The art of dressing appropriately for the occasion is always a delicate affaire, but at no time is it more delicate than when attending a funeral.
Funerals are respectful occasions, and part of being respectful is dressing properly. More often than not, style is about dressing for yourself, expressing your personality and showing off your unique approach to fashion. But when it comes to what to wear to a funeral, you are dressing for the deceased and the deceased’s family.
Your outfit is meant to be a representation of your grief, so go subtle, subdued and classic.
Funeral etiquette is a topic that never crosses your mind until suddenly you find yourself needing it. Most men muddle their way through the funeral at hand, hoping for the best, then forget about the subject until they have to muddle through the next one.
But you are not most men, so you would like to learn what’s expected of a well-behaved gentleman at a funeral. It is your job to be a source of support during a difficult time, so act with tact, respect, sensitivity and dignity. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- If you do not plan to attend the funeral service, send a letter of condolence. It need not be long, but it does need to be sincere. And please, 21st century or not, do not write a condolence email or Facebook post. These circumstances necessitate the personal touch of your handwriting.
- If you are family or a close friend of the deceased, pay a visit to their family’s home to express your sympathy before the funeral. Offer your help in some way. Bring food so the family doesn’t have to think about cooking while grieving, babysit, or run errands for them.
- If you’re attending a wake or funeral and aren’t close to the family, introduce yourself and explain how you know the deceased. Don’t leave them awkwardly guessing during an already difficult time.
- Always go to the funeral if you can. They are uncomfortable and emotional, but it’s an important expression of respect and humanity, and the family will never forget your show of support. Turn off your smartphone during the service. Your email and Candy Crush can wait. Don’t be late, don’t be early, and don’t be disruptive. An dress appropriately, which means…
Funeral Ready Suits
Dark colours are a must. A black suit is best, followed by dark grey and then dark navy. If you don’t own a full suit, wear dark dress pants with a dress shirt and tie, and as soon as possible question why you don’t own a suit. Rectify the situation immediately.
If the funeral is held in a church, leave your jacket on during the ceremony. If it’s held in a warm climate, outside, and during the day, you may leave the jacket off.
Never attend a funeral service in jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers or anything else you would wear on your day off. Even if other men present are thusly attired, resist the urge to go casual unless you’ve received specific instructions from the family to do so.
Shirts & Ties For A Funeral
A white dress shirt is the standard, but a black shirt also an acceptable option. Where neckwear is concerned, go conservative. Solids or simple patterns only, in black or another dark, restrained colour. Avoid anything with loud patterns or bright colours. Your novelty ties covered in martini glasses or leopard spots will need to stay home.
Regardless of what conservative outfit you choose, make sure your clothes are pressed, clean and odour-free, that your shoes are polished, and that you are well groomed. A funeral is not the time to dress in a way that makes you stand out.
Essential Funeral Accessories
Take into account the temperature and weather when dressing for a funeral. Choose appropriate outerwear, particularly if you will be outdoors. Plan to wear a long black coat or a dark dress coat if the weather is cold, and bring a dark umbrella if rain is in the forecast. If you’ve brought a hat, don’t wear it during the service.
As a rule of thumb, dress as you would for a job interview. Anything too flashy is not appropriate, so save your pink silk pocket square for another occasion. We love statement shades, but stick with classic sunglasses for a funeral if they’ll be needed. Jewellery should be kept to a minimum.
One accessory that you almost can’t go wrong with is flowers. Flowers can be sent or brought to the funeral home, to the church, or to the deceased’s family’s home. Attach a card expressing your sympathies. Different faiths have different traditions regarding flowers for funerals, so determine what’s appropriate before taking action. If the family requests donations in lieu of flowers, honour their request.
In fact, honour all requests of the family, even if (and especially if) they ask you to wear that martini glass novelty tie.