What to wear to a funeral

Many of the once-strict social conventions surrounding funeral services have relaxed and, along with the choice of funeral music, one of the biggest changes has been in what people wear.

Sorrowful rites with mourners shrouded in black are far less common than they once were. More and more funerals reflect the personal wishes of the individual departed and long-followed funeral fashions are making way for more contemporary tastes.

From wearing brightly coloured clothes to football shirts and even fancy dress, people are styling themselves to celebrate a life well lived as much as mourning the passing of the deceased.

The loosening of the dress rules that once accompanied attendance at a funeral are widely welcomed, but greater freedom to choose does complicate the question of what to wear to a funeral.

Traditional choices

Tradition dictates that men should wear a black suit, white shirt with a black tie and women wear a black dress or skirt and jacket with a dark blouse. In most instances, following this convention is a safe option. The only way the more formal choice will be a problem is in cases where the deceased or their family have specifically requested that attendees avoid wearing black or ‘mourning’ clothes.

If there are no specific instructions, then smart and dark will always be appropriate.

Where the family has made a special request for the congregation to dress in a particular colour, maybe the favourite colour of the deceased, you probably don’t need to dress head to toe in hot pink or lemon yellow. Wearing a scarf, a shirt or a jacket in that colour will show your respect just as well.

In the UK, the weather has a huge part to play in what clothes people wear. If it’s cold and wet, a dark overcoat lends dignity to whatever you choose to wear underneath. Thinking practically, it also makes sense to take an umbrella for when it rains and tissues in case you or anyone close to you gets the sniffles, or is upset by service.

On the odd occasion that it’s hot and sunny, men should make sure their shirts are well laundered in case they need to take their jackets off.  T shirts may be OK, but avoid lettering or busy patterns.

Plan ahead

Overall, there are few occasions when being conservative is more appropriate than at a funeral. The mix of people attending can be incredibly varied and no one wants to spend the service worrying that they may have offended someone.

As with everything associated with funerals, planning brings peace of mind; the last thing you want to be worrying about when you have a funeral on the horizon is what to wear.

Take a look through your wardrobe and think what might be appropriate. You don’t need to get involved in a full fashion show, just plan your outfit so that you know it’s there if you need it.

It is important to be considerate when dressing for a funeral. What you wear should reflect your respect for the deceases and your sympathy for the feelings of their friends and family. With emotions already running high, inappropriate attire can cause upset at a time when no one wants it.

That said, these days what you wear matters much less than the fact you go along to show your respect for the deceased and your support for their loved ones.