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Funeral Etiquette: How to dress and what to say at a funeral

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." ~ Psalm 90:12.

Attending a funeral can not only be difficult, but also uncomfortable. Many of us feel awkward and unsure of how to behave, what to say, or how to help our loved ones in their time of need.

Even well-meaning words can sometimes offend a person when they are in deep mourning. With a few basic funeral etiquette tips, you can attend your next funeral with more confidence, grace, and ease.

Attending a funeral

Funerals are usually open events and anyone can attend. However, you should consider how well you knew the deceased before attending. If you did not know the departed personally but want to show your love and support to the family, then you should consider yourself welcome.

If you feel your presence will cause conflict or cause emotional pain to another person, then you should reconsider attending the services. Likewise, if the funeral is a private event, and you were not invited, then you should not go. You can opt for flowers or a heartfelt card instead.

Should I bring children?

Another thing to consider is who should attend the services with you. In most cases it is permissible to bring along another adult or an older child. Children can attend if they can properly behave and sit still during the services. However, if possible, it is probably a good idea to leave infants and babies at home with a caregiver as they are most likely to be a distraction and require your attention.

If you cannot obtain daycare for your younger children, then please be mindful during the service and know when to step outside with your child when appropriate.

What should I wear?

In much of the Western world, black is worn to funerals as a sign of respect and mourning. However, you can also wear dark grey, brown, or blue. Some things to take into consideration when deciding what to wear are the time of year, the season, and the location and time of the services. Unless requested by the family of the deceased, you should avoid bright colors such as red, pink, and yellow, however; you can wear a shirt or blouse in a lighter color such as cream or white when wearing a suit or blazer. Keep accessories to a minimal.

Attire for men:

  • Dark suits

  • Collared dress shirts

  • Vests

  • Ties

  • Blazers

  • Dress pants or slacks

  • Dress shoes/ loafers

Things to avoid:

  • Ballcaps

  • T shirts

  • Jeans

  • Sweatsuits

  • Work clothes with logos

Women should wear a modest dress or skirt that falls right at or below the knees. Your blouse should not reveal your cleavage, shoulders, or too much skin. Nails should be clipped, clean, and well-groomed, and makeup should be to a minimal. It is also best to avoid wearing heavy perfume, hairspray, and too much jewelry. Less in best.

Attire for women:

  • Modest dark dresses or pantsuits

  • Dress blouses

  • Modest skirts

  • Blazers

  • High heels or dressy flats

  • Elegant cardigans

  • Elegant purse

  • Dress gloves (optional)

  • Sheer stockings

  • Modest jewelry such as a strand of pearls and stud earrings

Additional items as the weather and season permits:

  • Dark umbrella

  • Scarf

  • Gloves to match your coat.

  • Sunglasses for when at burial site

  • Dress hat

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~ Isaiah 41:10.

What not to wear:

  • Flip flops and open-toe shoes

  • Jeans

  • T-shirts

  • Loud prints

  • Sweatpants

  • Work clothes with logos

  • Low-cut blouses (women)

  • Too much perfume or cologne

  • Too much jewelry

  • Bright red (It’s considered offensive)


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Although it is not necessary to dress your children in all black, they should wear their “Sunday’s best” in an appropriate color for a funeral. Girls should wear a modest dress or a modest skirt and top, hosiery or dress socks, and dress shoes (no open toes). Boys should wear suits, dress shirts, ties, and dress pants or slacks. They should also wear dress; Tennis shoes are never permissable. When in doubt, leave it out.

Memorial Services, burials, and viewings (wakes)

Some funeral services such as a memorial service, viewing, or a burial long after the deceased has been cremated are less formal and more casual attire may be worn. Make sure to check with the event planner when deciding what to wear.

Ash scattering or celebration of life:

Celebration of life services are usually more festive and are meant to celebrate life. The event may also have a color theme to honor the deceased. Therefore, bright-colored clothing may be more appropriate. In addition, ash-scattering is oftentimes held outdoors to scatter the ashes of a loved one, so outdoor attire is more suitable. The ceremony usually symbolizes peace and closure of the dearly departed and in the releasing of their spirit to return to nature or heaven.

In most cases, wearing formal or semi-formal attire is always a safe option. Again, always consider the place, time, and location of the services when planning for an event, as well as the family’s wishes.

What to say at a funeral:

It is always better to say less than more at a funeral. The family in mourning is usually feeling overwhelmed with grief. Simply letting your loved ones know that you are there if needed is enough.

Here are some comforting things to say at a funeral:

  • “I am sorry for your loss.”

  • “If you want to talk, I am here for you.”

  • “Please let me know how I can help.”

  • “I am thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.”

  • “I am saddened by this news; I am here for you if you need me.”

  • "You are in my thoughts and prayers."

Even though we may have the best intentions in our hearts, some things may unintentionally cause others more pain and suffering.

What not to say:

  • “I know how you feel.”

  • “Be brave and stay strong.”

  • “They are in a better place.”

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

  • “Well, at least they had a long life.”

  • “They would want you to be happy.”

Attending a funeral service of any kind is never easy, but just knowing how to properly conduct ourselves during this difficult time can help us to better show our support, love, and respect to those in need.

Author’s Bio

Isabella Boston

Isabella Boston is a multi-talented Wordsmith and the creator of Bella’s Attic Studio. She is well-versed in copywriting, articles and research, and medical content writing with a focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI), autoimmune disorders, and inflammation within the body. She is a diarist and the author of Passion of Flames.

When Isabella is not writing, she enjoys reading, learning new languages, and spreading God’s Holy Word.


[i] Offering condolences: What to say at a funeral. Funeral Partners. (2022, January 30). Retrieved February 16, 2023, from [ii] Fortino, D. (2022, April 15). What to wear to a funeral. Eirene. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from [iii] Fortino, D. (2021, October 12). How to plan A celebration of life. Eirene. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from


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