For the past few weeks I’ve been sharing what to wear for a variety of occasions and activities this spring. It’s tempting to write such posts only for the joyful and fun occasions in life. But indeed we do want to dress appropriately and feel our best when participating in life’s more solemn noevents as well. So today I’m sharing my thoughts on what to wear to a funeral or memorial service this spring and summer.
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You’d think that as a pastor’s wife I have been to lots of funerals and know this niche exceptionally well. You’d be wrong. My husband has certainly preached hundreds of funerals. And, honestly, this may sound strange, but memorial messages are definitely one of his fortes. He does a beautiful job of honoring the deceased, comforting and encouraging the grieving family and pointing us all to Jesus.
I, on the other hand, generally feel awkward and a little nervous at funerals or memorial services. I haven’t experienced a lot of loss in my own life, so I feel out of my element at these services.
But what I’ve learned over time is that people simply appreciate the honor of your presence. They want you to be there. To show up.
And that’s why my theory is that what you wear doesn’t matter nearly as much as your presence. Don’t ever let not having the right thing to wear keep you from showing up for a friend or loved one who is grieving.
Having said that, I do think there are some social cues to consider when dressing for a funeral. If nothing else, we want to be dressed appropriately. Most importantly, as I mentioned in this YouTube video on dressing appropriately, I suggest we consider our role at a memorial service. We are there to pay homage and respect. We’re there to comfort and share the grief. Hopefully we’re also there to celebrate a life well-lived. And preferably we’re there to worship the Lord through it all.
So the focus isn’t on us, is it? To that end I suggest we consider these factors when choosing our attire for a memorial service:
- If the service will be held in a church other than one we are familiar with, we might do well to cover our shoulders and maybe even our arms. Some religions and denominations prefer this, and we want to be respectful of that.
- While we don’t have to wear black, it’s usually considered across-the-board appropriate and safe. Otherwise, I’d just steer clear of anything ostentatious.
- Consider the family. Do you know the family well or barely at all? What do you think they will be wearing?
- Unless you are the widow or other immediate family member of the deceased, attempt to fall in line with what others will be wearing. This is not the day to stand out.
- If you were close to the deceased and know his or her favorite color, you might consider wearing that shade.
- If you’ll be attending a committal service at a cemetery, you might want to wear wedge or block heels or flats since they’ll be easier to walk in on grassy or gravel surfaces.
- Since it’s a worship service, I try not to wear jingly bracelets or anything else that might cause distracting noise with movement. Oh, and don’t forget to silence your cell phone.
For today’s post I forced myself to find something appropriate to wear to a funeral from my closet – no shopping allowed. Why? Because I believe it’s important to have something in your closet at all times that would serve you well in the event that you needed to attend a memorial service with little notice. And I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as easy as I had assumed it would be for me to decide on an appropriate outfit. Some things felt too morose while others felt too casual or colorful.
I’ve inserted another video above that you might want to watch if you haven’t already. It will help you consider what you might need in your closet so that you can dress appropriately for a variety of situations, including funerals.
The first thing I mentioned in that video that will help you have an “appropriate wardrobe” is a blazer. And indeed my navy blazer (more economical option) turned out to be the central in the outfit that I put together for a funeral or memorial service. That’s not to say that you have to wear a blazer, but it certainly made it a little easier for me to put something together on the fly. And it helped that I have coordinating navy pants (more economical option) to wear with this Veronica Beard Miller dickey blazer.
For my funeral appropriate outfit I chose to wear basically a navy pants suit. But that’s not to imply that your only option is pants and a blazer. A dress or skirt would be nice choices, too. I think the maxi dress below would even be a nice choice. And that dress does come in black as well, so that would make a great dress to keep in your closet for such occasions.
Do you have to wear dark colors? No, not necessarily, unless you know that is the custom of the church where you will be attending the service or you believe that would be the family’s wishes. But if you do choose to wear something lighter I’d still keep the overall tone of the ensemble subdued and classy. Something like the outfit below might even be appropriate during the spring or summer.
Of course if you are the closest family member – the widow, child or parent – of the deceased, I believe you have the privilege of setting the tone for the service with what you wear. You may want to wear your loved one’s favorite color or a dress he or she especially loved to see you in.
But you’ll also want to wear something that you feel comfortable in. It may be a long and hard day, so you want to have on clothing that allows you to be at your best.
In the end, I think it’s best we agree that the grieving family probably will not remember what we wear – unless we foolishly wear something truly inappropriate – but they will remember our presence. The key is simply to wear something that doesn’t distract or dishonor so that we can participate in this meaningful day in a positive way.
One final thought. You can dress more casually for a funeral or memorial service than I have done here. In general our world is dressing much less formally these days, and I’ve been to memorial services where people were dressed very casually. But in this situation I do think it is wiser to err on the side of being more dressed up rather than too casual.
Take the Challenge: I created a funeral-appropriate outfit straight from my closet. See if you can do the same.
Do you have other tips for what to wear (or not to wear) to a memorial service? Or maybe you’d like to share a personal experience about dressing appropriately for a funeral. I’d love for you to join the conversation today.
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Blessed for My Day
Sometimes Job’s three friends get a bad rap. Yes, they said a lot of things to their grieving friend that would have best been not said. And we can learn from them what not to say at a funeral. A memorial service is no place for blame or pious platitudes or simplistic formulas for life.
But one thing Job’s friends got right: they showed up. They sat in Job’s grief with him. He didn’t have to grieve alone. And for seven days and nights they didn’t say a word. Don’t ever think that you have to say just the right thing to your grieving friend or family member. Most of the time all you have to do is show up.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite … Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. ~ Job 2:11-13