When deciding what attire you want people to wear to the funeral honoring your loved one, a key decision-maker is whether you want the focus to be on grieving their loss or celebrating their life. This decision will affect your funeral dress code and must be made before you order your funeral invites as it is an important element to include for the guests.
A traditional funeral is definitely more conservative, not flashy or brightly colored, and can vary from formal to business casual. While black is most commonly thought of; dark grays, deep blues, and navy are also perfectly acceptable regardless of whether your event is more formal or casual. Be aware that brown shades, lighter grays, and other earthy colors are acceptable for more casual funeral services.
- Men: dark slacks or Khakis, jackets, dress shirts, nice sweaters.
- Women: knee-length or longer dress, business suit, dress pants, nice sweaters/blouses.
- Close-toed shoes like loafers, flats, or dress shoes, minimal accessories, and optional ties.
A formal funeral is far more somber and you should not mistakenly use the term “black tie.” While this constitutes a tuxedo and evening gown funeral attire should not be showy. Dark suits mainly in black, gray, and navy for men while female guests should wear dresses in black, navy, or at most a very dark maroon. The more formal, the longer dress length your guests will want to aim for so perhaps specify tea-length vs evening in the invitation, if relevant. Women’s hats may be included for a formal service depending on your preference and may be expected in some locations.
- Men: dark suits, slacks & dress shirt, subtle tie & pocket square, belt or suspenders.
- Women: knee to ankle-length dresses, skirt and blouse, business suit, subtle earrings & necklace.
- Dress shoes (close-toed), optional hats, and stick to colors like black, navy, grey.
Note for military funerals that a dress uniform will often be worn in place of typical attire for those in the armed forces. This is also a request you may wish to make for the funeral of a veteran.
Tips for guests:
- Tasteful color accents can be acceptable but avoid bright colors such as pinks, yellows, oranges, and even bright greens and purples.
- Think conservative, something you might wear in court, as the key is respect.
- Women should avoid anything revealing, keep shoulders & cleavage covered, and dresses/skirts should reach the knees.
- Men should wear long-sleeved shirts, something with a collar, tucked in with a belt.
- Avoid bright sun dresses, jeans, shorts, any type of athletic shoe, flip flops, baseball hats and anything with rips, holes, or fraying.
Celebration of Life
Unlike a funeral, a celebration of life isn’t a time for sadness or dark, somber clothing. It is a personalized occasion for stories and happy remembrance with the focus being on the person’s life, not their death. If you are simply wanting a more relaxed, unthemed event though without all the black, here’s a basic guide of what attire may be expected.
- Nice jeans or pants
- Colorful skirt
- Blouse or flowy top
- A respectful dress
- Heels, flats, boots, or nice sneakers
- Simple accessories
- Jeans or slacks
- Shorts (if outside in a warm month)
- Button-down or polo shirt
- Nice t-shirt
- Dress shoes, boots, or nice sneakers
- Simple accessories
However, while it’s true most celebrations of life are less formal than a typical funeral, they can come in many forms and there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when sending out invitations.
What type of celebration will this event be? A formal cocktail party with a strict dress code, a potluck, a themed party, or a sporting event? You may want people to wear something from a particular sports team, film, or time period. The options are endless and each event should be unique to the interests or personality of the departed.
Then of course the location matters. If it’s outdoors at a park, beach, or sports field you, of course, need to let your guests know to dress appropriately in your invite. For celebrations held at a funeral home or more upscale venue, you’ll need to make sure your guests are aware of your dress code.
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Also very important is that, while celebrations of life tend to avoid black, often another color is requested, usually the favorite of the deceased. Even a particular accessory or flower may be worn, though that may also be contained to the immediate family. It truly is dependent on your loved one and whatever unique touches would help to celebrate their life, love, and passions.
Tips for guests:
- Unless specified otherwise flip-flops, tank tops, shorts, mini dresses, baseball/trucker hats, casual tennis shoes, and revealing outfits are not appropriate. Even though the service may be a celebration of life, many of those attending will be still mourning. Keep the club attire put away as well as anything that might be too distracting.
- Super bright colors or crazy prints (like neon or animal print) may be a fun style choice, but not at most celebrations of life. Wearing something that’s too distracting takes the attention away from the occasion, and that’s never a good idea when honoring someone’s life. While you should wear colors, stick with solid prints and softer tones when possible.
- Accessories are a great way to complement your outfit, but don’t overdo it. Similar to neon clothing, too many sparkly accessories are a distraction. While the family might ask guests to wear a sparkly accessory if it’s a way to honor the deceased, you should keep your accessories minimal otherwise.
Finally, avoid wearing graphic t-shirts. Unless the design has something to do with the specified theme, having any distracting images may take away from the event and could stand out in a bad way.