What Should You Wear to an Online or Virtual Funeral?

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Online or virtual funerals are becoming more common. Not only are these practical and affordable, but they’re an opportunity for everyone to join in saying their final goodbyes. 

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If you’re planning a virtual funeral yourself, you might have a lot of questions about what to expect. How does proper funeral etiquette apply over Zoom or another virtual streaming tool? It’s important to pay your respects no matter the medium of the funeral.

Because virtual or online funerals are a new concept, it’s normal to be a bit intimidated. In this guide, we’ll share what you should wear to an online or virtual funeral. Though you might be familiar with the typical dress code for an in-person ceremony, do the same rules apply online? The reality isn’t so black-and-white.  

What Is an Online Funeral?

First, let’s briefly explain what online funerals are. Also known as virtual funerals or Zoom funerals, an online funeral is a memorial service that’s held over the internet. It’s typically streamed live, either with all or some of the guests joining virtually. 

These funerals use a streaming or videoconferencing service like Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on to allow participants and guests to see the service. Services like GatheringUs help you plan, put together, and host a virtual funeral if you have more than just a few guests, which can be complicated to do on your own. Guests are typically shown on video using their home device’s webcam. 

An online funeral isn’t all that different from a workplace video call or virtual get-together you might have with your friends. The key difference is that this is an opportunity to offer online condolences and honor someone’s life. 

If you’re tuning in for an online funeral, whether it’s for a close loved one or to support someone else, you’ll want to be just as respectful as if you’d be in-person. Because more people are going digital with their funerals than ever before, now is the time to prepare yourself with what’s appropriate dress for an online funeral. 

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What’s Appropriate Attire for an Online Funeral?

Traditionally, there’s not much variation in what to wear to a funeral. Most cultures around the world suggest wearing black, which is seen as the color of mourning. However, times are changing, and the rigid etiquette of the past no longer applies.

In general, you’ll want to make sure your online funeral attire meets all of the following criteria:

  • Respectful: This is the most important factor. You want to show respect and care for the deceased and the bereaved family, so make sure you’re being respectful of your dress. 
  • Conservative: An online funeral also calls for conservative dress. Nothing flashy or overly revealing should be worn. 
  • Somewhat formal: You can get away with being a bit less formal at an online funeral vs. in-person, but you should still wear nicer clothing. 
  • Neutral: Unless requested otherwise, wear neutral clothing that’s not excessively bright or flashy. 

It’s important to remember that you want your clothing to blend in. You don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention. The focus during the service should be on the deceased and anyone who is speaking. Because an online funeral already poses unique distractions, you want to make sure you’re not adding to this distraction. 

How much of your outfit is visible?

How much of your body will be visible during the online call? It’s worth setting up your webcam to determine just how much of your body/outfit will be visible during the virtual funeral. If only your torso or upper half is going to be on camera, you don’t need to pay much attention to your lower half. 

On the other hand, if you’ll be standing or moving around during the service, you should consider your full outfit. Remember that you might need to get up unexpectedly during the funeral, and you don’t want the guests to spot you in your favorite sweatpants. When in doubt, dress fully for the occasion. 

What specifically should you wear?

While your main focus should be on your upper half since this will be primarily in the frame, consider wearing a full outfit to reflect the occasion. For women, it’s common to wear a dark or black skirt or pantsuit. You could pair this with a blouse, sweater, or button-down top. You might also choose to wear a neutral-colored dress. 

Men usually wear a white or solid-colored shirt with a subdued tie. This could be paired with a dark jacket or suit and dark pants. The shirt should be long-sleeved. For both men and women, there isn’t much need to wear any particular shoes since these will likely not be in the frame. 

What Clothes Should You Avoid at an Online Funeral?

Unless specifically requested to wear something bright, avoid flashy, bright clothes for an online funeral. Similarly, avoid wearing any strange patterns that might show up strangely on screen. These patterns might seem perfectly normal in real-life, but webcams have a way of distorting them over the live stream. 

In addition, pay close attention to the neckline of shirts. You’ll want something with a good balance of skin and fabric. Wearing a turtleneck or something that goes too high on your neck could have the “floating head” appearance on the webcam. Similarly, any necklines that start below the camera view could give the wrong impression. 

Finally, consider your shirt’s fabric. Anything too shiny or sheer might seem fine in-person, but this material might show differently on camera. When in doubt, test the appearance of clothing by setting up your camera and seeing what it looks like yourself. 

More Tips for Getting Dressed for an Online Funeral

Getting dressed for an online funeral isn’t all that different from preparing for a work call, job interview, or even an informal hang out online with friends. 

You’ll want to make sure you’re presenting yourself at your best, so follow these tips below about getting dressed for an online funeral. 

Less is more with accessories

While accessories are a great way to show your personal style and look put-together, don’t overdo it. Shapes and materials can appear differently on camera, plus you don’t want to draw too much attention with flashy jewelry or other extras. 

Test different lighting

If you’re going to be speaking at this online funeral, it might be worth trying different lighting options. Different screen brightnesses could make it hard for guests to see you if you’re not careful.

There are small ring lights designed to improve your lighting quality, but you can even use lights you already have around your house. Make sure you’re not too bright or covered in shadows before you jump on the funeral call. 

A bit of makeup can help

While you shouldn’t feel any pressure to wear makeup to an online funeral, a bit of color can go a long way. If you’re using any additional lighting, it’s possible your face will appear washed out. Blush, mascara, and lip balm will help bring that lively look back to your natural face. 

Don’t blend into your background

In addition to lighting, consider your background. While most people won’t be paying close attention to the room behind you, it’s important that your clothing doesn’t blend into the background. 

Light-colored clothing can blend right into beige or white walls, and you might find yourself suffering from the dreaded “floating head” syndrome. Consider the background you’ll have and how you can dress appropriately. 

Finishing touches

Last but not least, when dressing for a virtual funeral, be sure to pay attention to finishing touches. While it might not seem necessary compared to an in-person service, you should still iron your clothes, fix your hair, and make sure you look put-together and ready for the video call. 

The way you dress and present yourself on this virtual funeral call matters. It’s a way to honor the deceased and the bereaved, and it shows you take this occasion seriously. 

Prepare for an Online Funeral

Knowing how to dress for a funeral is difficult enough, but an online funeral adds even more confusion. While it’s no longer required for you to wear black, you should still dress appropriately. As virtual funerals continue to become the new normal, learning how to dress and present yourself well is key for putting your best (virtual) foot forward.

Knowing which clothes present the best on camera as well as how to style yourself appropriately makes all the difference. It shows the family that you’re engaged and invested in this final farewell. Though you might not be able to support your loved ones in-person, you can still “show up” online when it matters most. 

If you're looking for more on funeral etiquette, read our guides on funeral photo etiquette and funeral flower etiquette.

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