What to Wear to a Memorial Service for Men

black suit at memorial service

Dressing properly on any occasion is important, especially when you plan to attend someone’s wake, funeral, or memorial service. In these events, showing off isn’t necessary, and wearing the right type of clothes is top priority. These somber events are where you need to blend into the crowd and show sympathy in silence. 

Appropriate attire means respect and honor not only to the deceased but for the family as well. When choosing what to wear to a memorial service, it’s always safe to dress simply with subdued tones and understated designs. Remember to consider your appearance as it may look over-the-top, center-of-attention, or even offensive.

There are lots of things you need to consider before going to funerals and one of these is following the dress code. Most memorial services are traditional, while some are personalized. Whatever it may be, what matters is that you offer your utmost comfort and support to the family, relatives, and friends that are left behind. 

Appropriate Outfits to Wear to a Memorial Service for Men

Two-Piece Suit

The most common funeral outfit for men is a two-piece black suit. This is a go-to option for guys that looks presentable and isn’t a scene-maker. Add a nice dark-colored tie and handkerchief with a light shirt underneath to make the whole look subtle. But don’t limit yourself to a black suit, try other colors such as gray, blue, and other neutral colors to bring your style. Just make sure to avoid bold colors like red, orange, yellow, or anything that will generate attention from the ceremony.

Dress Shirt & Tie

If you want to go lightly formal, wear a dress shirt with a tie and leave the suit jacket or blazer off. This works best during summer when it’s too hot for a suit. A white dress shirt with a dark-colored tie still looks far from casual. Mix up your style by pairing it with a sportscoat for something a bit dressier.

Shirt, Sweater, & Tie

For funerals that take place in the winter, play with your outfit by layering a sweater over your dress shirt and tie. Choose a dark-colored and minimal design sweater to help you keep warm while still looking put together. Aside from a sweater, a plain cardigan is also a great alternative. Although it may seem a bit casual for the occasion, it’s still appropriate for memorial service or wake and viewing. 

Dress Pants

As much as you want to wear your favorite pair of jeans or shorts, wearing these to a memorial service is a big no. There are no better pants to wear during this occasion than tailored dress pants. In terms of color, black is always safe if you aim for a modest and respectful feel. And as always, avoid using flashy and showy colors or fabrics. The event isn’t about you… thankfully.

Dress Shoes

Among all dress shoes, a pair of Oxfords has the highest quality and is compatible with formal occasions. And for sure, you already own a pair of these shoes due to their classy and stylish design that fits all styles. They may not be the most comfortable shoes, but they’re the best for a funeral. Don’t think about wearing decorative shoes like brogues, wingtips, and derby shoes unless they fit the occasion.

Things to Consider When Choosing Appropriate Outfits to Wear to a Memorial Service for Men

Determining The Kind of Memorial Service You’re Attending

Before picking what you’ll wear to a funeral, you should know what kind of service is being held. Guest’s attire in a traditional memorial service is different than in a life celebration ceremony or what the family’s request is. 

In a typical memorial service, where the feeling of loss is intense, wearing a black suit and tie with white dress shirt is the most appropriate choice. However, as mentioned, you can always try other neutral-colored suits and stay away from bright-colored or crazy-patterned suit that will make you stand out from the crowd. 

On the other hand, a life celebration ceremony, which usually takes place a month after the death of the person, wearing a full suit is a little too much. Since it is more focused on celebrating the life of the person, wearing less formal attire is widely acceptable. Therefore, this occasion allows you to dress in a clean white shirt, dress pants, and some nice dress shoes.

Lastly, in some cases, the family of the deceased chooses the type of attire they want in a memorial service like wearing the person’s favorite color. You must look at the invitation first so you can have an idea of what to wear on that specific day. But if you’re clueless, don’t be afraid to ask the family of the deceased to make sure you’re on the right track.

Knowing the Cultural Tradition of the Deceased and the Family

Another important thing to consider before thinking about what to wear to a memorial service or funeral is the cultural tradition of the deceased and the family. There are different cultures with distinct traditions about the wake, funeral, or memorial service. 

In the West, it’s common to wear a black and dark-colored suit. Some cultures, like Hindu, accept wearing casual white clothing to a funeral. They believe that the color white symbolizes purity, while black represents disrespect to the deceased. Also, instead of wearing formal dress shoes, Hindus prefer sandals so they can easily take them off at the temple to pray during memorial services. 

Chinese mourners refuse to wear red clothing, red shoes, red bags, and anything red as it signifies happiness. Failure to do so could mean rudeness and is considered highly offensive to the deceased and the family. This shows how important to first know the cultural tradition of the deceased and the family before attending the funeral. 

Considering the Weather and Where the Memorial Service Takes Place

Aside from determining the kind of memorial service you’re attending and knowing the cultural traditions of the deceased and the family, it is also equally important to consider the weather. For sure, you don’t want to be caught in a full suit on a summer day or lightweight clothing in the winter. 

When the funeral happens during summertime, it’s best to wear light and comfy clothing while keeping neutral and subdued colors. Choose fabrics that are breathable such as cotton and linen to keep you cool for long hours. You can add a pair of sunglasses to block the sun or carry an umbrella just in case the heat is unbearable. 

Likewise, in the winter, layering wisely can make your outfit both stylish and suitable for the weather. A classic wool coat, preferably in black or dark colors, finishes the look. But if you don’t have a winter coat, a solid-color coat is the next great choice. Whatever you wear, make sure that it is conservative enough to show respect to the deceased and the family. 

Tips and Etiquettes to a Memorial Service

Do’s

  • Do dress appropriately, respectfully, and conservatively for the occasion. 
  • Do wear black or neutral and subtle colors.
  • Do wear business-casual attire.
  • Do wear dark-colored dress pants, tie, socks, shoes, and coats or jackets.
  • Do wear minimum neutral-colored accessories.
  • Do cover up tattoos that might be offensive to other cultures and beliefs.
  • Do consider other religious practices and act accordingly.
  • Do show nice gestures and compassion to the family.
  • Do take some time for reflection and pay tribute to the deceased.

Don’ts

  • Don’t wear revealing, casual, and bright-colored or overly-printed outfits.
  • Don’t wear excessive jewelry that becomes flashy and noisy.
  • Don’t wear perfumes that are too strong and distracting.
  • Don’t dress with printed images, logos, or funny quotes that call attention.
  • Don’t dress provocatively in unbuttoned shirts or tight-fitting clothes.
  • Don’t dress in jeans or other denim pants.
  • Don’t just sit anywhere you like and be cautious of the people around you.
  • Don’t be late to the venue.
  • Don’t document or post on social media everything that happens in the memorial service or funeral.
  • Don’t argue with someone’s religions, cultures, and opinions, or beliefs.

Conclusion

If you are confused about the proper outfits for a wake, funeral, and memorial service, just simply pick clothes that you would wear for an interview or any business-related events. For men, a black three-piece or two-piece black suit is safe for this occasion. Remember that such events are composed of different people with their cultural traditions so it helps to be open-minded in all aspects. Don’t create anything that will create a scene or drama in an already intense situation. 

Overall, above the proper attire, what matters most is the respect, comfort, and support you show to the deceased and the family. Showing up with small gifts such as flowers, cards, or food platters are highly appreciated. But being present in these hard times is what the family will remember forever.

Jonathan B. Delfs

I love to write about men's lifestyle and fashion. Unique tips and inspiration for daily outfits and other occasions are what we like to give you at addtostyle.com. Do you have any notes or feedback, please write to me directly: jonathan@addtostyle.com

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