Yes, it is sometimes okay to wear jeans to a funeral. Funeral etiquette, including how to dress for a funeral, is tricky. What is considered acceptable depends on the region, culture, religious beliefs, family, or community traditions.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Should You Wear Jeans to a Funeral?
- What About Black Jeans?
- Alternatives to Wearing Jeans at a Funeral
- How to Dress Your Jeans Up for a Funeral
But before we get to the heart of the matter, understand that we’re discussing whether you should wear jeans to a funeral or memorial service. We are not debating whether you should wear jeans to a visitation.
Generally, funerals and memorial services are more formal events than visitations. Most of the time, a funeral has a religious component. Some people dress up when attending religious ceremonies, which means that some people tend to wear more formal clothes at a funeral.
Tip: Choosing funeral attire is just one of many complex tasks you might be facing after losing a loved one. For a little help with the entire process of saying goodbye, check out our post-loss checklist.
Should You Wear Jeans to a Funeral?
In some communities, jeans are considered formal enough attire to wear to a funeral. If you live in one of these communities, you don't have to ask yourself if it’s okay to go to a memorial service in jeans. You have already seen your friends, family, and neighbors wear jeans, and you know that this informal dress is acceptable or even encouraged.
If you attend a funeral outside your community or for a friend or acquaintance who you did not know exceptionally well, avoid wearing jeans. You may feel strange if you are the only person in the room dressed in denim!
Wearing your best is a sign of respect in some communities and cultures. It shows that you respect the deceased, the religious building or institution, and the mourning family members.
But what if, by some circumstance, you only have jeans to wear to a funeral? Does that mean that you shouldn't go?
No, it’s better to show your support to a grieving family and honor the deceased by attending the funeral even if you only have jeans to wear. If you are worried about being the only one in attendance wearing jeans, you may consider going to the visitation or viewing since these are sometimes less formal events.
Virtual funeral tip: The same rules for funeral attire apply to virtual funerals. If the funeral is taking place over Zoom using a service like GatheringUs, make sure you still dress appropriately from head to toe.
What About Black Jeans?
Dark black jeans are a step up from blue denim — but they’re still jeans. The same rules apply for black jeans as they do for blue denim jeans.
If you know that jeans are okay to wear in your community, that means black jeans are as well. If you question whether it would be appropriate, it's best to find a dressier alternative.
Alternatives to Wearing Jeans at a Funeral
Usually, you know about an upcoming funeral several days before it happens. This means that you probably have time to find an alternative to jeans.
Instead of jeans, consider wearing a suit, dress pants with a shirt and tie, business casual clothes, a dress, skirt, and blouse, or another more formal combination. Avoid athletic shoes, flip flops, t-shirts, sports jerseys, and leggings.
Learn more about these clothing alternatives to consider and where you may get them.
Borrow formal clothes
Since you may only go to a funeral once every five years, you may not be interested in investing money in a suit or little black dress. Instead, if you happen to have a friend or family member who is the same size as you, consider raiding that person’s closet for funeral clothes.
Don't forget to purchase dark socks to wear with the dress pants and shoes, or you may have to stop to buy socks on the way to the funeral!
Purchase formal clothing from a secondhand store
You can find plenty of suits and dress pants at thrift stores. Since formal clothing does not vary in style significantly within a year or two, you won't have to worry about wearing outdated clothing.
Choose your outfit sooner rather than later so you can get it altered and laundered before the event. Also, don't forget about shoes!
Purchase from a discount or big box store
You don't have to purchase clothing created by a couture designer to attend a funeral. In fact, in the history of funerals, nobody has probably ever checked the clothing tags of any of the attendees.
You may be able to find simple, traditional, but inexpensive clothes from a discount or big-box department store. While these clothes may not be your favorites or even last a long time, they will do in a pinch.
Consult the obituary for clues
As more people complete end-of-life plans, you may see funeral attire changing. Think about your own funeral. Would you like to see everyone wearing the jersey from your favorite hockey team? Your favorite color? A Hawaiian print or patriotic clothes?
You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the deceased requested that mourners dress casually to his or her funeral. If that's the case, wear your jeans to honor one of the deceased's last requests.
No alternative to jeans? Plan to go!
You may not have the funds or the time to get a new outfit for the funeral. Does that mean you should skip the event?
Someone who just experienced one of the worst events of his or her life will not really care what you wear to the funeral. If you have ever lost a loved one, you may have experienced the fog that comes with grief. Chances are, the family members of the deceased will not pay any attention to what you wear.
How to Dress Your Jeans Up for a Funeral
The funeral or visitation is in a few hours, and you just discovered that your only formal outfit doesn't fit or is stained. While this may force you to wear jeans to the event, you can still consider these tips to make yourself look as polished as possible.
Wear a blazer or sport coat
Tailored jackets tend to make jeans look dressier. Wear a nice-fitting jacket with your jeans to make it look a bit more formal.
Make sure jeans are wrinkle-free and clean
If you must wear jeans, make sure they are the nicest pair that you have. Iron and launder them. Avoid wearing frayed, ripped, well-loved jeans.
Wear nice shoes
Wearing boots, flats, or dress shoes with jeans makes them look a bit dressier than wearing your sneakers or other athletic shoes. Make good sock choices, too.
Add a nice belt, handbag, jewelry, or scarf to your jeans. Accessorizing with classic pieces will make your outfit come together.
Dress in layers
Unless the funeral is outdoors and during the summer, consider wearing multiple layers with your jeans. You can never go wrong with a muted colored sweater over a crisp white shirt -- even with a pair of jeans.
Pair with a formal top
Others may overlook that you are wearing jeans if you pair it with a formal, dressy top or shirt. You may even consider adding a tie to your collared shirt. No rule says you can't wear a tie with jeans.
Avoid bright colors
If you are bucking tradition by wearing jeans to a funeral, don't pair them with a bright-colored, casual shirt. Unless you were given specific instructions to wear a particular color by members of the family, wear more muted colors.
Choose What You Wear
We know you want to look appropriate when you attend your friend's funeral. Clothes give us confidence and a sense of belonging. It's also nice to follow clothing traditions and looking your best.
On the other hand, your behavior may make you stand out negatively more than your clothing would. When attending a funeral, turn off your cellphone, avoid drawing attention to yourself, speak softly, and offer sincere condolences to those grieving. Acting with class is always better than dressing with style.