Funerals can be delicate to navigate with many protocols and traditions to be respected. While it might seem trivial in light of the loss experienced, choosing appropriate funeral attire can be a difficult decision.
As an immediate family member it might be an easier choice; with knowledge on the right tone of the funeral service, religious customs and insight on what the deceased family member wanted. As a friend or wider person in the deceased person's life, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with appropriate funeral attire from your own wardrobe.
When memorial services make 'wear colour' stipulations, things can get even more complicated. Is that limited to dark blues and formal attire? How bright is ‘bright colours’. And are flip flops, spaghetti straps and short sleeved shirts ever appropriate?
Read on for our top tips on what to wear to a funeral, regardless of the memorial service stipulations.
Typical Funeral Dress code
Appropriate funeral attire for men will typically look like a black suit, with a black tie and smart shoes. For women, funeral attire will also follow a black and white trend; often looking like a smart black dress with black shoes and overcoat. Even for more casual funeral options, it is typical for this dark colour theme to remain.
However, like the person it honours, each funeral is a unique occasion. As such, it's unlikely there's one clear-cut dress code suitable for most funerals. Here are a few important points to consider when deciding what to wear to a memorial:
A good starting point on funeral attire is to think about the person who passed away. They might have their own cultural background or customary traditions that their family has tied into the funeral service.
Your closeness to the deceased can also guide how comfortable you feel wearing more casual funeral attire. An outfit that might be perfectly acceptable to wear to a family member or close friend's funeral can be different from what to wear to a funeral of someone you don't know as well.
Your outfit can be influenced by the location of the funeral. While many may associate funeral services with churches, some people choose to have funerals in their homes, at favourite venues (including the pub!), or outdoors. The location may give you a good indication of the formality expected from the family of the deceased.
Whilst you should wear respectful attire to all funerals, a casual setting might have less of a requirement for formal funeral attire, such as wearing black or subdued colours. Wearing lighter colours, a polo shirt or athletic shoes might be more acceptable in this setting, for example.
For an outdoor funeral or burial service, it's also worth considering what you wear to layer your funeral outfit- especially if the weather forecast is wet or cold. You don't want to plan the perfect black dress only to draw attention with bright colours on all your layers.
When in doubt, reach out to the family. A black, funeral outfit is often considered traditional for funerals but many families have their own traditions and perspectives on grieving and what to wear to the funeral of their loved one.
The family might like for guests to wear their person's favourite bright colours or ask that attendees wear a specific colour to celebrate the life lived. Checking in with the family or someone close to the family can give you a better idea of what's appropriate to wear.
Generally, it's important to be well-groomed and wear smart clothing as a gesture of respect to the family in mourning. While traditional funeral attire isn't always needed for more relaxed funerals, it's still considerate to choose a tidy appearance with low-key colours to make sure the service is focused on the deceased.
If you're not in the position to reach out to the family or haven't been advised on what to wear, here are a few helpful tips to consider when dressing for a funeral.
Subtle, natural-looking makeup
Simple jewellery and accessories
Polished black shoes
Typically black clothing, dark colours and muted tones
Dress suits, shifts slacks and jackets
Dress modestly in dresses and skirts
Black dress, dark colours & job interview style formality
Flashy, sequin garments
Off-the-shoulder outfits, spaghetti straps or mini skirts
Dangling, bulky or jangly bracelets or jewellery
Runners, open toed shoes, flip flops slippers and casual sandals
Bright colours (if not asked by the family)
Caps, bucket hats and beanies
A traditional funeral and wearing black isn't the best option for everyone. The bereaved family may choose to have a more relaxed outdoor service or in a casual venue. If the funeral takes place on a beach or in a park, traditional dress code suits and heels probably aren't the best choice for the setting or seasonal weather.
In some instances, dark jeans can be worn with a simple dress shirt. Dark blue and dark green can also be a good alternative to modest black dress, with other less formalised funeral outfits including a collared shirt. While some casual clothing and lighter colours is acceptable, it's essential to make sure your outfit doesn't offend the family in mourning with what you wear to a funeral.
Funeral attire doesn't always mean black clothing, non attention grabbing outfits and a complete bright colours ban. Many funerals incorporate funeral outfit's as a way to set the tone of the memorial service, and honour the life of their loved one.
Whilst if in doubt, subdued colours are generally sufficient for a graveside service- there are some cases where funeral outfits are a bit different. In tossing up funeral outfit ideas, it's always best to consult with the family, or someone who already has.
Safewill can help you
Our team at Safewill offer simple and affordable Will-writing services to help you outline your funeral wishes when you pass away. From outlining funeral attire to choosing greener options, if you're planning a funeral for the death of a loved one, Safewill Cremations provides a simple and affordable way to look after the essentials so you can celebrate your way.