What to wear to a funeral

What do you wear to say goodbye to a loved one? It’s question you likely never want to ask yourself, but it’s one we will all eventually have to consider. First, there are a few things to think about, such as your relationship to the deceased and what their family ultimately wants.

The basics

Simplicity and modesty are a safe bet, especially when you’re unsure of the appropriate attire. Comfortable shoes and a coat, sweater or jacket with pockets for chilly weather and tissue storage are easy to find in most everyone’s closet without needing to purchase something new.

Steer clear of bright colors or loud prints (unless otherwise requested). While black is the traditional funeral color, other dark or muted colors are also a safe option. The “little black party dress” is not a good choice if the hem line is above the knee. Hats should not be so large that they block anyone’s view. Also avoid shoes or jewelry that make noise — it’s not a good time to jangle or squeak.

Funerals and memorial services are typically formal affairs, so baseball caps, anything with logos or designs, flip-flops, jeans, sneakers, tank tops, shorts and the like should be left at home. Avoid anything that could take the attention away from memorializing your loved one.

While services vary, it is traditional for each pallbearer to receive a boutonniere — so if you have been asked to fulfill this role, wear a suit coat or some attire that can support one. Women who will be serving as pallbearers should opt for comfortable shoes with a flat or low heel.

The exceptions

All of the above goes out the window if the family wants to create a group remembrance through coordinated attire. For instance, if your grandmother’s favorite color was purple, the family may request everyone wear something lavender in her memory. Or if your deceased friend was a huge rock music fan, the family may request attendees wear concert T-shirts, jeans and tennis shoes.

When the family does not issue a request, it is still possible to show your appreciation for a life well lived through what you wear to the funeral.

One good rule of thumb is to think about your loved one and what they enjoyed. Was it anything that can be conveyed in your attire? Even for the most conservative of funerals, you can slip in a nod to who they were. For instance, wear their favorite flower or add their favorite color as an accent to your outfit.

When in doubt, ask the family. A funeral is no time for rebellion, and the family would likely appreciate if you asked about attire. With all the details they’re thinking about, attire of the funeral attendees may be one they’ve forgotten.

Additional guidance can be found at the following:




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