Attending a Funeral Reception: What To Wear and Bring?

Funeral receptions are usually held in family homes, private or public venues, or funeral homes. It is a time to meet those who knew the deceased while supporting the family and close friends. First-timers can find it challenging to decide what to wear and bring to a funeral reception.

What you wear and bring to a funeral reception will depend on your role. Families often serve food and drinks, so you can only bring food if the reception is a potluck style or if the family asks. Your attire does not have to be black but should be conservative to show respect.

Most funeral receptions will only require your presence. Still, it is polite not to show up empty-handed or dress in anything inappropriate. Here is a guide on what you can bring and wear to a funeral reception.

What To Bring to a Funeral Reception

In most cases, the deceased’s family provides food and beverages at the reception; sometimes, the food and drinks are served in the form of potlucks. It is essential to check with the reception organizer the kind of food you can bring and whether alcoholic beverages would be welcome.

Gifting food at a funeral reception is a time-honored tradition. The edible gift will remain in the family’s memories long after the condolence messages are forgotten and the flowers fade. Make sure you bring the food along with disposable containers so the family can store leftovers for later.

Foods You Can Bring to a Funeral Reception

Wondering what to cook? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Salads: Having several salad options takes care of guests and family members who might have dietary preferences or restrictions. Instead of limiting yourself to lettuce only, you can add potatoes, fruits, bread, pasta, and meats to create a lovely buffet.
  • Meat and cheese trays: Most grocery stores have meat and cheese trays for you to use to make your own sandwiches, though you can also make them yourself. Add slices of tomatoes, lettuce, and onions to the tray and accompany them with bread, mustard and mayonnaise. This easy meal can feed dozens of guests.
  • Fruit and vegetable trays: Fruits and vegetables add a healthy and colorful variety to the setting. You can quickly put them together and pair with a meat and cheese tray or deliver them on their own. Although they are not necessarily a complete meal, they are healthier than the heavily processed food many people consume during mourning.
  • Sandwich trays: Purchasing pre-made sandwiches will simplify the sandwich-making process. Many national chains offer sandwich trays and add condiments and plates. You can also buy bags of chips as accompaniments.
  • Casseroles: Casseroles are filling, can be made in many different ways, can be frozen in advance, and can be carried home and frozen later. They are also easy to reheat and can be comforting to the bereaved.
  • Finger foods: It’s easy to prepare finger foods, yet they are great for a small group. You can make or buy them from a grocery store. Suitable finger foods include sausage rolls, mini sandwiches, meatballs, and deviled eggs.

Tips for Delivering Food to a Funeral Reception

Use the following tips when bringing food to a funeral reception:

  • Use disposable containers, plates, and cutlery: Disposable dishes and cutlery mean the family does not have to worry about cleaning up or returning your bowls. If you use reusable containers, it would be a good idea to let the family keep them.
  • Make more than enough: Try and find out the number of people expected at the reception and anticipate the likelihood of some relatives remaining with the family after the reception. Bring enough for guests and some extra for the family for dinner or the next day.
  • List the ingredients: Consider including a list of the ingredients in each item. The list will help those who have dietary issues and allergies.
  • Include instructions: Give directions where necessary on things like how to freeze, heat, or reheat.
  • Choose items that are easy to reheat: The family will still be in mourning even after guests leave and will have little energy to spare for meal preparation. Bring food that does not require reheating or reheats easily and remains tasty and healthy. 
  • Add a personal touch: Include a sympathy note with a message of condolence. 
Hands lighting funeral candles

What To Wear to a Funeral Reception

Generally, your attire for a funeral reception should show respect for the deceased. Therefore, it is crucial to wear conservative clothes and avoid bright colors and flashy fabrics. Those in attendance will be mourning, and your goal should be to blend in with everybody.

For many funeral receptions, wearing something formal in dark colors is sufficient. However, expectations may vary. The family may require you to wear black to a formal, traditional funeral reception.

Upper-class or high-profile families might prefer traditional funeral wear. Others might view the event as a celebration of life, and they may expect you to wear bright, celebratory colors.

Most people in a funeral reception want to communicate sympathy and mourning and show respect for the departed and the family. Before picking a traditional outfit, check if the funeral reception has any dressing instructions. Choose formal attire if there are no instructions given. 

Tips on What To Wear to a Funeral Reception

Here are some general guidelines to appropriate funeral reception attire. However, consider other factors, such as the decedent’s family traditions, culture, heritage, region, and religion.

  • Black is traditional and always appropriate. Non-black colors are also acceptable so long as they are not bright. 
  • Revealing attire is inappropriate. Many traditions require you to cover your knees and shoulders.
  • Dress like you are attending a job interview or a church service.
  • Go for a subdued style and colors. You want clothes that do not draw attention to you.
  • Dresses, skirts, and pants should be below the knee. Avoid miniskirts or shorts.
  • Dresses and shirts should cover the neck; avoid open collars.
  • Take a formal jacket with you. It is an essential addition that can make many outfits presentable.
  • Shoes can be formal or casual but avoid sneakers, athletic shoes, sandals, and flip-flops.
  • A t-shirt may be appropriate in a casual setting, but it should not have a logo or wild prints.
  • Be mindful of religious practices and restrictions on dress codes. Some require men, women, or both to wear hats, while others require scarves for women. If possible, find out beforehand and dress accordingly.

The Dos and Don’ts of What To Wear at a Funeral


  • Dress to blend in: A funeral reception is not the place to stand out. Dress similar to other mourners.
  • Ask for advice: You can ask the reception organizer or a family member for pointers on the appropriate clothing. Some people specify their preferences before passing away.
  • Consider the culture: Culture can sometimes determine the funeral reception attire. Some cultures prefer white, while others prefer black and red. You can ask a family member whether they have a chosen dress code, especially if the deceased has a distinct cultural background.
  • Use common sense: When attending a funeral reception for a quite formal person, the attire is likely to be more conservative.
  • Consider the venue: A funeral reception at a family home may be less formal than one held at a place of worship.
  • Dress with respect: When in doubt, remember the idea is to honor the deceased and the event with your dressing. Be modest and wear sophisticated colors. Be careful to respect the cultural and religious customs and rituals of the deceased and the family.
  • Add a personal touch: Feel free to put a personalized element in your funeral reception outfit. You can wear unique clothing to match the decedent’s unique personality, provided you remain respectful and tasteful. For example, you can wear a navy blue dress to honor a veteran or an elegant tie for someone who passionately loved flower gardening. 


  • Forget the reason for the reception: A funeral reception is a time to show your respect for the deceased; therefore, choose something respectful.
  • Underdress: It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. 
  • Be a rebel: A funeral reception is for mourning, not a time for conspicuous fashion statements.
  • Agonize:  Do not worry too much about what to wear. Stick to conventional colors, cover up and show up to honor the departed. No one will notice your outfit unless it is inappropriate or exaggerated.
  • Overdo your accessories: Wear plain sunglasses for an outdoor setting and leave out noisy necklaces and bracelets. Choose a hairstyle that looks as simple and as natural as possible. Avoid wearing scented body lotions or strong perfumes that might cause sneezing, coughing, and other allergic reactions.
  • Wear jeans: Unless under exceptional circumstances, do not wear casual clothing like jeans, short-sleeved shirts, sneakers, and baseball caps. These items are too informal and inappropriate.

The most important thing about dressing for a funeral reception is to be comfortable, blend in and not attract attention to yourself. Whether you’re attending alone or with family, everybody should dress comfortably and respectfully. Read this article for more information about the funeral dress code and examples of funeral attire for the whole family.

Final Thoughts

A funeral reception is a solemn occasion, and the grieving family does not need luxurious gifts that detract them from mourning their loved ones. Food is always an appropriate gift, whether you cook it yourself or buy it from the grocery store. So go ahead and bring something delicious and accompany it with a sympathy note.

Remember to dress appropriately for the occasion. Be conservative and respectful to the deceased and the family in mourning.

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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