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What to Wear to a Funeral

Building a Wardrobe that Works
May 2, 2019

Hello, and welcome to Dressed for My Day, where my goal is to inspire and help women like you and me to dress beautifully and appropriately for our unique days so we can engage graciously and authentically with those around us and influence them positively. And I think today’s post topic contributes to that purpose beautifully. We’re talking about what to wear to a funeral.

But we’re not just talking about appropriate funeral attire here. We’re joining my friend and fellow style blogger Jodie Filogomo of Jodie’s Touch of Style in this conversation. In fact, Jodie has been talking about this at her blog already this week, as both her mother and step-mom (with whom Jodie graciously shares her platform all the time) have shared the fashions they would wear to a memorial service earlier in the week.

I had the blessing of meeting Jodie in person a couple of months ago when she and her husband were visiting friends in Arizona. They are just the most precious couple. We talked and talked…and could have talked some more!

Kay Harms of Dressed for My Day and Jodie Filogomo of Jodie's Touch of Style

Jodie is a retired dentist, but now she loves sharing fashion inspiration for women of all ages. I love that Jodie says of herself that, besides her clothes, her laugh is the loudest thing about her. Hahaha! Indeed, I found that Jodie has a lovely self-deprecating and gracious sense of humor. And after spending some time with her and her husband Rob, I’m pretty sure the two of them laugh a lot! I like that.

And yes, you’ll probably discover that Jodie’s clothing is generally a little louder than mine. But that’s one of the things I love about her. She has a beautiful, feminine, eclectic style that feels happy and winsome. I’m looking forward to seeing what she suggests for funeral attire.

But first, let’s check out my look and talk a little about attending memorial services.

What to Wear to a Funeral
Sleeveless geometric sheath dress (wearing size 10, size up) // black cardigan // nude pumps // handbag (no longer available, option) // gold bangle // necklace (no longer available, option) // gold hoop earrings // sunglasses

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 funeral 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.

What to Wear to a Funeral

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 want the honor of your presence. They want you to be there. To show up.

What to Wear to a Funeral

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.

What to Wear to a Funeral

Having said that, I do think there are some social cues to consider when dressing for a funeral. Most importantly, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post 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.

What to Wear to a Funeral

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 heels or flats since they’ll be easier to walk in.
  • 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.

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.

What to Wear to a Funeral
sleeveless geometric sheath dress (wearing size 10, size up) // black cardigan // nude pumps // handbag (no longer available, option) // gold bangle // necklace (no longer available, option) // gold hoop earrings // sunglasses

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Regular readers, don’t forget to head over to Jodie’s Touch of Style to check out Jodie’s style tips for funerals, too. You’re going to love this gal!

But if you’re visiting Dressed for My Day from Jodie’s blog, welcome! I’m so glad you stopped by today. I’d love for you to look around a bit. You can…

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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. That 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

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xoxo, Kay
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23 thoughts on “What to Wear to a Funeral

  1. How fabulous that you met with Jodie and Rob! Meeting bloggers is so fantastic! Perfect outfit for a funeral btw. I wrote to Jodie earlier that it depends on the person who died what I wear.

  2. You look very nice Kay! I have a couple of very different funeral experiences to share with you, but need to give some background first. We live on a private dirt road that is about 2 miles long, with maybe 11 families living on it, in a very rural area. When one of our neighbors wife died a few years ago, he had the funeral service at his home because he wanted her ashes put in the ground beside their dogs ashes. Then last October after a very tragic and sudden death of his grown son, Larry, brought his ashes up from FL, so that he could put them in the same little cemetery. One thing the attendees were asked to do was put a shovel of dirt over the ashes. I had never done that before when his wife died, but because I represented Larry & me, since he was down due to the chemo, I had to participate. That was a very tough thing to do! At his son’s service, my Larry did it. The modes of transportation to get to our neighbors home consisted of four wheelers, side by sides, golf carts, and vehicles. Most everyone had on jeans or very casual clothes, with appropriate shoes for standing in his yard. None of the ladies had on dresses or dress clothes. Side note: there are 7 Larry’s on our road. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks for sharing that unique story, Ginger. Yes, there are definitely always exceptions. For instance I know if families who have lost a child and had everyone wear purple t-shirts and release purple balloons into the air. Thanks for sharing! ?

  3. One of my nieces passed away 7 months ago after a long battle with cancer. She chronicled her journey through a Facebook page, Hope Against Hope. She was full of faith and always looking to and pointing to Jesus. At her Celebration of Life, we, family and close friends, wore matching t-shirts sharing her Hope Against Hope message. That was planned by my niece, Kaitlyn, as was the whole celebration.

    1. Yes! I love memorials like that. Full of hope and celebration but also closure. Every situation is different. And I think that’s part of why it’s sometimes hard for us to know what to wear. But we can certainly appreciate when we are told by the family what is appropriate and appreciated. Thanks for sharing Teri.

  4. Hi Kay, I just love reading how you think about things like this. And it is so important to think about the family and where the funeral is going to be and all of those different details about it.
    And I was relieved that you wore something other than really dark colors because I was worried I’d look out of place. While I usually wear darker colors to a funeral, I was so surprised my mom had said she wanted people to wear bright blue to her funeral when we talked about it. So I was trying to honor her!!
    Thanks for being such a shining light in the blogging world!!

  5. I first consider the expectations of the place – so yes to respecting the “rules” if it’s a house of worship or considering the environment of an outdoor ceremony. And if you don’t know, ask! Sometimes the family makes a special request. I went to one where we were asked to wear Green Bay Packers garb as the deceased was a huge fan. Honor requests ike that, however weird they may be! Finally, I look to honor the deceased. My gram loved red and white polka dots. I wore that to hers. My grampa was a proud vet & very patriotic so red, white, and blue it was. Above all, you’re there to honor the passing of a life and support those closest to them. This is not the time to show off your great cleavage, wear an obnoxious hat, flash your expensive jewelry or otherwise make the day about all eyes being on you. Dress to honor the one who passed, but keep it modest and respectful.

  6. While I think being respectful in dress is important, I *also* agree that showing up is the most important thing. You look stunning, and I agree I’m out of my element with knowing what to say to comfort people.

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing Kim. I guess dealing with other people’s grief is a challenge for many of us. ❤️

  7. I might add a sobering thought that if it’s a funeral for one of your family members, and you will be in the “receiving” line for friends and family at the funeral home (in the South they call it “visitation” and it’s normally the night before the funeral), then by all means wear nice, but COMFORTABLE shoes because you will be doing a LOT of standing (2 to 3 hours). I usually wear a nice skirt & blouse, but definitely comfortable shoes. (Like you mentioned, this is also appropriate for day of the funeral when you are attending the graveside service.) In addition, I did not feel the need to wear all black as a member of the family (my dad and all my grandparents are deceased) but I did wear subdued colors, like you said, nothing flashy.

  8. A ministry of presence is always priority above what you wear. That being said, Im most comfortable wearing navy or black to funeral services. I consider it a sign of respect to the family and their grief. It’s just the way I was raised. Mama always said “keep a black dress in your closet at all times”. She was raised in a small southern town.
    People wear anything these days but I’ve seen some totally inappropriate attire at funerals. This, of course, is just my opinion
    I only found you a few weeks ago and now look forward to your blog each day

    1. Thanks Pat. I’m so glad you found the blog and enjoy it. I appreciate your perspective, too. I agree that it is usually best to go with more subdued colors. Thanks for sharing. ?

  9. You always have such wise advise–thanks, Kay. I checked out the dress you’re wearing and ended up ordering the same style in black and in green and pink floral. (I don’t plan to wear the latter to funerals!)

  10. As a former Hospice RN I can say that ‘silence’ and your presence can be the most comfort to those who are grieving. Most people do not know what to say at times like this, but just being there to hold a hand or offer a shoulder can be the most helpful.
    Thanks for your timely posts and words of encouragement, Kay!

    1. Thanks for that wise insight, Anita. I know this is true. It’s one of those awkward times we must press through out of love and consideration for the ones we love and care about. Blessings!!

  11. I love your outfit. I especially like the classic-style navy blue cardigan. You look fabulous in your outfit, even if it is for a funeral.