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What Not to Wear to a Funeral

At a more formal, traditional funeral, you may be expected to wear black dress clothes (buttoned suit for men, dress for women). For many funerals, the only requirement is that you wear something nice in darker colours.

Traditional, high-profile, upper class, or more "formal" families will expect you to dress in traditional funeral attire. For others, there is maybe no expectation of dress at all. For some non-traditional funerals (perhaps a "celebration of life" or a funeral for a cosplay enthusiast), you may be expected to dress in bright, celebratory colours or even in a superhero outfit. We'll talk about each of these in turn below.

However, most people at most funerals want to pay their respects to the deceased and the family by dressing in a way that communicates sympathy and mourning, so you will be best served following our general collection of tips, guidelines, and ideas for what to wear to a funeral.

This guide on what to wear at a funeral is ideal for contemporary Western culture; other cultures may differ considerably. Even within modern Western culture, there is quite a bit of variation, so please keep in mind the culture and traditions of the decedent's family, region, heritage, and/or religion. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

Things to Consider When Dressing for a Funeral 

A common difficulty for many is whether or not you can wear colour to a funeral. This will depend on the thoughts and feelings of the deceased's relatives. It is not uncommon for families to request a less sorrowful dress code to celebrate their loved one's life. In some cases, the deceased themselves may have asked that no one wear black to their funeral. If you are unsure, distant from the deceased or feel uncomfortable wearing colour, stick to traditional dark colours, but consider adding a bright accessory, like a scarf, to an all-black outfit. 

As you choose something to wear to a funeral, there are several things you need to take into account:

  • This is not the time or place to show off your sexiest outfit.
  • Avoid cropped tops or low-cut pants.
  • You shouldn't wear anything that calls attention to your attire or requires constant adjusting.
  • Keep your jewellery simple and understated.
  • Follow the dress code for the church if the funeral service is being held in the sanctuary.
  • If you are unsure how to dress, think about what you would wear to an office job interview and wear that.
  • Ladies may wear a sleeveless dress with a tailored jacket, sweater, or shawl over it.
  • A pantsuit or dress pants and a jacket are now acceptable for funerals.
  • You don't have to go out and buy a new outfit. Look in your closet and put pieces together to make an appropriate ensemble. Remember that a nice jacket can complete your outfit and make it funeral ready.
  • Don't wear anything that makes noise. The clinging sound of stacked bangle bracelets is disruptive and shows a lack of respect for the occasion.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes. Either flats or heels are appropriate. Stilettos are not. 
  • If the survivors request more festive attire, you may wear bright colours. However, you still need to avoid showing too much skin or wearing anything that calls too much attention to yourself.
  • Keep your makeup to a minimum. If you tend to cry at funerals, make sure your mascara is waterproof.
  • If you have tattoos that may offend others, cover them up. 
  • Sunglasses are appropriate for outdoor funerals. The best ones to wear would be those without flashy embellishment. The plainer, the better.
  • Keep your hairstyle as simple and natural as possible.
  • Don't wear perfume or scented body lotions. Some people are highly allergic, and you don't want to cause others to sneeze and cough during the services.

What to expect at a funeral or memorial service

Depending on where the service is held and the wishes of the family, services today vary widely. Regardless, there are some common guidelines to know:

  • A guestbook will be outside the service for you to sign. Please do sign it and make your signature legible – the family will treasure reviewing the names of those who attend, and this will be the best way for them to remember you were there.
  • Be on time or early. It is rude to enter service after it has started. If you are late, enter from one side and be seated as unobtrusively as possible. If the family is processing, wait until they have finished, reach their seats, and then enter after them.
  • Seating: the family will have a designated seating area, usually at the front or the side of the room. This area will be marked, so look for "Reserved" signs and avoid sitting in these seats.
  • If an usher is present, you will be shown a seat. If an usher is not present, it is courteous to enter a row from a side aisle to avoid climbing over people already seated. Much as at any event, seating is "first come, first served", so if you want a "good" seat, arrive early and do not expect people to move for you. The aisle seats are the ones most preferred.
  • Enter the room and sit quietly. Turn off your cell phone and put it away. Your behaviour should allow those around you to mourn without distraction.
  • There may be an open casket. At most services, you are welcomed to walk forward before the service to pay respects at the casket. Do not touch the body or any of the surrounding items or flowers. However, it is not mandatory to go forward if you prefer not to.
  • When the family enters, you will be instructed to stand until they have entered and taken their seats. Then you will be seated.
  • When the service ends, you will be instructed to stand while the family exits. This recessional will vary depending on the service and the presence of an open vs. closed casket.
  • After the service, the attendees may be ushered out by walking past an open casket. It is most courteous to follow the group. If you prefer not to view the open casket, just walk past without looking.
  • If you are not escorted past the casket, watch for direction on how to exit the service: at-will or by escort row by row.
  • If you are going to the burial and will be driving, you will form a queue behind the vehicles carrying the casket and family members. Turn on your lights and follow the car in front of you. If your group is escorted to the cemetery, follow the directions of the officers; generally, you will be waved through stoplights and stop signs, and out of courtesy, other drivers may pull over to let you pass.
  • At the gravesite, stand away from the site to allow the family to be seated before approaching. Then gather close so you can hear the brief service.
  • Following the interment, you are free to leave as you wish. The family often lingers to speak to guests, and they will be your cue as to whether or not you should approach to express your condolences.

Tips To Dress for Funeral: Dos & Don'ts for Women & Men

At a funeral, knowing what to wear and where to sit are all things that can be confusing, so look at our funeral etiquette guide that will answer some common questions. 

At a funeral, knowing what to wear and where to sit are all things that can be confusing. Hopefully, our funeral etiquette guide to help answer some common questions you may have.

Funerals are very emotional events, and not knowing how to act can add to the distressing experience. Issues such as what to wear, how long to stay and where to sit are all things attendees need to consider.

Knowing the etiquette guidelines around funerals will help you feel more comfortable at the service and, for families of the deceased, knowing more about funeral etiquette will give you one less thing to stress about ahead of the service. You can then concentrate on choosing new memorial headstones and other things that need to be organised before the funeral. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

Preferably dress in Black or other dark colours.

Funeral outfit ideas, not black Black, has stood by funeral tradition for years. It brings along an aura of gloom and formality, which blends perfectly with the grim surroundings. However, charcoal grey, navy blue, and ash are also accepted as appropriate funeral attire colours.

Keep it less. Keep it minimalistic.

What not to wear to a funeral? Remember, at a funeral; you are supposed to be grieving, whether you were close to the deceased or not. So try to keep your attire as minimalistic as possible. The sombre occasion demands that you keep away from large earrings, chunky neckpieces, and other eye-popping accessories. Nevertheless, you can stick to small diamond studs or a simple diamond bracelet. Else go all traditional with the timeless pearl strands.

Use a Hat or a veil for a more effective.

Summer funeral attire female hats are a perfect accessory to go with your funeral attire. It blends in smoothly with the sombre event and gives you a polished and stylish look. But don't choose an outlandish headgear that stands out like a sore thumb. Go for a simple yet stylish one that will help you score full marks from the fashion police without being too flamboyant.

Funeral customs also allow wearing veils but remember that these veils are not the same as that of a wedding veil. They are way too short and, at max, should extend to the end of your chin. Veils also come attached to the hat. So if you are planning on wearing a veil, look for the ones that come strewn to the hats.

Put your best foot forward.

Funeral outfit ideas winter a funeral you will be dealing with a lot of stress, so the last thing you need is an uncomfortable pair of shoes. Funerals demand a lot of standing and walking, so it is smarter to choose comfort over glamour. Moreover, you will have to walk on soft ground, so it will be better to stay away from sharp heels that will make it difficult to walk on the grassy surface. Choose pumps, kitten heels, or ballerina shoes that will blend in with the event's flavour without compromising on your comfort.

Show as little skin as possible.

Avoid plunge neckline to a funeral. This may not sound very empowering, but funerals are generally conservative in nature. So to show basic respect for the deceased, try wearing clothes that are not too revealing. Stay away from plunging necklines and thigh slits, as that would draw way too much attention. The hem of your dress should at least touch your knees. Match it with elbow-length sleeves, and you are good to go.

Be careful with the print, fabric, and fit.

Black lace midi dress lot depends on the fabric of your funeral wear. Dark-coloured attire doesn't score you brownie points if the dress is made up of flashy fabric or sequins. You can surely save that for the upcoming New Year's party. Cotton, wool, and tweed are much more preferred in comparison to silk which ushers in a feeling of the cocktail party. Chiffon can also be another option if it isn't too shiny. Bright coloured attractive patterns are a strict no-no. Look out for subtle laces and pinstripes while zeroing on your dress as they add heaps of elegance to your plain Jane funeral wears.

Go for a clean fitted midi length dress as flowing dresses give a beach party kind of feel. However, don't pick a too tight ensemble. You surely don't want to end up looking like one of the playboy bunnies at Hugh Hefner's funeral!

Go for the no-makeup look.

Do and don't to a funeral, funeral dress tips Use waterproof makeup – that's a must for all funerals when people are not at their emotionally strongest point. Owing to the tragedy of the event, it is better to keep your makeup as minimal as possible. You can sign off with nude lipstick, dewy makeup and a hint of eyeliner which will radiate your natural charm. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

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