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What to wear to a funeral

29 September 2015 ( 16 January 2017 )

If you are planning to pay your last respects to someone you cared for, you may be wondering what to wear to a funeral. Find out with our guide.

Woman at a funeral
Choose a simple dress or suit, preferably in black.

A funeral, it probably doesn't need to be said, is not about you. Unlike a wedding, it is not a fashion show. It is about the wishes of the deceased, should he or she have left instructions about the order and style of the ceremony, and those of his or her family.

However, even the bible of etiquette Debretts concedes that funerals are significantly more relaxed regarding dress than, say, a decade ago. 

Find out what men should wear to a funeral

What women should wear to a funeral

Choose a simple dress or suit, preferably in black. A dark grey or dark blue/navy outfit if you don’t have a black one will be fine. Plain not patterned, however discreet.

This is not the time to be standing out from the crowd so again, (unless advised) keep bold, brash colours on hold (or to a one-item minimum) for the occasion. And no off-the-shoulder, cleavage-baring outfits either.

This is the time, however, when you can wear a hat, so choose something stylish but low-profile; it’s not Ladies Day at Ascot.

How to behave around the bereaved

Which shoes should you wear to a funeral?

Choose your shoes carefully. You’ll be surprised how much walking and standing you can do at a funeral, from the car park to the church/crematorium then, if it’s a burial, to the interment. Finally back to the car and then mingling at the wake.

This is not the time or place for killer heels. On a wholly practical point, think of the damage gravel-strewn church pathways and damp graveside turf could do to your heels, or to your balance.

Sensible, low-heeled shoes are best. And, if you can, take a spare pair if it’s going to be a long, tiring day on your feet.

As for jewellery, one stand-out piece is better than a selection of items, so think about toning down the bling.

Check the weather forecast before you go. If there’s the slightest suggestion of rain, take a small fold-up umbrella in your bag. On a similar note, place a packet of paper hankies at the top of your bag – by the time you’ve scrabbled around and found them, it’s too late for the mascara.

How to write a meaningful sympathy message

What children should wear to a funeral

The question of infant and primary school-age children – if they’re attending ­– is balancing occasion with practicality. If it means you have to prise them out of their favourite battered trainers and T-shirt, so be it. But don’t leave it until the day in question. Explain what the adults will be wearing and why.

Allow for compromise. If they say ‘Grandma always liked this dress/this top’ then allow them some leeway. The occasion is stressful enough on the day without tears and tantrums before you’ve arrived at the ceremony.

Comforting a bereaved grandchild

For more information on bereavement, visit our bereavement section for helpful guides and articles


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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