Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 01.01.2021

How To Dress For A Funeral

How To Dress For A Funeral

Reviewed By: Joshua Siege;

Cross Checked By: Scott Ginsberg

As you prepare to attend a funeral, you may find yourself struggling with the question of how to dress for it. Dark colors and conservative attire tends to be the standard approach as it conveys respect for the recently departed and their family. And because the focus should be on the deceased, etiquette suggests that the most appropriate clothing for mourners is attire that does not draw excessive attention. Looking for specific tips on wardrobe do's and don'ts for an upcoming funeral service? Read on as we offer our insight on how to dress for a funeral.

    Do I Have To Dress In Black For A Funeral?

    No. In many western cultures, wearing black to a funeral is a sign of respect befitting the event's somber nature. However, wearing black is not required for most funerals, even for pallbearers who tend to have more formal attire requirements (click here for more information about being a pallbearer). In addition to black, colors like navy, gray, dark brown, and other muted shades are popular choices.

    It is important to note that not all religions and cultures discourage wearing bright or light colors. White is an important color for funeral mourners who share the Hindu faith, while mourners are encouraged to wear pink or red shares in China if the deceased lived to an advanced age.

    Of course, funeral service attire may veer from tradition if the deceased left specific instructions or the family wants to honor their loved one with the wearing of a particular color or type of attire. In that case, the funeral announcement will indicate that preference. However, if you are in doubt, ask a member of the family or the funeral director for additional guidance.

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    Are Suits The Best Option For Men At A Funeral?

    A dark suit is often the best option for men attending a traditional funeral service, particularly if they are acting as a pallbearer. However, a suit is not required. A sport coat with dress pants, a button-down shirt, and a solid tie are perfectly acceptable. If the family has indicated that the funeral or memorial service is a casual event, khakis could be substituted for dress pants. Denim is generally discouraged, as are casual-wear items like graphic t-shirts or shorts unless the funeral announcement (or the next-of-kin) specifically requested it.

    For more tips on how men should dress for a funeral, click here. 

    Are Dresses Required For Women Attending A Funeral?

    No. While conservative dresses and dress-suits are appropriate, they are not required. As with men, it's best to consider similar options that would be appropriate for a business meeting. Dresses, skirt-suits, pantsuits, and skirts or pants paired with nice blouses or tops are appropriate for most funeral services. Sleeveless dresses can work, particularly in warmer climates, although you may want to pair them with a wrap, sweater, or tailored blazer. Typically, floral spring dresses in light colors are considered too informal unless the family has indicated otherwise. Because mourners want to avoid drawing focus, very short skirts or any clothing that feels more appropriate for the beach or a club aren't encouraged.

    What Shoes Are Most Appropriate At A Funeral?

    Dress shoes in dark colors are a favored option when choosing funeral attire. Oxfords, upscale loafers, and other dress shoes that work well with business or "church" clothing are great options. High heels are acceptable, although low-heeled shoes may be significantly more comfortable if the funeral service includes a lot of standing or if you are walking to the burial site. Low-heeled pumps or flat shoes are recommended for anyone who will be performing casket-carrying pallbearer duties.

    Open-toed high heels can be appropriate, but it would depend on the weather where the end-of-life service is being held. Sneakers or other athletic footwear are discouraged as funeral attire unless you need them for orthopedic support. Likewise, sandals or flip-flops are not usually appropriate unless the funeral or memorial service is extremely casual or held at a venue, such as a beach, that calls for them.

    Should I Wear A Hat to A Funeral?

    While hats are not a critical element of funeral attire in the United States, dress hats are entirely appropriate and even encouraged in some cultures. For men, fedoras, bowlers, or military caps are often worn into the funeral and then removed as a sign of respect. For women, a polished hat that complements your attire can be worn throughout the funeral service. Big, floppy hats that might call attention or block another mourner's view are not encouraged. Baseball caps, trucker hats, or other casual hats are not appropriate unless the item was explicitly requested by the deceased's family.

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    How Do I Include Accessories When Dressing For A Funeral?

    When you are selecting jewelry for a funeral service, try to keep it simple. Avoid pieces that are likely to clang together or otherwise make excessive noise during the funeral service. Err on the side of understated style rather than eye-catching when you dress for the funeral. While it is often recommended that ties feature solid, dark colors, muted patterns can also be appropriate. For some services, pallbearers may be asked to don white gloves to protect the coffin or casket head panels while it is being transported.