With more than 2 million funerals held in the U.S. each year, you will likely need to attend a service for a loved one or acquaintance at some point in your life. What attire is appropriate at a funeral service? Do you need to dress formally, or can you just wear jeans?
It is not acceptable to wear jeans to a funeral in the United States. Casual wear and brighter colors are typically disrespectful to the deceased and their loved ones. Unless the family has specified this attire, you should not wear jeans at an American funeral.
This article will discuss why jeans are generally unacceptable at American funerals and highlight the few exceptions to this rule. I will also tell you what other clothing items and accessories you should avoid and discuss what attire is acceptable for an American funeral service.
Why Should You Not Wear Jeans to a Funeral?
You should not wear jeans to a funeral because they are often considered too casual for the event and are disrespectful to the deceased and their family. During funeral services in the United States, attendees should wear semi-formal clothes of darker color.
In the United States, dressing too casually for a funeral service is often seen as disrespectful.
Therefore, it is best to avoid wearing jeans to a service, especially ones that are brightly colored, have accents such as patches or tears, or have designs on them.
It is crucial not to draw attention to yourself at a U.S. funeral. The event’s focus should be on the deceased and their loved ones. Therefore, it is important not to wear anything that can make you stand out from the crowd.
Since others will likely be in more formal attire, wearing jeans will draw attention to you and should be avoided.
Times When Jeans Are Acceptable at a U.S. Funeral
Though it is a good rule of thumb to avoid jeans at funerals, there are a few times when they may be acceptable.
Here are a few exceptions to the rule:
- Family request: In some instances, the family may ask attendees to wear specific clothing for the funeral service. This attire may include apparel from their loved one’s favorite sports team or maybe their favorite color. Depending on the request, jeans may be acceptable to wear to the service.
- Casual funeral: Sometimes, families request that the service be simple and casual. In this instance, it may be acceptable to wear jeans to the service.
- Celebration of life: The family may also opt for a celebration of life in place of a funeral. In this case, jeans may also be acceptable.
If jeans are deemed acceptable, you should still follow a few general guidelines.
Jeans should be dark in color, meaning black or very dark blue. The jeans you choose should be free of rips, tears, accents, and anything else that may make them stand out. They should also fit well and not be too tight or loose-fitting.
However, if you have a pair of dress pants that are made from denim, they might be acceptable.
What Not To Wear to a Funeral in the United States
In general, the clothes you choose to wear to a funeral should be conservative and respectful to the deceased’s family. Unless the family has given specific instructions on clothing to wear, you will want to err on the side of caution when choosing your outfit.
When dressing for a funeral, you will want to select semi-formal attire.
You don’t need to be overly dressed, but you will not want to appear too casual either. If you could wear the outfit to a religious ceremony, wedding, or job interview, you are generally safe to wear it to a funeral.
Clothing Items To Avoid
Since you will want to dress conservatively and respectfully, there are some clothing items you should not wear to a funeral.
Here are a few items to avoid when dressing for the service:
- Tight-fitting clothing: Clothing that is too tight can be considered disrespectful. It is best to wear something that is a looser fit than something that allows everyone to see every curve of your body.
- Low cut blouses and dresses: Low cut tops are also not acceptable at funerals. Again, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, and away from the service, so you should avoid tops or dresses that are low cut.
- Short skirts: Though short skirts and dresses are fashionable and comfortable, too short of a skirt can be inappropriate at a funeral. If you can’t bend over or sit down comfortably, you may want to opt for a longer dress.
- Athletic wear: Athletic wear such as basketball shorts, leggings, or tank tops should also be avoided. These clothes can be seen as too casual and will therefore be disrespectful.
- Jeans: Jeans are also on the list of clothing items that are too casual. Though it is possible to dress up jeans for some events, it is best to err on the side of caution for a funeral and avoid jeans when possible.
- Flip flops/sneakers: You should trade flip flops and sneakers for dressier footwear such as flats, heels, or dress shoes. Remember, you don’t want to appear too casual during the service.
- Extravagant accessories: You should carefully choose your accessories for the service. It is best to avoid lavish accessories such as big and flashy jewelry or statement ties. Funeral attendees should opt for small and muted jewelry and traditional ties instead.
- Strong fragrances: Something often overlooked in funeral attire is fragrance choices. You should avoid wearing strong perfumes and colognes at funerals. Instead, it would be best if you chose a less potent scent or should go without perfume or cologne altogether.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is if you have to ask if it is okay to wear to a funeral, it likely isn’t okay to wear. It is also good to remember that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself with your choice of outfit, accessories, or fragrance.
It is better to be overly respectful and conservative in your dress than to stick out like a sore thumb and draw attention to your outfit.
Colors To Avoid at a Funeral
In addition to avoiding certain clothing styles, you will also want to be careful about what colors you decide to wear. Appropriate funeral attire in the United States is typically muted and absent of bright and flashy colors.
Attendees should avoid bright colors such as reds, yellows, purples, pinks, and light blues for the service. In general, Americans associate these colors with happiness, which is inappropriate for somber occasions.
It would also be best to avoid flashy colors like neon, glitter, or sequins. These colors will quickly draw attention to the wearer, which is not the goal of the funeral service.
It is best to wear muted tones and not draw attention to yourself.
Neutral colors like white, beige, and cream can also be considered disrespectful in the United States. Though these aren’t outwardly bright or flashy, they may also appear inappropriate in somber settings. They are also associated with weddings rather than funerals.
What You Can Wear to a Funeral in the United States
Now that we know what clothing items to avoid wearing to a funeral, we should discuss what you can wear.
In general, funeral attendees should stick to the following guidelines when choosing an outfit for the service:
- Clothes that fit well and aren’t too tight
- Darker, muted colors
- Conservative clothing that isn’t too short or low cut
- Nothing too casual
- Limit accessories
- Weak perfumes and colognes, or none at all.
When choosing your funeral attire, think about clothes you would otherwise wear to a job interview or a religious ceremony. Following these general guidelines will help you successfully select respectful clothing for the service.
Women’s Funeral Attire
Women attending funerals in the United States should wear a darker-colored dress or skirt and pair these with dark-colored tights in colder months. Pants are also acceptable when paired with a conservative and muted top.
Footwear should be nice flats or heels and should not be brightly colored.
It is also best to avoid distracting accessories. Small jewelry is acceptable, but you should avoid big jewelry that is overly flashy.
Men’s Funeral Attire
A dark suit is always a good option, but men should wear darker button-up shirts with a collar if a suit is unavailable. You might want to pair a nice shirt with slacks and dress shoes, and avoid wearing athletic clothes, jeans, and sneakers.
For warmer weather, opt for lightweight, breathable clothing.
Ties are also recommended but aren’t required. If choosing to wear a tie, be sure to choose one that isn’t flashy or overly patterned. A traditional tie in a color that isn’t too bright is best.
Remember that it is better to overdress than underdress for a funeral if you are unsure of others’ attire.
Children’s Funeral Attire
It is important to dress children for comfort as they need to sit still for long periods. If bringing your child to a funeral, choose dark-colored clothes they will be comfortable wearing. Little girls should wear dark dresses, and little boys should wear dark pants and nice shirts.
If you’d dress them in the outfit for a wedding or traditional religious service, it will likely be appropriate for a funeral.
Funerals of Other Cultures in the United States
Though attendees of American funerals typically wear darker colors, some funerals in the United States have different expectations. Because the United States is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, attending a funeral for someone of another nationality is possible.
Other cultures may have different expectations regarding funeral attire, so it is essential to keep that in mind when choosing your outfit. Though mourners from some cultures wear darker colors to a funeral, Americans from other cultures may express their mourning differently.
For example, white is a popular mourning color in some cultures.
White symbolizes the unknown and purity and is common during some funeral services. People of Chinese descent often wear white in times of mourning, so the color is a popular choice among funeral attendees.
It is also common for Latino families to wear white when an immediate family member passes.
It is also traditional in some cultures to wear brighter colors during mourning. Though it may be disrespectful in other parts of the world, South Africans have adopted the color red to symbolize mourning and often wear red at funerals.
When attending the funeral of someone from a different culture, be sure to investigate their specific customs or ask their family what attire is appropriate for the funeral service.
Things To Remember
When dressing for a funeral, there are also a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Check the weather: Be sure to check the weather ahead of the event, especially if the funeral includes a graveside service. You may want to bring a change of shoes or pack an umbrella if you expect rain.
- Make sure everyone is comfortable: Though you want to remain semi-formal, wearing something you will be comfortable in is essential. Wear something that allows you to sit and stand for long periods, and bring flat shoes for graveside services.
- Be able to put away devices: You should turn off all devices such as phones and tablets during the service. Be sure to wear something with pockets or bring a dark bag to store the devices in, so you don’t have to hold them.
The attire you wear to a funeral service in the United States should be conservative and respectful. Funeral attendees should wear semi-formal attire and avoid casual clothing such as jeans and athletic wear.
In general, remember not to wear anything that will draw attention away from the deceased and their families. Lean towards darker colors, muted clothing, and weak scents for the service.
- Huff Post: What Not To Wear To A Funeral, According To Etiquette Experts
- New York Times: What Should I Wear to a Funeral?
- Tharp Funeral Home and Crematorium: Guidelines for What to Wear to a Funeral
- Nations Online: Symbolism of Colors, Associations of The Five Elements in Chinese Beliefs and Feng Shui
- Funeral Guide: Colours of mourning around the world
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Death Rituals Reported by White, Black, and Hispanic Parents Following the ICU Death of an Infant or Child
- U.S. Funerals: The US Funeral Industry Today