used, expect the service to be more casual with perhaps unique, creative, and alternative ceremonies and celebrations.
When you see the phrase celebration of life and a complete absence of funeral, memorial service, committal, etc, then you will most likely be attending a more casual affair. These can range in tone from a light-hearted memorial service to a full-on party with drinking, dancing and a band.
Religious Funeral Dress Code
If you are attending a religious funeral, then you may need to be aware of the customs which are followed by that particular faith.
Different countries and cultures view the colours of mourning differently. For Europeans, black is the colour of mourning while for the Chinese, it is white. Countries like Egypt and Mexico wear yellow for a funeral. While Koreans dress in blue, the Thais wear purple.
What Men Should Wear to a Funeral
While most men choose to wear a suit to funerals, what do you do if you don’t own a suit? Knowing what to wear to a funeral for men is often a challenge.
If you have a suit that’s black, brown or navy blue, it’s most likely appropriate to wear to a funeral.
A lot of men choose to rent a suit on formal occasions from a rental outlet. These places specialise in clothing that’s high-quality and affordable. If you don’t anticipate needing your suit for more than the funeral, this is a money-saving option.
If you’re attending a virtual funeral it is best to wear your normal funeral attire. Make sure you wear something that’s comfortable and doesn’t look distracting on the computer screen.
What to Wear to a Funeral: Tips for Men
A suit with a white shirt and tie is a safe choice. You are not limited to black but dark, muted colours are generally the best choice.
Whilst a black suit isn’t always compulsory, muted and dark colours are generally considered appropriate.
Choose a smart black suit– this can be worn with a white, long sleeved shirt and tie, but if you do not own a traditional suit, smart trousers with a plain shirt and blazer is a more casual but acceptable option.
A plain black tie is recommended if you want to look particularly smart and do wear polished black shoes.
Funeral outfits for men
The traditional dress code for men at a funeral has long been a black suit with a white shirt, black tie and polished black shoes.
However, this traditional funeral attire is no longer an absolute requirement. Instead, it is acceptable to wear something along the lines of “Sunday best.” Use your judgment, but it is generally sufficient to wear dark trousers along with a collared shirt. Keep the colours subdued.
If you are unsure or not familiar with the family, you should play it safe and go with the more conservative options. It is better to dress in more traditional funeral attire than to arrive underdressed.
What Women Should Wear To A Funeral
The general etiquette for what women should wear to a funeral has long been a black dress or alternatively a dress suit. The key thing is to be respectful.
For women attending a funeral, the traditional dress code has long been a modest black dress or a black business dress suit.
You will generally want to wear respectful, non-attention-grabbing outfits, you will be fine with conservative business-casual options.
Accessory-wise, keep things minimal. Your favourite oversized tote can stay at home this time, try opting for a clutch or smaller handbag instead. The same goes for jewellery- keep it classic and understated. Search your jewellery box for some timeless silver and gold pieces, such as a simple necklace.
When in doubt, lean towards the conservative or traditional side and stick to formal funeral attire. When in doubt, especially if you are unfamiliar with the family or service location, opt for the more conservative and more traditional options. Of all occasions in life, it is best to come to a funeral overdressed rather than underdressed.
Try and cover up your body as much as possible. Avoid clothes that reveals skin. Outfits like a skirt or pantsuit, formal or semi-formal dresses, a skirt with a silk or chiffon sweater, trousers or pants and tops with sleeves, a sleeveless shoulder-length or long-sleeved dress, and accessorise with a shawl, silk scarves or pashmina.
Naturally wear shoes that are comfortable and decent.
Funeral outfits for women should be something that doesn’t take attention away from the purpose of the day.
Any jewellery and makeup should be understated.
Funerals are not the place to turn up in a mini little black dress or sheer top, so hemlines should remain around or below the knee
What to Wear to a Funeral: Women
Dark dresses or suits are always appropriate.
A knee length skirt or dress–and not flashy or revealing, normally with tights.
A pair of smart full-length trousers in a dark colour can be a good option.
Wear a smart plain blouse or top and if you are wearing a skirt or trousers, you can pair this with a smart blouse or top. This should be conservative and plain and do keep your shoulders covered.
It’s a good idea to bring an additional layer, and a blazer can also smarten up a more casual outfit.
A smart jumpsuit is another option, especially as they can be more comfortable for longer services.
Smart shoes– flats or sensible heels are the most popular choice. Open-toed shoes or sandals are not recommended
Tasteful colour accents can be acceptable
Black clothing isn’t always compulsory for women but it is best to wear a dark coloured skirt, dress or pair of trousers. You should choose a skirt or dress which is of appropriate length and avoid wearing any revealing outfits.
Try and keep jewellery and accessories to a minimum and if you are attending a graveside service, make sure the footwear you have chosen is appropriate. Women may wear hats to funerals as long as it is smart and not too flashy.
What should children wear to a funeral
There is more flexibility when it comes to funeral attire for children. Smart, age-appropriate clothes are the preferred option for a funeral.
Children of all ages, including teenagers, should take their cue from their parents as to what to wear to a funeral. The key thing s to wear clothes that show respect.
Children should dress smartly to a funeral; with dark and subdued colours preferred. Traditionally, boys should wear a smart shirt with trousers whilst girls should wear a smart dress. Dark coloured trousers, and a dark coloured skirt are normally safe bets in respect of funeral wear for kids.
If possible, toddlers should be dressed in plain unfancy clothing, dark if possible, but it’s not essential. It is up to the discretion of the parents.
What to wear to a funeral in the summer
Summers can get uncomfortably hot. You may need to dress differently depending on the time of year in which the funeral is taking place and how hot it is. It’s important to choose clothes that you will be comfortable in as some funerals can last quite some time.
When attending a summer funeral, you will need to consider the location where the funeral will be held, and come prepared and suitably dressed for the sun and heat.
Bring sunglasses and an umbrella. The glasses should ideally be black rather than a funky style.
Choose clothes you’ll be comfortable wearing. It is best to wear outfits in more breathable materials such as cotton and linen. Avoid nylon, polyester, or other synthetic clothing that will trap in heat and the sweat.
Don’t wear shorts or flip flops. Strapped sandals are acceptable – closed feet are better.
What to wear to a funeral in the summer for men
For a funeral in the summer it is best for men to choose a linen-style suit which will be more comfortable in the heat.
Ideally suits should still be worn, but the jacket can be removed if you become too uncomfortable at any point.
Alternatively you can go for smart trousers and a lightweight shirt.
Do not wear shorts. Rather, stick to lightweight trousers. Pair them with a collared shirt such as a button-up or a polo shirt. If you opt for a polo shirt, choose a darker colour to help keep the outfit’s tone sombre and it will also help hide any sweat.
Dark shoes are acceptable, just be sure to wear dark socks with them.
Sunglasses are acceptable.
What to wear to a funeral in the summer for women
For women, choose a light and comfortable dress, or a knee-length skirt with a plain blouse. Short sleeved shirts are acceptable, just try to stay away from tops that reveal too much of the shoulders or chest. Avoid spaghetti straps, too-tight clothing, and miniskirts. Avoid figure hugging or transparent dresses. Wear dark colours where possible.
For funerals in the summer, especially if it’s a hot day, women can choose to wear a dark coloured floaty skirt with a plain blouse or top, or a dress. If you are opting for a sleeveless dress, use a silk or satin shawl as a cover-up. Linen trousers (as long as they don’t come with drawstrings and are not baggy) or semi-formal pants (dark) with a chiffon, satin, or georgette top are good options.
Depending upon the weather, consider flowing, airy smooth fabrics. The dress should be falling on the knees or a little below.
Sunglasses are acceptable.
What should children wear to a funeral in the summer
For children, they should generally follow the lead of their parents. Lighter colours are perfectly acceptable as are shorts, especially when there will be heat or sunshine, but pair them with nice shoes and avoid sandals.
What to wear to a funeral in the winter
If the funeral is taking place on a cold day in the winter, it’s important to wear warm clothing and extra layers, especially if you are attending a graveside service. Dark coloured coats, jackets, scarves and gloves are very much the order of the day.
The rules regarding funeral attire for winter are pretty much the same as any funeral. Choose neutral or black colour trench coats or long jackets and winter boots.
If you’re attending a winter funeral, be sure to wear warm clothing and bring additional layers – especially for graveside funeral services. you will want to add a smart coat along with accessories such as a hat, scarf, gloves etc.
For funerals taking place in colder weather, make sure to wear warm clothes and add layers to your outfit where appropriate.
What to wear to a funeral in the winter for men
For men, a good choice is a good-quality black wool coat. Accessorise with a dark scarf and warm gloves. Wear thick, dark wool socks. Choose your normal winter footwear.
What to wear to a funeral in the winter for women
For women, a good option is a classic wool coat in dark or moderate colours. Winter green, dark blues, browns, and plaids are also typically acceptable for your outerwear. Choose good quality boots and avoid open-toed shoes or sandals of any type. Accessories can include warm gloves, a scarf, and hats or other head coverings. Apart from outerwear and accessories, stick to the general guidelines for women’s funeral attire.
Women can wear a classic wool coat – preferably in black. Since it’s winter, accessories like gloves, scarves, hats or other protective layers are inevitable. Keep them in warm tones and low key.
You have some more details to pay attention to while layering up. This could be a smart jumper underneath your suit jacket, or a plain t-shirt hidden under your shirt or blouse, and bring a black umbrella in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
What to wear to a funeral in the winter for children
When wondering what should children wear to a funeral in the winter, it is best to follow the lead of the parents. Winter jackets in most colours will be acceptable, as will most rain boots. If possible, try to stay away from bright colours in accessories, but most people will understand when it is not possible to purchase an entirely new winter wardrobe for your children.
What not to wear to a funeral
A funeral is not the time to be a rebel. A funeral is a time for everyone to mourn and show their respect to the person who has died. It is not a time to stand out and wear jeans.
Unless the family of the deceased has requested otherwise, you should avoid wearing bright coloured or bold clothing to a funeral.
It is best not to wear any of the following to a funeral:
- Revealing or suggestive clothing
- Plunging necklines, or see-through outfits
- Strapless or spaghetti straps
- Bright sun dresses
- Animal print clothes
- Dresses or skirts with huge slits
- Swanky boots
- Flashy jewellery
- Short sleeved shirts
- Football shirts
- Printed t-shirts
- Distressed or ripped jeans
- Colourful ties
- Flip flops
- At all costs, avoid baseball caps
Remember What Really Matters
Attending a funeral isn’t a fashion show. This is a chance to remember what really matters- and that whatever you wear, you are there to pay your respects to the deceased and his or her family. Most people won’t remember what you’re wearing, so don’t let your wardrobe keep you from attending a funeral.
Unlike other formal events like weddings or celebrations, there isn’t much time to plan in advance. The family will understand if you’re caught off guard and might not have a suit ready and available.
Your clothing, whatever you choose to wear, should be conservative, clean, and wrinkle-free. If possible, iron or steam your outfit the day before so it looks its best. In addition, style your hair and groom yourself so you look good.
A little bit of effort goes a long way to showing the family you care about being there this important day.
It’s critical to be mindful of what you wear to a funeral, but not in the way you think. While it’s easy to put pressure on wearing a suit or formal clothing, that’s not what really matters.
What really matters is that you take the time to consider how to respect the family on this difficult occasion. Whether that means you wear dress pants and a formal shirt or whatever you can borrow is not the important thing.
It’s okay if you don’t have a suit to wear to the funeral. As you can see from this article, there are a lot of alternative options that work well. In addition, times are changing. It’s less expected to wear a formal suit to a funeral nowadays, so don’t let the stress of finding the “perfect” outfit keep you from attending.
At a funeral, you need to show respect to the deceased. If you choose something that is respectful you will be fine.
If your outfit is over the top or totally inappropriate, people will notice so keep in mind that your goal is not to place the focus on you. Choose elements that are respectful and conservative and will not cause a distraction.
The general rule for clothing at funerals is to follow any specific dress code and be respectful and understated – you don’t want to distract anyone from paying their respects to the person who has died. If the family have requested bright colours or a particular theme, then of course this is fine, but otherwise err on the side of being smart and neutral.
Attending the funeral of the ones we lost is a respectful way of sending them off. It needs to be done honourably. That’s why it is essential to maintain dignity by dressing appropriately.