When you find out you have a funeral to attend, your first thought isn’t usually about the attire you’ll be wearing. It’s a painful period, and you likely have a million other things on your mind.
That’s completely valid.
And yet, you must have the proper attire to wear on the day of the funeral. This is because your clothes send a message to everybody else that you are in mourning, and they also signal respect for tradition.
So how you dress on this sad day is considered an important of the funeral tradition.
Things to Consider When Attending a Funeral
Funerals are one of the most stressful events in our lives, as you and the people around you are grieving.
However, funerals bring about certain attire expectations. Despite the sadness, you are still expected to compose yourself a certain way and dress a specific way.
Funerals are not an occasion for high fashion. However, as you approach this somber day, you need to keep a few rules in mind for funeral etiquette. These are as important, if not more, than what you wear.
Offer Sympathy for the Deceased
Attending the service is the best way to pay your respects and express your sympathy to the departed’s family.
Remember also to send flowers ahead to the funeral home or church. You may also want to buy a small gift that the grieving would find meaningful.
If you didn’t know the person but are attending out of respect for either a friend or co-worker, your most important job is to offer support.
Kind words of sympathy can be meaningful and significant for the family.
Weather is an essential factor in deciding what you should wear to a funeral, especially if you will be attending a graveside service.
Dressing appropriately for the weather is a very pragmatic consideration. Light suit fabrics are best for summer, and heavy layers will be ideal for winter climates.
You don’t want to be too warm or cold, so think about clothing that won’t make you uncomfortable.
For example, if it’s rainy out, you’ll want to make sure you have an appropriate umbrella or hat for protection.
All cultures have their own approach to mourning their loved ones. Even within the same culture, families are different and may hold other traditions from what you are used to.
Some families may want the funeral they hold to be casual, without all the formality of a typical funeral. Some may wish to celebrate a particular aspect of their loved one’s life and have specific instructions.
Additionally, the family may ask guests to wear or bring something to help in their tribute to their family member. Be sure to pay attention to any such requests.
Avoid Disruptions During the Service
When you are at a funeral, all focus needs to be on the service. Turn off your cell phone; if you absolutely need to be reachable, at least set it to silent.
Do not be late; if this is unavoidable, quietly enter and stay in the back of the room.
Funerals aren’t the best places to bring your kids, so leave them at home if at all possible. In other words, don’t distract from the funeral in any way.
Formal Attire to Wear to a Funeral
On most occasions, your clothing is a chance to flaunt your sense of style. Even events that have strong dress codes, like weddings or work, still present the opportunity to show your flair.
This is not the case when dressing for a funeral. You are dressing so that you can show your respect, not to impress others. This is one rare occasion that you want your clothing to blend in with everybody else’s.
That being said, you still should put effort into your appearance in order to match the importance of the event. You can still look very classy, just in a subtle way.
So if you put proper thought into what you wear to a funeral to ensure your attire is appropriate, you won’t draw attention to yourself. And that is the primary goal. All focus must be on the deceased.
Dark Two-Piece Suit
The most traditional men’s wear for a funeral is a dark two-piece suit. Ideally, it should be black, although any very dark suit color is acceptable. Charcoal grey and navy are the second-best alternatives.
Your suit should be a classic suit, similar to what you would wear for a job interview. It should not have any flashy additions to it or have an unusual cut. Any suit you wear to a funeral should be muted and subtle.
It’s also important that your suit fits well. You look sloppy if you wear an ill-fitting suit as if you didn’t put much effort into dressing. This would be disrespectful but also distracting to the other attendees.
Again, this would draw focus away from what’s important on that day.
Dress Shirt & Necktie
It would be best if you had a dress shirt under your suit, and you should keep it as simple as possible. For example, your dress shirt should have long sleeves and ideally have a collar.
The best dress shirts are traditionally white; they look the best against a dark suit. However, a black shirt is common to wear to a funeral, as well. Either way, make sure the shirt is clean, wrinkle-free, and fits well.
Your tie should be dark, it doesn’t have to be black. But if you are wearing a black suit, make sure the color doesn’t clash with the rest of your ensemble. It can be solid or have a very simple pattern on it.
Bright colors or large prints on ties are not ever appropriate. Save those for a more joyful occasion.
Overcoat if Cold
Funerals happen year-round and are always subject to the mercy of the weather.
If you need to attend one during winter, it’s probably a very good idea to have a warm overcoat. Again, you may be spending a good amount of time outside, so try to be comfortable.
It’s OK to wear a coat over your suit. However, it needs to be dark. For warmth and the right level of dressiness, go with a wool coat.
Take Off the Suit Jacket if Hot
Just as you may be attending a funeral in freezing weather, you’re just as likely to attend one in hot weather. Therefore, you still need to dress in a dark suit.
You can, however, remove the jacket of your suit to help you cool off.
If you’re going to take off your jacket, you must have a well-fitting dress shirt. But, again, long-sleeved is still preferable.
White is even more desirable in this situation since it will help keep you cool.
Formal Dress Shoes
When you wear a very dark suit, your shoes should be either black or very dark brown. Lighter shoes would be too casual and will likely clash with your dark suit.
Oxford-style dress shoes are the best choice since they are the most formal. If you don’t have Oxfords, derbies or bluchers are also acceptable.
Whichever style you end up wearing, they absolutely must be clean and completely free from scratches and scuffs.
Acceptable Suit Accessories for Funeral
Just like with your clothing, any accessories you wear to a funeral must be low-key.
If it’s a sunny day, you will probably be more comfortable standing outside if you don’t have to squint the whole time. It’s fine to wear a pair of dark sunglasses.
Please stay away from mirrored lenses; they might feel too flashy.
Since you really should keep your cell phone out of sight, you may want a watch to help you keep track of the time. A discreet watch with a black leather wristband would be a perfect choice.
If rain is in the forecast, you’ll need an umbrella. But, rather than ruin the aesthetic of the dreary day, carry a black umbrella and not a bright, cheery one.
Keep all jewelry to a minimum. Any jewelry that you do choose to wear should be understated and not glitzy or distracting.
Funeral Attire if You Don’t Like Suits
Not everybody is comfortable in a suit. Some people will go to great lengths to avoid them. Of course, it’s harder to do that when going to a funeral, but you may be able to forgo a suit under certain conditions.
Nevertheless, it’s critical that you still dress very conservatively and in dark colors.
You will be more casually dressed if you aren’t in a suit, so you need to feel confident that you won’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Also, it would be terrible if you created a stir among the other funeral guests because they focused on how disrespectful you were for dressing a certain way.
The foundation for this suitless approach is your pants. You still must wear dress pants, and build from there. Jeans are not appropriate attire at a funeral, no matter how nice they are.
Dress Pants, Button-Down Shirt & Sweater
This is an excellent option if the weather is cold. Dressing in layers is always an excellent idea in winter and can look very classy when done correctly.
You don’t want a very thick, bulky sweater. Instead, find a material that is thin yet warm, like cashmere. A crewneck would look most appropriate, although a V-neck sweater would be suitable.
Solid coloring with no adornments is the dressiest approach to wearing a sweater. Avoid any branding.
A black or white dress shirt is the best thing to wear under a dressy sweater. Of course, you can add a tie for a classy touch.
Dress Pants, Dress Shirt & Vest
Wearing a vest instead of a suit jacket can invoke thoughts of a three-piece suit. It may help give the impression that you are dressed formally without actually wearing a suit.
If you opt for the vested look, remember that a significant amount of your dress shirt will be visible. Your shirt must be fully buttoned up; no open necks, please.
To help stay appropriately dressy, don’t roll up your sleeves. Rolled sleeves are too informal and relaxed. Also, be sure to remember to include a tie.
Vests are an acceptable option for warm weather. You are wearing fewer heavy layers and still dressing conservatively.
Dress Pants, Button-Down Shirt & Blazer
A blazer and a black button-down shirt are acceptable in most funeral situations. Remember to keep it simple and a dark or neutral shade.
As with a sweater, be sure it is free from any designs or loud patterns. The buttons on your blazer should be unnoticeable; no bright, gold buttons.
Your blazer needs to complement your dress pants. Since the pants and blazer are separates, they aren’t likely to be precisely the same color. Make sure that the two colors balance each other.
A solid blazer is ideal. A pattern is acceptable only if it’s subtle and muted.
Khakis & Polo Shirt
This combination is only acceptable under two conditions: if it is hot weather and the family expressly states a casual dress code.
Otherwise, it is a safer choice to wear slacks to a funeral. Slacks and dress pants are more closer to formal attire, making them the more appropriate choice.
The most critical points in wearing this outfit to a funeral lie in the presentation. Your khakis need to be clean and pressed.
Wrinkles are more noticeable in lighter-colored clothing, and unfortunately, that means khakis. Your polo shirt should be dark since your pants definitely won’t be.
Attire to Avoid when Attending a Funeral
Sometimes it’s easier to get dressed for a high-pressure situation if you know precisely what not to wear. It’s common to feel worried about a tiny part of your outfit is completely wrong.
Avoid clothing that is too casual. How can you know if it’s too casual? Jeans are a clear indication that you aren’t dressy enough.
Anything that’s fashionably ripped is definitely off-limits. So is anything that has bright or bold colors.
Footwear is also important to pay attention to. Sneakers, flip-flops, or sandals are far too informal for a funeral. Instead, it would be best if you focused on closed-toe leather dress shoes.
Any very showy accessories are not a good fit for a funeral. If you are one for a gold chain or bracelet, make sure it’s discreet, or leave it at home for the day.
If you feel the strong need to wear a hat, a classy dark-felt hat is fine. Baseball caps or wool beanies are not.
Attire to Wear to a Funeral FAQs
Here’s a quick summary of some of the main points you should remember as preparing to attend a funeral. Whether it’s your first or you’ve been so several, it’s always worth brushing up on expectations.
Can I wear a grey suit at a funeral?
Yes. But remember that dark is the goal for whatever you wear. So light grey is out, but a dark or charcoal grey suit would be excellent.
Are dark jeans appropriate for a funeral?
No. Jeans are not ever welcome at a funeral. Instead, wear the nicest pair of dark pants you own. If you don’t own dress pants, either buy an inexpensive pair if you can or find a nice pair of dark chinos.
What’s the difference between a funeral and a memorial?
Although there isn’t a tremendous difference, there are some significant distinctions. In terms of attire, funerals tend to be a little more formal, while memorials can be relatively informal. There’s usually a specific way things are done at a funeral, but memorials are less bound by tradition.
Is wearing a men’s suit mandatory at a funeral?
No, you have other options available to you. However, a suit is the safest attire to wear to a funeral to ensure that you feel like you blend in. If a suit isn’t in the cards, make sure you wear very muted and inoffensive clothing.
What to wear to a funeral in the summer?
When the weather is sweltering, it’s practically impossible to consider putting on a full suit with a jacket. In this instance, you may wear a dress shirt and slacks. Remember to follow the basic rules for a funeral, and wear dark pants and dress shoes.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.
Hello, is a black suit with a black/dark navy turtleneck appropriate? Thank you.
Yes, it is.
Some advice please I’m going to a funeral, is it appropriate to wear a light grey suit black turtleneck jumper, black leather tassle loafers, your advice would be most appreciated.
It’d be appropriate to change the light grey suit with a charcoal/dark grey. Of course, it all depends on the family culture, but dark is always a better option within Western society.