Deciding what to wear to a funeral or a memorial service can be stressful and confusing.
Have you been rummaging through your closet wondering what would be appropriate for solemnity of the occasion? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered!
We’ve put together a 3-part series about what to wear to a funeral—or memorial service or a celebration of life— for men, women and children to take the stress out of choosing correct funeral attire.
In this Ultimate Guide for Men, we give you:
- Quick-to-read answers to common questions about funeral attire
- 3 basic tips to ensure that you select an appropriate funeral outfit
- A cheat sheet for men’s funeral attire—with lots of photographic examples and a video summarizing the main fashion tips.
- A shopper’s guide to buying funeral attire online—fast and hassle-free
Be sure to check out other guides for What to Wear to a Funeral or Memorial Service for Women and Funeral Attire for Kids.
In other words, we’ve answered every question about funeral attire that you could possibly have! (And if we’re wrong about that, please let us know about in the comments section below!)
Let’s get started…
Why Do You Wear Black to a Funeral?
The tradition of wearing black to a funeral dates back to 1861 when Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died. She wore black to publicly signify the depth of her grief, a trend followed by her subjects. Today, black is still the “go to” colour for funeral attire.
Do You Have to Wear Black to a Funeral?
You don’t have to wear black to a funeral. Any dark, neutral colour will do for Western funerals (e.g. navy; brown; grey). Other cultures have different customs when it comes to the colour of appropriate funeral attire. For example, Hindus wear white.
What Should I Wear to a Funeral?
For Western funerals, wear conservative clothing in dark, neutral colours (e.g. black; navy; grey). Avoid bright colours and wild patterns. A suit is appropriate for men, but a dress shirt and tie will often suffice. Shoes should be polished.
What Should I Wear to a Memorial Service?
It depends on whether the service is formal or informal. For a formal memorial service, wear traditional funeral attire (dark-coloured, conservative clothing). Dress less formally for an informal service (but still remain modest). Follow any wishes the deceased’s family expresses for clothing colour and style.
3 Basic Tips For Funeral Attire
1. Determine What Kind of Service You are Attending
Before heading to your closet, you need to determine what kind of service you are attending.
What is appropriate funeral attire depends on the type of service being held.
Guests to a traditional funeral service in a church would wear different clothing than guests to a celebration of life ceremony held on a beach.
What to Wear to a Traditional Funeral
With traditional funerals, services typically occur within the week after someone’s passing. The feelings of loss are still fresh and raw. Grief and mourning are at their most intense. Therefore, a traditional funeral is a sombre affair.
As stated in our Q&A section above, while many people will choose to wear black clothing, it is not absolutely necessary to do so. You should, however, wear a black, navy blue, or grey suit, with a clean white shirt and a black tie. If you don’t own a black tie, wear another subtle colour.
Last, but not least, ensure that your shoes are squeaky clean.
When considering what to wear to a funeral, definitely stay away from wearing bright colours and wild patterns.
Not only would it make you stand out like a sore thumb, it will have people gossiping about your inappropriate fashion choice for years to come.
You also don’t want to detract from the real reason that everyone is gathered together, which is to mourn a loss.
If you keep reading, you will find the ultimate cheat sheet of “do’s” and “don’t” when it comes to funeral attire for men—with lots of helpful pictures to illustrate each point.
What to Wear to a Memorial Service or to a Celebration of Life
If, on the other hand, you are attending a memorial service or a celebration of life, a traditional black suit may not be the best choice.
Memorial services and celebrations of life tend to take place months after a death, once the initial shock has passed.
Later services tend to be more informal than a traditional funeral service, and focuses more on celebrating the life of the person that died, rather than religion.
Therefore, dressing for a memorial service or life celebration is typically more informal (but should always be respectful).
Men attending a memorial service or a celebration of life may wear dress pants, a clean white shirt, and a favourite tie. Here is it not necessary to wear a full suit.
Respect the Family’s Wishes
In some cases, an invitation may give special instructions on what to wear to a funeral, memorial service or a celebration of life—such as wearing a particular colour in honour of the deceased.
When Sawyer Sweeten—the former child-star from “Everybody Loves Raymond”—tragically died, his family asked that people wear his two favourite colours to the funeral service.
On the day of the funeral, the funeral home was filled with 200 guests all wearing blues and greens. His twin brother Sullivan even dyed his hair blue to honor him.
If you do not know whether you are attending a traditional funeral or an informal celebration of life, first take a look at the invitation and evaluate its overall tone.
If that approach fails, do not be afraid to ask the person planning the service what you should wear. They will appreciate your care and concern.
2. Consider Cultural Traditions When Choosing Funeral Attire
Although traditional Western funerals typically wear black and other dark, neutral colours, it is important to do a little research about the culture of the deceased person and their funeral traditions when considering what to wear to a funeral.
For example, white attire is not considered to be appropriate funeral attire in Western culture, but in traditional Hindu funerals, casual white clothing is the norm.
In Hindu culture, white is the colour of purity and the highest social caste. Wearing black, on the other hand, is considered impolite and disrespectful to the deceased.
Many mourners attending a Hindu funeral wear sandals, as it is compulsory to take off shoes to pray at the temple during services.
As another example, mourners to a Chinese funeral do not wear jewelry or red clothing, as red is the colour of happiness. Wearing red is considered extremely rude and is highly offensive.
A young law associate once attended the funeral of a senior partner at her law firm who was Chinese.
She wore a classic, black suit—which lawyers seem to have in abundance—but paired it with red high heels and a matching red handbag.
She was very confused by the frosty reception she received from the deceased’s family.
Her confusion turned to embarrassment, however, when she discovered the offense she had caused with her wardrobe. (No doubt her face matched her purse and shoes.)
3. Dress Modestly!
Our best advice is to wear classic, modest clothing.
“Less is more.” This is particularly true when it comes to appropriate funeral attire.
At the end of the day, funerals are not about creating fashion moments.
It is about being there. It is about expressing your grief. It is about supporting each other. And it is about saying goodbye.
What to Wear to a Funeral: A Cheat Sheet for Men
DO: Wear Dress Pants
When it comes to choosing pants, you have one option, namely dress pants. Hopefully you already have a dark pair of dress pants in your closet.
The classic choice is black or pinstriped pants, but darker shades of grey and navy are also acceptable.
DON’T: Wear Jeans and Shorts
Do not wear your favourite wash of jeans or casual shorts. Jeans and shorts have no place at a funeral. Period.
Although you might think you can dress up the denim look by adding a nice blazer, jeans are jeans and they will never pass as appropriate funeral attire.
DO: Wear a Dress Shirt and Tie in Neutral Colours
The best choice for a funeral is a classic white or light-grey shirt with a black tie. Simple, classy, and appropriate.
If you don’t own a solid black, navy or grey tie, patterned ties can be appropriate provided that the colour is still neutral and the pattern is subtle.
Here are examples of classic shirt and tie combinations that are perfect funeral attire.
Here are more examples of patterned ties that you could definitely wear to a funeral to add a little more style, but without overdoing it.
DON’T: Wear Bold Shirts and Colourful Ties
With your options for formal wear limited to a suit, dress shirt and tie, no one can blame you for wanting to change up your look with a brighter coloured shirt and colourful, patterned tie. Unfortunately, a funeral is not the place to try out a bolder look.
The orange tie here is too bright and vibrant for a funeral service. (Although, in our humble opinion, there is no occasion that warrants a tie that is the same colour as a traffic cone.)
These shirt and tie combinations are further examples of what to avoid. These upbeat shirt and tie combinations are more suitable for a wedding or New Years celebration and not a somber funeral service. Your clever tie pattern is not meant to be the centre of attention.
DO: Consider Wearing a Suit or a Blazer
A classic suit in a dark colour is always appropriate funeral attire.
While it is not absolutely necessarily to wear a suit to a funeral, you may want to consider wearing a blazer if the funeral is in a house of worship or during the chilly winter months.
Your blazer should also be a dark, neutral colour—such as black, dark grey or navy—and should not clash colour-wise with your dress pants.
For example, DON’T wear a black blazer with navy dress pants.
A grey blazer would look great with navy dress pants.
DON’T: Wear a Bright Coloured or Funky Blazer
You might be someone who prides himself on wearing trendy, eye-catching clothing. A funeral is the one occasion where “less is more” and you should tone it down. Funerals are not the place to make a fashion statement.
These eye-catching suits and blazers are definitely a huge no-no for when it comes to funeral attire. Save your funky blazer for another occasion.
DO: Wear Dress Shoes
The most appropriate funeral attire when it comes to footwear are dress shoes in a dark or neutral colour.
Be sure to polish your dress shoes before the funeral, and wear dark coloured socks with them. (White socks will spoil your look!)
DON’T: Wear Flip Flops, Boots or Sneakers
When it comes to choosing footwear for a funeral, if you wear them running, hiking, or to the beach, do NOT take them out of your closet. The hard and fast rule is to NEVER wear flip-flops, sandals, hiking boots or sneakers to a funeral.
Dressing too casually looks like you made zero effort for the special occasion, which could very well insult the family of the deceased. Make the effort to dress in a manner that reflects the importance of the occasion.
If you are attending a memorial service or life celebration on a beach or some other outdoor location, trendy loafers are probably acceptable. When it comes to memorial services or celebrations of life, the dress code is more relaxed than it is for a traditional funeral service.
Only wear trendy loafers to celebrations of life or informal memorial services, not traditional funerals.
Summary of the Rules
To summarize the rules of what to wear to a funeral, and what NOT to wear:
- Black dress pants (or some other dark, neutral colour);
- Dress shirt (in a light, neutral colour like white);
- Tie (in a dark or neutral colour, with only a subtle pattern);
- Classic suit jacket (when the funeral is in a church or on cold days);
- Dress shoes (buffed and polished); and
- Dark dress socks.
- Jeans and shorts;
- Bold shirts;
- Colourful or distinctively patterned ties;
- Funky jackets;
- Flip flops, sandals, hiking shoes, or running shoes.
And there you have it gentlemen, a complete list of rules for what to wear to a funeral, and what to avoid like the plague.
You want to be remembered by the bereaved family for being there, for being supportive, and not for sticking out like a sore thumb at the funeral service.
Online Shopping for Funeral Attire
When it comes to what to wear to a funeral, many people aren’t up for a trip to the mall during their time of grief.
Dealing with traffic, finding parking, visiting store after store, and trying on clothes, can be exhausting tasks for the bereaved.
If this applies to you, hopefully you can put a funeral-appropriate outfit together from items already in your wardrobe or loan items from a friend who wears the same size.
But if you don’t have—or can’t borrow— funeral attire, you should consider online shopping.
We researched the best online store to purchase funeral attire for you and your family.
Macy’s Online: Your One-Stop-Shop for Funeral Attire for Men
After reviewing various online stores, we concluded that Macy’s is the best place to shop for adult funeral attire online for the following reasons:
- Their website is very easy to navigate.
- Macy’s has funeral-appropriate clothing for men.
- They also sell shoes, handbags and accessories.
- Their clothing is reasonably priced.
- They offer quick shipping with the U.S. and Canada.
- Macy’s has a clear, concise and reasonable returns and exchanges policy.
- You can talk to an actual person about your questions and concerns.
The top tool bar sorts the items by department:
If you click on a department, a drop-down menu appears that categories the types of items in that department.
For example, if you click on “Men”, the following drop-down menu appears:
Once you click on a category, you are taken to a page with items for sale within that category.
The filters help you easily find a suit that fits the rules for funeral attire that we outlined above, as well as your budget.
Macy’s offers many shipping options—including same-day delivery—within the U.S.A:
Since traditional funerals typically take place within a week or two of a person’s death, it is important for an online store to offer expedited delivery.
Shipping costs are as follows:
Macy’s will also ship internationally to Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Russia.
As can be seen from the screen shot above, international shipping costs are presented during checkout.
When it comes to international shipping times, Macy’s says the following:
If you are at all concerned that your funeral attire might not arrive on time, speak first to a Macy’s representative before placing an order.
(We love that you can talk to an actual person about your questions and concerns!)
If you aren’t 100% happy with your purchase, you can easily return or exchange the item.
Macy’s makes it easy to process a return online:
Yet another reason to love Macy’s!
Remember, while you don’t have to wear black funeral attire, you do have to dress modestly and in a manner that doesn’t attract undue attention.
A funeral is not about you or about being fashionable. It is about paying your respects and saying goodbye.
Did you know that Love Lives On has a comprehensive library of articles on grieving and healing, as well as on celebrating your loved one’s life in unique ways?
Here are some other popular posts on our website:
- Learn how to survive the 5 stages of grief
- Best examples of heartfelt condolence phrases to use in a sympathy card
- The Ultimate Guide to funeral and sympathy flowers
- Helping children cope with grief
It Helps to Share…
We hope you found our Ultimate Guide on what to wear to a funeral or memorial service for men helpful.
If you have any comments, we’d love to hear from you. At Love Lives On, we’re always listening.
You can also check out our Pinterest boards for more funeral attire inspiration, and more advice on coping with grief and loss.
Don’t forget to pin this post for later!