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When it comes to deciding on what to wear, two lifecycle events typically cause the most angst: weddings and funerals. With weddings, the invitation usually includes this information, such as "black tie" or "black tie optional." For funerals, however, it's often a guessing game. And understandably, you want to dress in a way that is respectful and appropriate.
While the situation can be stressful, it doesn’t have to be. BurialPlanning.com has outlined a series of helpful tips regarding funeral dress etiquette that should help anyone in figuring out the appropriate attire for a funeral.
Let's start with colors. For a wedding, women are discouraged from wearing white so that they don't "compete" with the bride. At a funeral, while you don't necessarily have to wear all black, you probably want to avoid bright, loud colors. Think understated. The last thing you want to do is detract attention from the deceased.
The exception to this would be if the deceased had previously requested that funeral guests wear a certain type of clothing. Some people ask friends and relatives in advance to refrain from gloom and doom, instead opting for a color-filled funeral. In that case, it's best to respect the wishes of the deceased.
If you don’t have such details, a safe bet is to go dark.
Let's take it from the top. Should you wear a hat or head covering? In some religions, such as certain branches of Judaism, men are required to wear a skullcap (referred to as a kippah or yarmulke) and women past bat mitzvah age (typically 12) are required to cover their heads. In other religions, it's common for women to wear stylish hats. If this applies to the funeral you'll be attending, go for it. Otherwise, a fancy hat may be considered too ostentatious.
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Next, let's talk about makeup. Don't apply makeup for a night out on the town. Use an understated color palette.
When it comes to funeral attire etiquette for jewelry, it should be subtle and understated, for both women and men. Avoid flashy, "blingy" jewelry. You will be offering your hand(s) in gestures of comfort, so keep rings and bracelets to a minimum. Women should also avoid wearing charm bracelets, as they may jingle during the ceremony.
Let's move to the neck area. It's customary for men to wear a necktie but may not be mandatory. If the funeral is during the workday, then it is acceptable to wear business attire. In fact, business casual is a safe bet. A jacket probably is not necessary. If your profession requires you to wear a suit, remember that you can always remove the jacket and/or tie if you feel overdressed.
Keep in mind that, in addition to feeling underdressed, you don't want to be so formally dressed that you make the mourners themselves look bad. Or, you can always keep a necktie in your pocket and put it on if needed. For women, it may be obvious but refrain from wearing a plunging neckline. Modesty is the best policy.
Next, let's talk about what to wear from the waist up. No tank tops for men, and it’s a good idea for women to have covered shoulders as well. No crop tops. No T-shirts or sweatshirts, especially ones with offensive or questionable slogans on them.
Now, what about from the waist down? No shorts. No sweatpants or warm-up pants. No super-short hemlines. And, sorry, no jeans. Instead, opt for khakis.
Lastly, what shoes should you wear to a funeral? Flip-flops are out. Tasteful sandals are fine. But stay away from work boots and sneakers, unless of course a physical condition requires that you wear supportive shoes such as sneakers. Women should avoid anything that would draw undue attention, such as extremely high heels or platform shoes.
Attending a funeral is a good opportunity to consider what you'd want for your own memorialization. You can even plan it now, decades in advance, so your loved ones don't have to worry about it later. Learn more about advance funeral planning.
When in doubt about funeral attire etiquette and what to wear, ask someone. If you're not close enough to the family to ask them, ask a mutual friend or call the house of worship or funeral home. If you're still unsure about what to wear to a funeral, it's always safer to err on the conservative side.
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