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If you have never been to a funeral, it is common to be concerned about what clothing is appropriate for the occasion. The most important thing to keep in mind regarding your choice of attire is to be respectful.
Here are a few helpful guidelines to follow when deciding what to wear to a funeral or memorial service. Keep in mind that the guidelines below are for traditional to western/Christian funerals; other cultures and religions may follow different guidelines for funeral dress. Also, the family of the deceased may decide that they want a specific kind of dress for the funeral of their loved one. For example, many times families will even specifically request that guests do not wear black. The family’s request should always take precedence over the guidelines below.
Tips on What to Wear to a Funeral
Be Conservative. Consider this akin to a job interview. Choose dark clothing of appropriate length according to the season and weather. For women, a black dress is a good choice for funeral attire, while for men wearing a black or dark blue suit (no flashy ties) are common choices for funeral outfits. Black is a common color to wear to a funeral, but not required. Navy or other dark colors are also acceptable. For women, if going sleeveless, be sure to wear a sweater, shawl or suit jacket. Pants or knee-length skirts are preferred as well. For men, choose a plain colored shirt and dark tie to pair with dark slacks or a suit.
Don’t be flashy. In order to be respectful, you do not want to attract attention to yourself due to the outfit you are wearing. If wearing a patterned fabric, ensure the pattern isn’t flashy. No overly bright colors like red, yellow or orange and no flowers. A paisley pattern, squares, or stripes are okay so long as they are simple and merely accent the outfit.
Follow the rules. Funerals of various religions may have specific dress requirements, or the family of the deceased may request for guests to follow a certain dress code. If this is the case, please follow the request of the family. For instance, guests of a Quaker funeral are requested to wear white, and it is acceptable to wear military dress to the funeral of a veteran. Sometimes families view this as a celebration of life and do not want people to wear black, so they may request bright colors or a specific style to honor their deceased relative. If you have any questions it’s always best to check with the family before planning your attire.
Note the type of service. There are funerals, wakes, viewings, visitations, memorial services and celebrations of life. Each type of service could change the appropriate attire that should be worn. Viewings and visitations are often less formal than funerals and memorial services, so it may be acceptable to wear something other than traditional funeral attire.
Always check the obituary or Tribute Page for service information. If nothing is printed on the notice about requested attire, contact the funeral home to see if the family has made any requests. You can always discuss the family’s wishes directly with the family if needed.