The days of showing a mourning state by wearing all black have passed, but many people still wonder what they should wear to a funeral. While most churches and funeral homes don't have a strict dress code, they do offer guidelines regarding what to wear. The way you dress shows your respect for the deceased, the bereaved family and the sad occasion you're attending.
Although social etiquette doesn't demand wearing black to a funeral in today's society, you don't want to show up wearing very bright colors or loud patterns. Some people go with cheery hues as a way to celebrate the life of a loved one, but most funerals call for dark and subdued colors to match the emotions wrapped up in the event. You don't have to dress in black head to toe, but choose dark colors, such as navy blue, brown or gray.
Regardless of color, proper etiquette for most funerals calls for wearing formal clothing. Suits for men and dresses and heels for women are common. However, a nice pair of pants with a sweater or shirt is also appropriate for many funerals, for both men and women. Children should also be dressed nicely, with girls wearing dresses and tights and boys wearing slacks and sweaters or a shirt and tie.
In many churches, wearing a hat is frowned upon during a religious service. However, some religions commonly feature head coverings for funerals. Jewish and Greek Orthodox are two examples. If the funeral occurs at a funeral home rather than a place of worship, wearing formal hats might be appropriate. If you're unsure, talk to the funeral director to determine whether you should remove your head covering during the service and whether it is appropriate at the graveside ceremony.
In some cases, the close family of the deceased may want to make a special request regarding what guests wear to the funeral. For example, if a high school football star dies, the family may ask his teammates and coaches to come dressed as they would for a game, which honors the boy's memory and may comfort the parents. For a passionate wearer of Hawaiian shirts, the family might ask guests to wear their favorite tropical shirt as a way to remember the deceased. Sometimes casual dress is requested, but stay away from sweats or jeans and go with casual business attire instead. Keep the weather in mind, too, as you won't want to stand at a cold, rainy graveside service in short sleeves or suffer through a summer funeral in a sweater.