You have a funeral coming up, and you’re frantically searching your closet for something to wear. While most men choose to wear a suit to funerals, what do you do if you don’t currently have a suit? Or if your suit is the wrong color? This is a problem that a lot of people struggle with. Knowing what to wear to a funeral is often very complex, and the answer isn’t always straightforward.
Because most people don’t attend funerals often, it’s not always clear what to wear. Is it okay not to wear a suit? What do you do if you don’t own any black clothing that fits the bill?
If you’re asking the dreaded “what should I wear” question, here are 13 things men can wear to a funeral if they don’t have a suit. Hint: it’s not as stressful as it sounds!
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.
1. Look for Neutral Colors
If you do have a suit, but it’s not black, you might be in the clear. It’s becoming less common to wear black as part of funeral etiquette. That being said, most of the time you should wear neutral colors unless instructed otherwise.
If you have a suit that’s grey, navy, dark green, brown, or another neutral color, it’s most likely appropriate to wear to a funeral. In addition, during the summer months, you might be able to get away with lighter colored suits, especially if it’s an outdoor service.
2. Dress Pants and Dress Shirt
You don’t need to wear a suit to a funeral. This is a common misconception, but you can actually wear a variety of formal clothing as a man. Wearing dark dress pants or slacks is very appropriate.
Pair your dress pants with a dress shirt, preferably a button-down. Long-sleeves are usually the norm unless the funeral is outdoors in the summertime. The slacks should be neutral colored or black, and your dress shirt should be white or another complimentary color.
3. Add a Simple Tie
If you feel like your clothing isn’t upscale enough for the occasion, accessorize. Adding a tie is a great way to take dress pants and a button-down up a level.
Just make sure your tie is simple. Avoid any loud patterns or bright colors. Again, a neutral color is best.
4. Wear Dress Shoes
Shoes do a lot for an outfit. Again, you might need to dress up your slacks and button-down, and shoes are a great way to do this. You should never wear sandals, flip-flops, or sneakers to a funeral unless instructed otherwise.
The best dress shoes are wingtips, loafers, or oxfords. Make sure they’re in good shape and that they’re clean. Black or brown are the best colors.
5. Consider the Weather
If the funeral is outdoors or during the summer months, you might not be expected to wear a suit at all. Many summer funerals are much more casual, especially if there’s an outdoor or graveside service.
Always consider the weather when choosing what to wear. Wearing short sleeves, such as a polo shirt or short-sleeve button-up, are very common in the summer. While you shouldn’t wear shorts, it might be appropriate to wear lighter pants such as chinos or linen dress pants.
6. Go Thrift Shopping
If you must wear a suit to the funeral, you don’t have to buy out at full-price. These can cost thousands of dollars, and this isn’t likely to be an outfit you wear often. Luckily, many local thrift stores have sections with dress attire, including full suits and blazers.
To make sure your suit looks its best, have it professionally dry cleaned and tailored to your body shape. These small details aren’t expensive, but they make a big difference.
7. Borrow a Suit
Do you have a family member or friend who’s similar to your size? If so, a simple solution is to borrow a suit from someone you know.
This is a great idea if they’re not attending the funeral or if they happen to have more than one formalwear option in their wardrobe.
8. Rent a Suit
A lot of men choose to rent a suit on formal occasions from a rental outlet. These places specialize in one-time wear clothing that’s high-quality and affordable. If you don’t anticipate needing your suit for more than the funeral, this is a money-saving alternative.
At a suit rental outlet, you’re sized for a suit by a professional. From there, you can rent the suit for a specific period of time for a fraction of the cost of a new suit. In addition, these outlets are a strong resource for finding help with what to wear to a funeral.
9. Attend the Wake
If you’re not particularly close to the deceased, but you’d like to pay respects, consider skipping the funeral. Instead, attend the wake or family visitation. More and more families are keeping the actual funeral a small, intimate affair to keep costs low.
The wake is a great way to show your respects without the same formal wardrobe. Wake attire is less formal, and it’s more appropriate to wear clothes you already have around your house.
10. Use Outerwear
An alternative to a suit is to wear different types of outerwear. While this depends on the weather, you might be able to wear a simple coat or jacket. Many of these options are not only appropriate for colder, rainy clients, but they can add a level of sophistication to your outfit.
Wearing these over a white shirt or sweater gives the appearance of looking very put together, even if you’re not in a traditional suit. Depending on the service, however, you may need to remove your outerwear at some point.
11. Wear a Cardigan or Vest
If you don’t have a blazer and it’s not cold enough for formal outerwear, you could wear a cardigan or a vest. These come in a variety of styles, and it’s easy to find one that’s sophisticated enough for a funeral service.
Not only are these more comfortable, but they’re easy to pair with a plain button-down or collared shirt. You don’t have to be over-the-top dressy to look conservative and appropriate for a funeral service.
12. Tidy Your Appearance
While it doesn’t always matter what you wear, it does matter that you look put together and presentable. It’s important to arrive at the serve clean and ready.
Your clothing, whatever you choose to wear, should be conservative, clean, and wrinkle-free. If possible, iron or steam your outfit the day before so it looks its best. In addition, style your hair and groom yourself so you look presentable.
This little bit of effort goes a long way to showing the family you care about being there this important day.
13. Remember What Really Matters
Finally, remember that it doesn’t matter what you wear. At the end of the day, attending a funeral isn’t a fashion show. This is a chance to pay your respects to the deceased and his or her family. Most people won’t remember what you’re wearing, so don’t let your wardrobe keep you from attending a funeral.
Unlike other formal events like weddings or celebrations, there isn’t much time to plan in advance. The family will understand if you’re caught off guard and might not have a suit ready and available. Your clothing doesn’t need to be perfect.
Be Mindful of Your Funeral Attire
It’s important to be mindful of what you wear to a funeral, but not in the way you think. While it’s easy to put pressure on wearing a suit or formal clothing, that’s not what really matters.
What really matters is that you take the time to consider how to respect the family on this difficult occasion. Whether that means you wear dress pants and a formal shirt or whatever you can borrow is not the important thing.
It’s okay if you don’t have a suit to wear to the funeral. As you can see from the tips above, there are a lot of alternative options that work just as well. In addition, times are changing. It’s less expected to wear a formal suit to a funeral nowadays, so don’t let the stress of finding the “perfect” outfit keep you from attending.
What do you want guests to wear to your funeral? This is one of the many questions you can answer when you start end-of-life planning. The more preparation you can do for your own funeral, the better equipped your family will be for this challenge. And if you're planning a funeral or managing end-of-life details after the death of a loved one, our post-loss checklist may be able to help.