Tie Etiquette for a Funeral: Colors, Knots & Alternatives

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Are you faced with the unhappy task of attending a funeral? If so, you probably have a lot of questions like, “Should I order a flower arrangement for the family?” or “Would it be better to go to the visitation or the funeral?” 

You may also question, “What should I wear to the funeral?”

Jump ahead to these sections:

Specifically, you may wonder whether you should wear a tie to a funeral. Here’s what etiquette experts have to say in response to this question. 

COVID-19 tip: If you're attending or planning a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, wear your normal funeral attire and follow the advice below. Make sure you wear something you can sit comfortably in for a couple of hours and doesn't look distracting or distorted (e.g. bright colors or busy patterns) on the computer screen. 

Do You Have to Wear a Tie to a Funeral? 

Unfortunately, the answer to “Do I have to wear a tie to a funeral?” is complicated.

While funeral etiquette suggests that a black suit and a conservative tie is the best choice, even the Emily Post Institute admits that “because the nature of funerals and memorial services varies so widely today, attire isn’t limited to just black or dark gray.”

Here are factors that may help you determine whether you have to wear a tie to a funeral.

Are you a close family member or pallbearer? If so, The Emily Post Institute says you should consider wearing a black or dark suit and a conservative tie. This is true whether you are an actual pallbearer or an honorary one. The color black is a symbol of mourning.

Are you going to a visitation or funeral? Funerals are typically dressier occasions than visitations. If you are going to both events, you may save your suit and tie for funeral wear and wear dress pants, a dress shirt, and tie to the visitation. 

What is the norm in your community?

Funeral customs vary among regions. While wearing formal attire for funerals is typical in some areas, that may not be the case in others. If you are new to the region, consult with others who are going to the funeral before making decisions on whether you should wear a tie.

What is the norm in your culture or religious group?

Just as funeral attire depends on regions, it may also vary depending on cultural or socioeconomic groups. If you attend the funeral of someone who wore formal attire for work or religious ceremonies, you should consider wearing a tie to the funeral.

If you are attending the funeral of someone who would not wear a suit for special events, then a suit and tie may seem out of place at his funeral.

What type of service is it?

You may consider wearing a tie if the funeral is held at a house of worship or funeral home. If the service is called a celebration of life and it’s held at a neighborhood bar, then a suit and tie would be out of place.

Do you see how complicated things can be? When in doubt, talk with an extended family member about what would be appropriate to wear. Of course, this is not a question you should ask members of the immediate family.

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What Can You Wear If You Don’t Have a Tie?

The most obvious answer to this question on what you should wear if you don’t have a tie is to get one. 

Since ties aren’t sized articles of clothing and some men have multiple ties, this is a simple item to borrow. Text a friend who is going to the same event and ask if he has a tie you can wear for the event. Put the tie on in the car before entering the church or funeral home.

Ties also vary significantly in price. If cost is a consideration, you may be able to find one rather cheap at a big box store that sells clothing or at a thrift store. 

If you did not plan ahead and are without a tie to wear, don’t panic. Simply wear a collared shirt with nice pants or a collared shirt and a vest. It is better to attend a service without a tie than to not attend the event. 

What Color Ties Are Appropriate for a Funeral? 

Black ties are traditional but you could also consider wearing a gray or navy tie.

If you find yourself without access to a black, gray, or navy tie, your next choice would be a colored tie in a muted tone. For example, while you would not want to wear a bright red tie to someone’s funeral, you may consider wearing a dark burgundy tie. 

While solid ties are traditional choices for a funeral, you may also consider wearing one with an unobtrusive pattern. 

If you are going to a funeral where you may be only one of a few people to wear a suit, the type of tie that you wear matters less. Keep in mind the purpose of the event and avoid anything that attracts too much attention.

What Tie Knots Are Best for a Funeral? 

Again, this question is difficult to answer. While some would say that a full Windsor is an appropriate knot to choose for formal occasions, the real answer is more complicated than that. The type of knot should be determined by the weight of the fabric of the tie and the kind of shirt collar that is being worn.

The Art of Manliness website advises that a full Windsor is best for a tie made of heavy material. It also looks better with wider-spread collars. 

On the other hand, the half Windsor is appropriate for lighter fabrics, broader ties, and standard collars. 

What Are the Most Important Things to Consider When Attending a Funeral? 

Don’t let the lack of a suit and/or tie keep you from attending a funeral. If you want to pay your respects to someone who died, you should go to the funeral whether you have a suit or not. The people you’re consoling will have gone through one of the worst weeks of their lives. They may be hanging on by a thread and more than likely won’t notice what you are wearing. (For a guide on what to wear if you don’t have a suit, check out this article.) 

Whatever you wear, make sure it is clean and pressed. Whether this is a dark suit with a white pocket square or a pair of jeans, your clothing should be neat. Present yourself as best as you can as a sign of respect for the family and the deceased.

Finally, behaving appropriately at a funeral may be more important than what you wear. Show up a few minutes before the funeral begins. Avoid boisterous behavior and loud conversations. While it is reasonable to be sad at a funeral, make sure your crying is not loud enough to disrupt those sitting around you from hearing the service. Also, make sure your phone is on silent and leave it in your pocket during the funeral. 

While these are all essential things to consider, one of the best things you can do for someone who has lost a mother, son, or grandfather, is to share your good memories of the deceased with the family members. They want to know that their loved one’s life made a difference in the world. Share your funny stories or tell the family members how their loved one helped you during a difficult time in your life. Your stories will be more memorable than what you wore to the funeral.


Sources

  1. “How to Tie a Tie.” The Art of Manliness. www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-tie-a-tie/
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