What to wear to a funeral
When deciding what to wear to a funeral, the most important thing is to respect the wishes of the bereaved family. The traditional dress code for a funeral in the UK for both men and women is black, conservative clothing, although wearing dark or muted colours is also considered appropriate.
If you are unsure about what to wear, it is perfectly acceptable to ask an immediate family member of the deceased for advice and guidance. The family may request a certain dress code, as it may be that the deceased expressed their wishes before they passed away.
Colourful funerals or ‘celebrations of life’ are becoming more popular in the UK, with mourners asked to wear bright, vibrant colours to reflect the life of the deceased.
What to wear to a funeral for men
Traditional funeral attire for men often consists of:
- Smart black or dark coloured (dark blue, navy and grey are often considered acceptable) suit
- White shirt (long or short-sleeved) with a collar
- Plain black tie
- Polished black shoes
Black isn’t always compulsory, muted and dark colours are generally considered appropriate. If you don’t have anything smart in your wardrobe already, you could consider hiring a funeral suit.
What to wear to a funeral for women
Traditional funeral attire for women consists of:
- Knee-length skirt or dress
- Smart plain blouse
- Cardigan or blazer
- Smart shoes
Similar to men’s funeral attire, black clothing isn’t always compulsory for women, but it is best to wear a dark coloured skirt, dress or pair of trousers. You should choose a skirt or dress that is of appropriate length and avoid any revealing outfits.
If you are attending a graveside service, make sure the footwear you have chosen is appropriate, flat shoes or low heels are a good choice. In some religions and cultures, women may wear a hat; if you do wear a hat, make sure it’s not so big it will block someone’s view.
Funeral attire for children
A good rule of thumb is to dress children in the same style as the adults, so children should also dress smart for a funeral, with dark and subdued colours often preferred.
Traditionally, boys should wear a smart shirt and tie with trousers and shoes, whilst girls typically wear smart dresses. You should also make sure that children can easily add or remove layers depending on the weather (so they do not feel too hot or too cold).
What to wear to a funeral in the summer or winter
In summer, dark colours should still be worn. Men generally still wear a formal suit, but you may be able to take off your suit jacket if you become uncomfortably hot. Women may wish to wear a smart skirt or dress if it is a hot day. Sunglasses are normally accepted, and you make also want to take suncream if you’re going to be outside for a while.
If the funeral is taking place on a cold winter’s day, it is important to wear warm clothing and extra layers, especially if you are attending a graveside service. Dark coloured coats, jackets, scarves and gloves may be worn, and you should wear practical shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry. If rain is forecast, you may also want to take an umbrella.
Religious funeral dress code
If you are attending a religious funeral, then you may need to be aware of the customs which are followed by that faith, so you may need to do some research before deciding what to wear. As well as religions, many nationalities also have their own traditional dress codes for funerals. If you are unsure, the easiest thing to do is to ask the family. They will likely appreciate the effort that you have made to respect the customs of their family.
It is not a good idea to wear the traditional dress of a different culture unless requested to do so, because that may be insensitive.
What to wear to a celebration of life funeral
If you are going to a celebration style funeral, it’s best to ask family and friends of the deceased what they’d like you to wear, especially as some funerals have a theme. For example, you may be asked to wear a certain colour.
Even if the dress code is less formal than a traditional funeral, it is still a good idea to ensure that you dress smartly and respectfully.
What not to wear to a funeral
When attending a funeral, it’s best to avoid clothes that will draw attention to you. A funeral is a time to pay your respects to the person who has died, so it’s important to dress appropriately. Unless the family of the deceased have stated otherwise, you should avoid wearing bright coloured or bold clothing.
As a general rule, you should not wear any of the following to a funeral:
- Revealing or suggestive clothing
- Trainers or flip flops
- Printed t-shirts
- Colourful ties
- Excessive jewellery
If in doubt, it’s best to wear smart, dark-coloured clothes (the kind you may wear to a job interview). Alternatively, you could consider the type of funeral in your decision. For example, if it’s a traditional funeral or memorial service, the dress code will probably be smart and more sombre. If it’s a celebratory send-off, you could opt for a more casual style and brighter colours.
While dressing appropriately is important at a funeral, your presence is what will matter most to the family of the deceased.