Since most people don’t attend many funerals, it’s normal to feel a bit intimidated about what to wear. The appropriate dress code might change depending on the particular family’s wishes as well as the time of year. If you’re wondering what to wear to a funeral in the summertime, it might be even more confusing since you don’t want to feel too hot.
If the funeral takes place outdoors, you’ll want to make sure you stay cool and comfortable while paying your respects. A proper part of funeral etiquette is dressing conservatively, but how do you balance that with the weather?
You likely don’t want to wear a heavy suit or constricting blouse if the temperature is skyrocketing. What are funeral-goers to do about their attire? These 12 quick tips will help you learn exactly just what to wear to a summer funeral.
COVID-19 tip: If you're attending or planning a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, wear your normal funeral attire (including the top and bottom half of your body) 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.
1. Consider Short Sleeves
The first tip is to skip long-sleeves altogether. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear short sleeve clothing to a funeral, especially if it’s in the summertime. This isn’t a time to dress too casually (unless instructed otherwise), but there are a lot of easy short-sleeve outfits that look great.
Men could easily don a short sleeve button up or polo shirt, and women could wear a short-sleeve blouse or a short-sleeve dress. Look for styles of clothing that feel appropriate for both the weather and the occasion.
2. Avoid Tight Clothing
Nothing is worse than wearing tight clothing when you’re sweating. Constrictive, tight clothing might be fine in the colder months when you’re trying to layer warm clothes, it’s downright uncomfortable in the heat. Loose-fitting clothing is less restrictive, and you’ll feel a lot more comfortable.
This is especially true if you know you’ll be sitting in the same place for a while. For example, a church funeral in tight clothing could quickly feel like a nightmare. It’s okay to prioritize your comfort.
3. Choose a Cool Fabric
Some fabrics are better than others when it comes to staying cool in the summer. The best choices are linen, chambray, and cotton.
Natural materials are always more breathable than synthetics like polyester, denim, and nylon. These materials might be easy to find, but they’ll also trap heat close to your body.
4. Pay Attention to Length
When it comes to dresses and skirts, pay close attention to the length. It’s usually not appropriate to wear a dress or skirt that falls above the knee. Look for knee-length or longer, if possible.
The same goes for pants and shorts. While you might be able to get away with wearing shorts at a funeral, especially if it’s outdoors, ensure the length is appropriate. When in doubt, everything should fall at least to your knees.
5. Avoid Athletic Clothes
While you might be tempted to wear athletic clothes, especially if it’s a hot day, avoid this fashion faux pas. Athletic wear, tank tops, and undershirts are not appropriate for funeral or wake attire.
The only exception to this is if you’re participating in an athletic event for a celebration of life or another unique memorial service. Otherwise, leave your athleticwear at home.
6. Stick to Neutral Colors
It’s becoming more common for people to wear all types of colors to funerals. Some funerals invite guests to wear a particular color or pattern in honor of the deceased, and others leave it up to the guest to decide.
When in doubt, however, avoid bright colors. These flashy prints and colors are a distraction, taking attention away from the deceased.
While you don’t need to feel pressured to strictly wear black, especially with hot weather, it’s best to be respectful. Wearing neutral colors like gray, navy, white, and beige is always a good idea.
However, pay attention to any cultural expectations, as some cultures use different colors in funeral services.
7. Wear a Hat
Some religions require head coverings at funeral services, but this isn’t always the case. However, if you know the ceremony will be outside or by the grave, consider wearing a hat.
While this is not a strict dress-code requirement (unless stated otherwise), a hat protects you from the harsh summer sun.
When choosing a hat, remember to be conservative. This isn’t the time to pull out your favorite beach hat. Instead, choose something simple and appropriate, avoiding a baseball cap or anything too informal.
8. Wear Appropriate Footwear
Pay attention to the funeral setting to make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for the occasion. Unless the event is hosted on a beach, you should never wear flip flops.
Similarly, leave your running shoes and slippers at home. Men should also avoid open-toed shoes or sandals.
For women, it might be appropriate to wear open-toed sandals as long as they’re dressy and in good condition. If there will be a lot of outdoor walking, women should steer clear of heels or other shoes that don’t lend themselves to walking on grass, gravel, or stones.
9. Keep Accessories Minimal
Not only is wearing too many large, bulky accessories uncomfortable in hot weather, but this isn’t appropriate for a funeral. It’s best to keep your outfit and accessories minimal.
Simple is always best. You can show off your personal style without distracting other guests.
10. Use the Job Interview Test
The job interview test is a great way to make sure you’re wearing the right clothes to a funeral. Simply ask yourself if what you’re wearing would be fitting for a job interview.
As long as it’s in a neutral color and it’s something you would wear in a professional setting, it’s probably a good fit for a funeral as well. However, if this isn’t something you would wear to a job interview, consider switching things up.
11. Dress Down for Visitation
If there is a visitation or calling hours for the family, the dress code is typically less conservative for this. Since you’ll be visiting the family in a casual setting (usually their home), it’s not as important to stick to the strict guidelines of funeral attire.
However, since you want to be respectful, dress a bit on the conservative side. It’s okay if you come directly from work in your work attire or if you wear jeans. The visitation is all about supporting the family, so don’t let your dress code get in the way.
12. Ask the Family
Last but not least, don’t feel afraid to ask the family. If you’re not sure where the funeral service is going to be or what to wear, ask the family. This provides the most clarity about what you can expect from the service. From there, you’ll feel more prepared to create an outfit that’s respectful and appropriate.
If you don’t feel comfortable calling the family who lost the loved one directly, call another friend or family who is attending. Ask what they’re planning to wear for more context. Last but not least, you could also contact the funeral home or the place of service to see what they recommend.
At the end of the day, you’re attending the funeral to support the family. What you're wearing is not the most important part of the day.
Preparing for a Summer Funeral
While knowing what to wear to a funeral is never easy, it’s especially difficult in the summertime. As the weather warms up, you want to ensure you’re comfortable during the service so you can focus on remembering and honoring the deceased. The last thing you want is to feel out of place thanks to what you wear.
Luckily, if you follow these 12 tips above, you’ll find the perfect outfit for your summer funeral. Don’t feel pressured to wear black, constricting clothing, or long sleeves if that’s not a good fit for the weather. This will only distract you from the real focus of the service.
Have you given much thought to what you want people to wear to your own funeral? Start end-of-life planning for yourself to begin crafting your own legacy. Whether you expect casual or conservative clothes, the choice is yours.
If you're looking for more advice, read our guide on kid and baby funeral attire.