What to Wear to a Memorial Service? All Attire Questions Answered!
When preparing to attend a memorial service, a celebration of life, viewing, calling hours, wake, or funeral you may wonder what to wear.
My father was a funeral home director for years, so funeral and memorial service discussions were a popular topic growing up in our house.
Since funerals are not something most people frequent on a daily basis, some of the most asked questions are about what to wear.
If you find yourself in a position to attend a funeral or memorial service, I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions about what attire is appropriate.
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There are also outfit ideas included in this post, so be sure to read all the way to the end.
What’s the Difference Between a Funeral and a Memorial Service?
Before we get started on attire, I just want to take a moment to clarify the differences between a funeral, memorial service, calling hours, celebration of life, internment, burial, etc.
A funeral is a service to remember and show homage to a person’s life. It is most often held at a church or funeral home. At a funeral, the body of the deceased is present.
Memorial services or celebration of life ceremonies are the same as a funeral with one exception, the body of the deceased is not present.
Calling hours, a viewing, or wake are, for the most part, the same. They are usually scheduled hours before or the evening before a funeral. Usually the casket is present and it allows people to pay their respects to the family of the deceased as well as have a moment to view the body. This event usually takes place in the funeral home, the family home, or in a church.
The internment or burial usually is immediately following the funeral. It takes place at the cemetery where the deceased is finally laid to rest.
What Do You Wear to a Memorial Service?
Memorial services are somber events do not wear anything too flashy to draw attention to yourself. According to FuneralWise, the goal is to blend in with the other mourners.
Females should wear dark-colored dress, skirt, suit, or pantsuit.
Choose conservative silhouettes that aren’t too tight or clingy as well as moderate details. Avoid sleeveless, midriff-baring, or open neckline shirts and blouses. If you choose a skirt or dress opt for knee-length or longer.
Do not wear flip flops, sandals, or open-toe shoes, or sneakers. Instead, wear flats, pumps, or boots.
Keep in mind, this event is to honor the deceased and to show your respects to the family. A visual way of doing that is to dress moderately and respectfully.
For an event like this, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Do People Still Wear Black to Funerals?
Here in the United States, black is still the go-to color for funerals.
This does not mean you need to dress in head-to-toe black.
You can wear other colors, just select colors that are subdued.
Other somber or conservative colors are also acceptable such as gray, brown, or navy.
Can you wear jeans to a memorial service?
A memorial service is a place to show respect for the deceased.
That said, jeans are not appropriate to wear to this event and may even be seen as disrespectful to the family.
Can you wear leggings to a funeral?
Just as jeans are considered too casual for a memorial service or funeral, leggings are also considered too informal for this type of occasion.
Select a dark-colored skirt, dress, suit, or pantsuit instead.
What to wear to a casual memorial service?
Even if a memorial service is considered casual, jeans are not an appropriate option.
Choose business casual wear such as a dress, skirt, or slacks.
What to Wear to a Celebration of Life?
Appropriate attire for a celebration of life ceremony includes reserved garments such as dresses, skirts, suits, or pantsuits.
Choose subdued colors such as black, navy, gray, or brown. This is not an occasion to dress in bright colors or patterns.
In the image below, I pulled together an example of a suitable dress outfit to wear to a celebration of life or funeral.
Funeral Outfit Idea - Dress Outfit
#1 Simple Black Dress
#2 Elegant Accessories
Lagoon square sunglasses, ($65)
Oversized cashmere wrap, ($198)
Twisted pearl necklace, ($69.99)
What to wear to a viewing?
Not to sound like a broken record, but a viewing is not the place to wear the trendiest fashion items in your closet. Wear classic garments in dark shades.
You want to be respectful to the family of the deceased and a way to show that is by dressing in somber colors and clothes.
Funeral Outfit Idea - Pants Outfit
#1 Start with Classic Suiting
#2 Wear a Basic Tee
Slim perfect t-shirt, ($32.50)
#3 Add Timeless Accessories
Double-sided scarf in houndstooth dot, ($59.50)
RAEN® Optics Sill sunglasses, ($150)
Ryan penny loafers in leather, ($158)
Proper colors to wear to a funeral
Is it okay to wear bright colors or white to a funeral?
In the United States and most of the Western World, bright colors and white are not appropriate for funerals, calling hours, or memorial services.
These colors come off as loud and garish for solemn events.
Choose dark or muted colors such as black, gray, navy, or brown unless otherwise prompted by the family to wear a particular color.
There is one exception to this rule that I’d like to mention.
If you were close to the deceased and know that they had a favorite color such as bright pink, yellow, or red, you can pay respects by wearing a small bit of that color.
For example, if the person’s favorite color was red, you can honor the person by wearing ONE red accessory such as a red flower, pin, or necklace.
I pulled together a skirt outfit idea so that you can see you can dress conservatively and appropriately even if you don’t have black clothes.
Funeral Outfit Idea - Skirt Outfit
#1 Start with Conservative Basics
#2 Add Timeless Accessories
Carnival round sunglasses, ($65)
Square silk scarf in tiger foulard, ($49.50)
Pointed-toe flats in suede, ($148)
What to wear to a funeral in the summer?
Wear dark colors but opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics such as cotton, linen, or silk. A simple-loose fitting black dress and strand of pearl looks timeless and respectful.
Other suitable outfits are relaxed fit linen pants paired with a silk blouse or a cotton knit skirt paired with a linen top.
If you will be attending the burial, avoid stiletto heels because they can get stuck in the grass if there has been a lot of rain recently.
What do you wear to a memorial service in the winter?
Choose conservative garments such as dresses, pants, or skirts in dark-colors and opt for warm fabrics such as wool, wool blends, or cashmere.
Layer garments such as a button-down shirt worn over a turtleneck then topped with a sweater, blazer, and/or coat.
What is funeral home attire?
When attending a funeral, calling hours, or memorial service at a funeral home, dress the same as if you were attending the event in a church.
This is a somber occasion so you should wear skirts, pants, or dresses in classic silhouettes and dark colors.
Additionally, if you have a question regarding funeral/memorial service attire that I haven’t answered, please leave a comment below.
I’ll respond as quickly as possible!