Not sure what to wear to a funeral? Here’s our guide to choosing funeral clothes.
Think about the location
When deciding on your funeral outfit, start by thinking about where the ceremony is being held. For example, a memorial service at a place of worship or crematorium might mean you need to wear smarter clothes than an outdoor location.
Also think about the weather. You’ll need a dark, smart jacket and a dark umbrella if rain is forecast. In summer, lighter clothing is fine, but it’s generally best to avoid shorts or skirts that are above the knee. If you’re wearing something sleeveless, it’s a good idea to take a scarf to cover your shoulders, especially if the ceremony is in a church or temple.
If you’re going to an Islamic funeral, you should wear long sleeves and full-length trousers or a skirt, even in hot weather.
Stick to the colour code
It’s natural to have questions about the proper colours to wear to a funeral – especially as there’s no single rule.
It’s common to wear black or dark colours to Christian, Humanist or secular funerals. In Hindu or Buddhist funerals, people, especially family, will sometimes wear white or pale colours as a mark of respect. If you’re going to a religious funeral and you’re not sure what colour to wear, it’s best to ask.
Also, the family might want to inject a splash of colour into the proceedings and ask guests to wear a colourful funeral outfit instead of the traditional muted tones.
Check about formality and modesty
When you’re choosing the right clothes to wear to a funeral, it’s important to think about how formal the service will be, as well as if there are cultural requirements to cover up parts of your body as a mark of respect.
In Christian and secular funerals people will often wear a suit to a funeral. For men, this usually means a shirt, tie and jacket with matching trousers. Women usually wear a jacket over either trousers, a skirt or a dress.
For some other faiths, such as Islam, men aren’t expected to wear a tie or jacket to the funeral, as long as you look smart.
With more informal services becoming more popular, it’s worth checking what the funeral dress code is.
Consider your role in the funeral
If you’re part of the ceremony – for example, if you’re one of the pallbearers – the person who’s organising the funeral might ask you to wear specific funeral attire so you match the rest of the pallbearers.
Don’t forget footwear
Generally, it’s best to wear formal shoes or boots that match the rest of your funeral outfit. Women might want to consider wearing flat pumps or shoes with a small heel if you’re likely to be standing on grass for a long time.
For most Christian funerals, closed-toe shoes (i.e. not sandals) are preferred. However, for some other faiths, such as at a Hindu funeral, sandals are usually perfectly fine.
For Buddhist and Islamic funerals, you’ll probably be asked to remove your shoes, so it’s a good idea to wear ones that are easy to slip off and on.
Hats and head coverings can be important too
Depending on the type of funeral you’re going to, you might need to wear a hat or head covering.
For most Christian funerals, it’s usually up to you if you want to wear a hat. At Jewish and Hindu funerals a head covering is often worn as a mark of respect. For Islamic and Sikh funerals, it’s usual to be expected to wear a head covering, even if you don’t follow the religion.
If you’re unsure, it’s best to take a scarf or small hat with you to the funeral, so you can put it on if needed.
As with the rest of your outfit, aim to look smart and try to avoid making a statement by wearing a large hat. Try not to wear a baseball cap or beanie hat as these are usually too casual.
Pay attention to jewellery
At Buddhist funerals, it’s common to avoid displays of wealth, as a mark of respect. So avoid wearing lots of jewellery or other showy accessories. This is also a good rule to follow for most types of funeral.
What not wear to a funeral
The rules vary for different types of ceremony, and also depend on the funeral dress code given by the family. However, there are a few items it’s usually best to avoid when you choose your funeral clothes:
- Showy clothing that will make you stand out from the crowd of mourners
- Clothes that leave a lot of your body on show (for example, shorts or skirts above the knee)
- Very casual clothing such as jeans, trainers or logo t-shirts
- Casual hats such as baseball caps or beanies
It’s always best to try to follow the dress code of the funeral as much as you can. If you have any questions, always ask the person who’s organising the funeral if something is okay to wear.
What should children wear to a funeral?
For teenagers, follow the same funeral wear advice as for adults. If they don’t have a suit, then dark-coloured trousers (even their school trousers) and a shirt with a tie is ideal. Younger children, toddlers and babies should be smartly presented, but there isn’t the same emphasis on wearing black or dark colours.
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