Can You Wear Red to a Funeral? Funeral Etiquette

Funeral etiquette can be difficult to manage. Whether it’s what to bring as a gift or what to wear, many customs remain unclear for those who have never planned a funeral. So, let’s help clear some things up about what you should wear and what it can mean to wear the wrong color. 

You shouldn’t wear red to a funeral unless it’s a dark red or deep burgundy. Otherwise, you’ll stand out and not in a good way. The only time it’s acceptable to wear red to a funeral is a celebration of life where guests wear bright colors. 

Let’s talk more about funeral clothing etiquette and what the color red can symbolize when it comes to a funeral. 

Why Shouldn’t You Wear Red to a Funeral?

You shouldn’t wear red to a funeral because dark clothes are more traditional, red represents passion, and you’ll draw too much attention to yourself. Red is a fun, vibrant color that you should consider only for other occasions. 

The color red has many different meanings, but it can be seen as disrespectful to wear such a bright, vibrant color to a mournful occasion. 

Dark Clothing Is More Acceptable

It’s still a common custom for people attending a funeral to wear dark-colored clothing. This tradition has been around for many years. Historians believe it dates back to the Roman Empire when they would dress in black clothing to mourn the loss of their loved one. 

From there, the tradition seemed to catch on, with many western countries following suit. 

Currently, the rules are a little more relaxed, with people wearing more muted colors rather than just black. However, black is still seen as the safest color to wear to a funeral. 

This tradition brings about the idea that colors can represent our mood and what feelings we’re trying to portray to others. Dark, somber colors show other people that we’re feeling somber, while bright colors like red represent entirely different emotions. 

People and mourning concept - woman with white lily flowers and coffin at funeral in church

What the Color Red Represents

Red is a unique color because it can symbolize so many different things. However, none of its meanings portray the idea of sadness or mournfulness. 

Red symbolizes passion, but passion can mean many other things to different people. 

Often when we think of passion, we think of love, and indeed, they tend to go hand-in-hand. However, passion can cover many different aspects of life instead of just love. For example, red can also symbolize life, courage, anger, and even war. 

So, the color red can represent many feelings and thoughts.  

Passion, war, courage, and anger aren’t necessarily things you want to represent during a funeral. So, it’s best to stick to more subtle, somber colors during a time of grief and loss.

Drawing Attention to Ourselves

Because it’s so common to wear dark, neutral clothing to a funeral, anything else will stand out significantly. Consider this before deciding to wear red to a funeral. Remember that day is about mourning the deceased and showing love and respect to their close friends and family. 

Most of the time, the last thing anyone wants to do is draw too much attention to themselves.

We arrange funerals for those we love who pass on, but many people believe that the service is actually for us. We do this as a final goodbye to our loved ones to see them one last time and honor them through the service. This isn’t an appropriate time to draw attention to yourself with clothing. 

Studies show the effects red has on our emotions, and that it draws a lot of attention whenever it’s present and can elicit emotions from people. 

When Is It Okay To Wear Red to a Funeral?

It’s okay to wear red to a funeral when it’s a celebration of life or if it’s a dark red. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with neutral, dark colors like black and gray. When in doubt, consider who the day is for and what others will be wearing. 

A Celebration of Life

Sometimes instead of a traditional funeral, families choose to hold a celebration of life, which is a lot different from a traditional funeral as it’s seen as something positive and happy. In contrast, funerals tend to be somber. 

During a celebration of life, it’s common for guests to dress in bright, happy colors rather than the traditional dark, neutral colors. This is because a celebration of life is just that, a celebration. So, this is a time when it’s acceptable to wear something red. 

When a person plans a celebration of life, they typically do this after laying the deceased person to rest. This means that you’ll have more time to prepare than you would for a funeral. So, you can carefully choose your outfit and ask for any clarification from the people holding the celebration. 

Most of the time, a celebration of life can bring joy to the people invited. It’s common for this to be a time for family and friends to gather and talk about their favorite memories with the deceased. 

So, bright-colored clothes are often encouraged, as this is the perfect occasion to wear red, because everyone is also wearing bright colors. 

Dark Red or Burgundy

One option for wearing red to a funeral is dark red. 

A darker red like burgundy can be fine for funerals as it’s dark and subtle enough to blend in. You can wear something subtle like a burgundy shirt or tie, as it’s acceptable for a funeral because it’s dark enough to blend in with other colors. 

The main goal of a funeral is to not draw too much attention to yourself. 

So, certain reds are okay. However, ordinary shades of red are often too bright and vibrant for a funeral. Even just a bright red tie can be too much, so be careful of the share of red you choose. Some may be safer than others. 

Consider Who the Day Is About

One thing we sometimes forget is that funerals are for the deceased. We are there to remember them and honor them before we lay them to rest. 

The problem with red and other bright colors is that they attract attention. 

It can be selfish to dress in a way that draws attention to yourself at a funeral simply because the day isn’t about you. It’s about grieving and honoring the life of the deceased. So, they should be the main focus of everyone’s attention on that day. 

Wearing red or other brightly-colored clothing draws attention to you rather than allowing attention to be on the deceased. 

What Should You Do If You Want To Wear Red to a Funeral?

If you want to wear red to a funeral, you should ask the person who arranged the funeral or other people attending first. If this isn’t an option, you should consider bringing a change of clothes just in case. Otherwise, always go with the safer option. 

Even though it isn’t very traditional to wear red to a funeral, it may be something you still want to do. If that’s the case, we have suggestions on making it work even though it may be against the norm for funerals. So, let’s talk about your options. 

Speak to Others Attending

One great way to ensure you won’t stand out too much is to speak to other people who’ll be attending the funeral. Ask them what they plan to wear to the event, and ask if they think your chosen outfit is appropriate. 

Getting this information from the people who are attending is the best way to ensure that your color choice doesn’t draw unwanted attention to yourself. If the people who are attending the funeral know what you’ll be wearing, then there’ll be no one left upset or annoyed by your choice of wardrobe. 

Bring Additional Clothing

Whether you spoke to the planner or not, it’s always a good idea to bring a backup outfit if you aren’t sure how everyone will react to your color choice. Bringing an alternate outfit can ensure that you have another option if people in attendance don’t approve. 

If your outfit is too distracting or upsetting for the grieving family, they may ask you to change your clothes or leave. 

Having another outfit ready means that you can change and get back to the service without too much interruption. Otherwise, you’d need to go home, change, and come back when you’re finished. 

This may seem like a dramatic request, but a funeral is about the deceased, and all attention should be on them. It can upset the deceased’s family to have someone not respecting funeral customs by wearing bright, attention-grabbing clothing. 

Grief is a powerful emotion, and it can cause dramatic reactions, especially on the funeral day. 

So, stay prepared for any reaction by bringing another change of clothes if you plan to wear bright colors like red. Also, if someone comments on the color choice, make sure you’re respectful to them. 

They’re suffering through a loss and may not react with as much tact as they normally would. 

Ask the Person Arranging the Funeral

If you’re unsure whether what you want to wear is appropriate, you may want to go straight to the source. Asking the person that’s arranging the funeral is the best way to ensure that your outfit is appropriate and doesn’t cause an issue. 

Sure, asking other people in attendance about your outfit is a good idea, but asking the person arranging the funeral directly goes right to the source. They’re the main focus of the funeral, as they’re usually the ones grieving the deceased the most. 

The most crucial consideration is that they’re okay with your choice of clothing. 

There are a few exceptions to consider before asking the person who’s arranging the funeral. First, arranging a funeral isn’t easy, as it’s something that’s time-sensitive. They’re doing this while they’re grieving the loss of their loved one. So, the planner already has a lot on their plate. 

Taking their time to ask about the outfit that you want to wear to the funeral service may not be the best use of their time. Consider this before taking the time to reach out to them about it. However, it can be done as a topic of conversation if you spend time with them to help with the arrangements or just distract them from their grief. 

Before asking the planner, you may also want to consider that the person may agree just to avoid a fight or argument. 

The stress of losing a loved one and trying to arrange a funeral can be a lot for anyone to handle, and sometimes debating what someone should or shouldn’t wear just isn’t worth the effort. They may not want to upset you by being honest. 

So, consider these things before asking the planner about the outfit that you choose. If you think they are too overwhelmed or just don’t feel comfortable saying no, then skip this option as it can put more stress on them. 

Go With the Safe Option

There are certainly ways to try to help figure out if wearing red to a funeral is appropriate. 

However, sometimes it’s best to just play it safe and wear other neutral colors. While this may seem like a boring option, it’s important to understand that boring and plain is okay at a funeral. In fact, many people recommend it. 

So, if you’re unsure of how other guests will react when you wear red, play it safe. The time for fun, vibrant colors will come at other family gatherings. This day is for the deceased, and you should try to dress in a way that ensures the attention will remain on them. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, people don’t recommend wearing red to a funeral, as it’s bright, vibrant, and draws too much attention. Red represents many different emotions, but none of them are grief, so it’s best to avoid this color on the day of a funeral. 

There are exceptions to this rule, like dark red or a celebration of life, but overall, it’s best to avoid red. So stick with something a little more neutral when attending a funeral. 


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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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