What to wear to a funeral

If you have never attended a funeral before, deciding what to wear can be difficult. Black is considered the most popular funeral attire in Western cultures, though with the increase in less traditional services a celebration of life is becoming more popular in the UK, therefore a more informal outfit, possibly brightly coloured is better suited to the occasion.

If you are unsure of what to wear, it’s important to be respectful to the deceased. The family may set a specific dress code, or want you to wear a certain colour, so it’s always best to double check with them first.

Here is our guide for what to wear to a funeral:

People singing a hymn at a funeral service

What is appropriate clothing for a funeral?

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.

What to wear to a funeral that is 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 Ghanain 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.
That being said, it’s best to speak to a family member regarding what they want you to wear.

What do women wear to a funeral?

  • A skirt or dress – these should be knee-length and not flashy or revealing, normally with tights.
  • A pair of smart trousers – jeans and other casual trousers are not appropriate for a funeral. A pair of smart full-length or ankle grazer trousers in a dark colour can be a good option.
  • Plain blouse or top – if you are wearing a skirt or trousers, you can pair this with a smart blouse or top. This should be conservative and plain i.e. no bold colours or patterns.
  • Cardigan, jumper or blazer – if it is winter or the venue is cold, it’s a good idea to bring an additional layer. A blazer can also smarten up a more casual outfit.
  • Smart jumpsuit – this is becoming a popular option, especially as they can be more comfortable for longer services.
  • Smart shoes – flats or sensible heels are the most popular choice. Open-toed shoes or sandals may be worn in some instances (service location/culture/country dependent).

AVOID: Jeans, revealing clothing, flashy jewellery, hats.

What do men wear to a funeral?

  • Smart black or dark suits – this can be worn with a white, long-sleeved shirt and tie.
  • Smart trousers and blazer – if you do not own a traditional suit, smart trousers with a plain white t-shirt and blazer is a slightly more casual but acceptable option.
  • Plain black tie – for many people this is optional, but it is recommended if you want to look especially smart.
  • Polished black shoes – dress shoes (i.e. brogues or oxfords) are usually the traditional preferred choice, but any smart shoes are acceptable.

AVOID: Jeans, short-sleeved shirts, trainers and caps/beanies.

What should children wear to a funeral?

There is a bit more flexibility when it comes to children. Smart, age-appropriate clothes are the preferred option for a funeral. This includes:

  • Dark coloured trousers, plain top and jumper
  • Dark coloured skirt, plain top and cardigan
  • Smart dress
  • Smart black/dark shoes

What should a toddler wear to a funeral?

If possible, toddlers should be dressed in plain dark clothing, but this is up to the discretion of the parent.

What to wear to a funeral in the summer?

If you are attending a funeral in the summer, women can choose to wear a dark coloured floaty skirt with a plain blouse/top, or a dress. For men, a linen-style suit might be more comfortable in the heat, otherwise you can opt for smart trousers and a lightweight shirt. Sunglasses are usually accepted for outside services.

What to wear to a funeral in winter?

If you’re attending a winter funeral, be sure to wear warm clothing and bring additional layers – especially for graveside funeral services. Black or dark coats, jackets, scarves and gloves may be worn.

A guide to what happens at a funeral

A funeral is a very personal service and will usually reflect the wishes of your loved one.

Compare Cremation Funeral Services

Cremation services usually involve a gathering of family and friends and a cremation committal to say goodbye to a loved one.

Letting people know

Picking up the telephone to tell close family or complete strangers such as an employer about the death is usually difficult.

Further Reading: Arranging a funeral

Read about how funerals are arranged and what services you can expect to get.