Funeral Etiquette | Modern Ideas For What to Wear  

When you are grieving the loss of a friend or family member, probably the last thing you are thinking about is what to wear. At a stressful and emotional time, you want to focus on remembering and celebrating your loved one.

Death is overwhelming in and of itself. If you are helping to plan a funeral or attending a funeral, you may be overwhelmed by the thought of what to wear. What is appropriate for a funeral? Do you have to wear black? Do you need to purchase something new to wear?

You may be short on time, especially if you are not prepared to attend a funeral. You don’t always have to rush out and purchase a new outfit. Instead of adding to the stress, the best place to start is likely at home. You probably have something already in your closet that will be appropriate and respectful, whether you are attending a funeral or a celebration of life.

Is there even such a thing as funeral etiquette when it comes to what to wear? Absolutely. A funeral is a time to mourn the loss of a loved one and celebrate the life they had here on earth.

What to Wear to a Funeral

Because it is a question that comes up quite frequently, we will examine what to wear to a funeral. Specifically, we are taking a look at traditional funeral attire and keeping in mind that things seem to have become less traditional in recent years. What does this mean? It means funeral etiquette may be changing. In other words, don’t think that you necessarily have to wear all black.

Traditional Funeral Attire

People all over the world have worn black to funerals for years. It is even suspected that wearing black to funerals dates back as far as the Roman Empire. Black became known as a color that symbolizes mourning. In some religions, that tradition carries on today. Therefore, black will most likely be the color of choice at funerals.

However, modern trends tend to view funerals more as a “come as you are” kind of event. Some celebrations of life even encourage participants to wear the favorite color of the deceased. No matter the theme for the service or religion of the mourners and deceased, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what to wear to a funeral.

Are there things that you should avoid? Yes. It is not recommended to wear athletic attire to a funeral or celebration of life unless requested by the family. Sequins, flashy fabrics and heavy perfume should also be avoided. Keep your clothing subtle, and you’ll honor the deceased and avoid sticking out.

Be Aware of Religious Preferences

Different cultures have different traditions and beliefs when it comes to funeral services. In other cultures, there might even be specific colors designated for mourning. There could also be specific colors to avoid wearing at a funeral service. For example, in Chinese culture, white is the color of mourning and is appropriate to wear for a funeral. Red is the color of happiness and should be avoided at Chinese funeral services.

In Brazilian culture, purple is the color of mourning. In Egypt, the color for mourning is yellow. The best practice if you are attending a funeral service for a person from a different culture or unfamiliar religion? Call the funeral home or ask someone for advice. They will likely be aware of particular traditions or customs and can let you know if there are particular colors you should avoid.

Be Respectful

It should go without saying, but anything you wear to a funeral or celebration of life should be respectful. The ceremony is not about making you look good; it is about celebrating and remembering the person that was lost.

Be mindful of the reason for your wardrobe. Loud prints, clothing with holes and body-conscious dresses are probably not the best idea for a funeral. For women, think about the length of your skirt or dress and how much skin is exposed in your outfit. For men, think about what you would wear to the office, not what you would wear for a night out on the town. The exceptions? If the family of the deceased specifically requests these items of clothing or when the weather calls for summer clothing.

While it is customary to wear black to funerals, you don’t have to choose an all-black outfit to comport with funeral etiquette. Choices that are not black but still safe bets are navy blue and brown. If you are usually a snappy dresser who wears bright clothing, a funeral may be just the time to tone your wardrobe choice down a bit.

Sometimes, there is a theme for a funeral. This might be the case if the deceased suffered from a particular disease that used a specific color, or maybe the deceased supported a particular sports team. If and when a family asks attendees to wear a particular color or specific clothing, try your best to accommodate those requests. It will make the family feel loved and honor the deceased at the same time. After all, that is what the funeral is about.

Be Prepared

There is a lot of emotion involved in a funeral or celebration of life. Being prepared will help you deal with emotions you may have during the event.

How can you be prepared? It is a good idea to have tissues at hand in case emotions take over. You may need them yourself, or you may be able to help someone else out who is feeling emotional during the funeral. Men can easily stash a few in their pocket, while women can take a small container of tissues in their handbag.

At many funerals, it is also acceptable to bring sunglasses, especially if part of the ceremony is outdoors. Wearing sunglasses can be welcome whether the sun is in your eyes or if you are having trouble controlling your emotions and need a break from looking other people in the eyes.


No doubt, funerals and celebrations of life are emotionally charged events. Wearing the appropriate clothing will help ease what can already be a stressful day. At Mountain View Funeral Home & Cemetery, we care about all aspects of funeral etiquette. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff are available via phone at 480-618-7864 or email at We have had the privilege of serving families in the Mesa, Arizona area for decades, and we are here to provide outstanding service and compassionate care to your family.

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