Unfortunately there are those moments in life when it is time to say goodbye to a loved one. If you are attending a funeral then it is advisable to educate yourself on what is the appropriate attire for the occasion. The type of clothes you wear depend on your culture, the deceased religious belief, your relationship to the family, as well as where the service will be held. Below are some general tips that will ensure that you are dressed appropriately for the occasion.
Traditional Western Funeral Attire
Traditionally “Western” funeral attire refers to a Christian ceremony. Conservative outfits are typical. Men typically dress in black suit, white shirt, and a black necktie. Even though the black tie is most common, other conservative colours are appropriate for ties such as maroon, and navy. If you do not own a black suit, then suits in charcoal or midnight blue are also acceptable.
Also common are black dress shirts worn with a black suit and black tie. The dress shoes should always be black and polished. It is advisable you check with the family before choosing an outfit to ensure you are following etiquette. Regardless of what conservative outfit you choose, make sure that your clothes are pressed & clean and that you are well groomed. Bright colours and bold fashion statements are never appropriate for a traditional ceremony.
If the ceremony is in church then it is required you leave your jacket on during the entire ceremony. If the ceremony is in a very warm climate, outside, and during the day, then it is acceptable to leave your jacket off.
Dress Code for “Personalized Funerals”
So-called “personalized funerals” have become more popular in recent years. If this is the case then chances are that the family of the deceased already informed you. “Memorial T-shirts” are a common clothing item worn during a personalized funeral. Even if such a T-shirt is worn, make sure that your other clothing items are traditional and conservative. Jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, sandals, and thongs are disrespectful and should never be worn.
A Note on Colours
Although black and white are the traditional colours for a Western funeral, some colours have become more acceptable. In fact, some believe that an all black funeral dress code is not the right way to say goodbye to a loved one and to celebrate his/her life. Again, check with the family to see what is appropriate. If you are part of the deceased family and everyone is dressed in traditional black attire, then a coloured necktie is not recommended. After all, a funeral is not the time to dress in a way that will make you stand out.
Funeral Attire in Other Cultures
While the traditional Christian custom requires you to dress in darker, typically black, colours. Other cultures and religious beliefs have quite a different view on proper funeral attire and colours.
Jewish Funeral Attire
For most Jewish funerals head coverings are required for men. Only the Jewish Orthodox services require head coverings for all that attend – yarmulkes for the men and scarves for women. Typically the service is held in a Synagogue. If you do not own a head covering then most Synagogues will provide them for you. The rest of the outfit should be dark and conservative in colour. Dark suits, white shirts, and dark coloured neckties are typical.
Muslim Funeral Attire
The funeral service will be held in a Mosque and shoes must be removed before entering. Therefore, make sure that your socks are clean and presentable. Men typically wear suits in darker colors. Neckties are rarely worn.
Dress Code for Buddhist Funerals
While black is the traditional colour for Western funerals, white is the colour of grieving for Buddhists. Therefore, white is the colour of dress for the family of the deceased. The rest of the funeral guests dress in conservative and darker coloured clothing. Black can be worn, but is not required. One colour that must be avoided however is red. The ceremony typically takes place in a temple and it is mandatory that shoes are removed before entering.
Although the ceremony for Buddhist and Hindu funerals are quite different, the colours are very similar. For both religions white is the colour of grieving, and it is reserved for the family. All other guests wear darker colors.