Traditionally, funeral etiquette suggests men and women wear black clothing that’s conservative and respectful. Black or dark colours are most common, but some cultures expect mourners to wear a less traditional funeral colour. The weather and location of funeral services can also play a factor, so try and consider these elements before you decide what to wear.
If you are attending a celebration of life, woodland burial or a funeral in an alternative venue to a place of worship or crematorium, you may find that the family of the deceased are expecting a less formal attire for these occasions. They may request a less traditional dress or may have a personalised theme they would like you to adhere to.
In general, the etiquette for funeral attire is the same for both men and women: business-type attire that is respectful and conservative. Err on the side of dressing up as opposed to dressing down. Black or another dark color is almost always appropriate. Be sure to take the weather and location of the service into consideration and consult with a family member of the deceased if you need specific advice.
While it’s true that the standard for funeral dress has become more relaxed over the years, clothing should still be respectful and conservative. Keep in mind that your goal is not to place the focus on you. The best rule of thumb for funeral attire is to select clothing that is respectful and conservative and will not cause a distraction.
Tips for Women
- A suit with a skirt or trousers in a dark, solid colour is a safe choice. You do not have to wear black unless the specific culture dictates it.
- A skirt of appropriate length and blouse or jumper is normally appropriate.
- Flat shoes or pumps are your best choice for shoes. Open-toed shoes or sandals may be appropriate depending on the venue and climate.
- Depending on the culture, a hat may be worn.
- Unless there are special circumstances, jeans are usually considered too casual.
Tips for Men
- A suit with a collared shirt and tie or trousers with a blazer or jacket are safe choices. You are not limited to black but dark, muted colours are generally the best choice.
- Shoes may be casual but it’s best to avoid trainers. Flip flops and sandals are probably not appropriate.
- Avoid jeans (unless the geography or climate dictate them), short-sleeved shirts, and trainers. Baseball caps are rarely appropriate.
What colour to wear if not black?
Wearing black to a funeral is generally acceptable across Western society. However, not all cultures consider black as the appropriate colour for a funeral. For instance, black is considered inappropriate at a Hindu funeral or Sikh funeral; instead, mourners (both male and female) are expected to wear white. Here are some other popular colours worn worldwide:
- Red – in South Africa, red is sometimes worn as a colour of mourning. For a Ghanaian funeral, it’s traditional for members of the community to wear black and white while the immediate family will wear red and black.
- Purple – in Thailand, purple represents sorrow and is often worn by widows during the mourning period. Purple is also worn in Brazil alongside black.
- Grey – in Papua New Guinea, a widow applies a stone-coloured clay to their skin while mourning their husband.
- Bright colours – many African, Caribbean/West Indies, humanist and non-religious funerals in the UK and across the world will opt for more vibrant colours. Wearing bright colours to a funeral can reinforce the celebration of life.
Subdued colours like grey, maroon and navy blue can be a good alternative to black.