Social pressure to conform keeps most of us wearing clothing that won’t draw too much attention. We want to be seen for who we are and not only for what we wear. However, some events make us think more than twice about what to wear. Let’s look at common-sense funeral dress guidelines for North Carolina.

Funeral Expectations

We live in the 2020s. Wearing funky hair, unusual jewelry, stand-out clothes, piercings, or tattoo sleeves is standard these days. Expressing your style through decoration can be a beautiful way to let others see your artistic eye.

However, there is a time and place for standing out. You give a kind and caring gesture to the family when you let your own personal style take a backseat to the feelings of those around you. Considering how others will dress for a funeral can help you blend in and not draw extreme attention to yourself. 

There is no need to change your personal style, but toning down extremes can help keep the focus on the family.

A Funeral is For The Family

A funeral is not for the deceased but their loved ones. The family and friends gather as one to mourn their loss and feel less alone. The death of a close family member or friend is devastating, and the inner circle who has lost a dear loved one needs this mourning time together. These overwhelming feelings of loss need a voice and a place to grieve. 

The focus is remembering the life this person lived. 

  • Who did their life touch? 
  • How did they make others feel? 
  • How do others miss this person?
  • What memories stand out to their loved ones? 

However, when you try to stand out as a guest of a funeral or memorial service, you place the focus on yourself instead of where it belongs. Most everyone understands that we each have a personal style. In addition, each funeral will have its own cultural context. 

However, trying to grab attention for yourself at a funeral is not kind to the family and friends of the deceased.

Guideline #1: Wear subdued styles that don’t scream “Look at me!” 

New Influx of Styles

Wake County is developing faster than the natives can keep up. With 1 million residents now, we are growing an average of 64 people each day. In the last four years, we’ve grown 100,000 people, and projections predict 2 million residents by 2054. (1)

With the influx of people with new cultural biases about dress styles, many different religious factors may influence memorial and funeral dress choices:

  • Hindu families generally wear white, casual clothing that is not flashy or showy
  • Buddhist funeral-goers may have other ideas. “Japanese Buddhist mourners wear black but others may wear white. In any case, bright colors are not appropriate, and neither is a display of wealth in the choice of clothing.” (2)
  • Christian or Catholic families and mourners often wear black or darker colored clothing
  • Orthodox Jewish “proper attire for a funeral is a dress for women and a coat and tie for men. It is generally customary for men to wear a head covering, called a kippah or yarmulke, during a funeral and burial. In some liberal congregations, this applies to both men and women; in others, head coverings are rare even for men… [However], these days, women also come to funerals in any dark business attire outfit, including a pants suit.” (3)
  • Islamic faiths may generally expect women to wear modest clothing such as a “headscarf, an ankle-length skirt, and a shirt with long sleeves and a high neck. Everyone should wear clean socks” since you will remove shoes before prayer. (4)

If unsure what to wear to a religious service, ask someone close to the family. Blending in with the religious dress of the rest of the funeral-goers may help you feel more comfortable while there.

Rule #2: Consider the family. What would they deem appropriate dress for the memorial or funeral service?

Cultural Dress

Most cultures have general ways that people dress. If you’d like to blend in at a funeral service, consider the family’s cultural beliefs. Even at a religiously unaffiliated memorial service, there may be cultural traditions that the family sees as necessary.

  • A family with Mexican heritage may dress in cultural styles that honor their ancestry. The dress style may relate back to their country of origin.
  • A Raleigh city memorial service held at 7 pm in a hotel may look more upscale than a church funeral held at 2 pm in a neighboring rural county. 

You don’t want the focus drawn to you at a funeral. If you don’t want to take attention away from where it belongs, wear traditional type dress for the family’s culture. If your clothing is appropriate, the focus stays with the deceased’s family.

Rule #3: Wear culturally appropriate dress

Let’s Talk Style Points

Let’s face it—the material and color of clothes matter. Modest dresses in darker colors are almost always a good choice. Adding a slip can also smooth a dress out. However, in today’s world, a slip is not considered necessary at most any service.

Subdued colors usually work well for a funeral. Black is a good choice, as are navy, mahogany, deep royal, or other subdued colors. If you must wear a lighter color, stay away from bright or vibrant hues (unless they are culturally appropriate for the service you plan to attend.)

Rule #4: Consider the color of your dress.

Summing It Up

Dressing for a funeral is all about blending with the other guests. The focus should not be on clothing but instead on remembering the deceased and drawing strength from each other to move forward with hope.

Loving others well involves considering their feelings. Choosing your style of dress for a funeral is about more than personal style. It is about showing consideration for others’ beliefs and traditions.

We Can Help

If you plan to attend a funeral or memorial service and feel unsure what to expect, give us a call at Renaissance Funeral Home. Our funeral services include every type of culture, religion, race, and background. We can provide you with insight into what kind of funeral dress would help you feel comfortable. We can help you blend in at any type of service. 

At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we create memorable events to help families grieve the loss of loved ones. We help individuals pre-plan for their future and assist families with the enormous amount of planning and other preparations when a loved one passes away.  However, our heart lies in helping you mourn together and feel less alone in your grief journey. Contact us today and find out how we can help you and your family plan.



    1. Growth – WakeUP Wake County
    2. Buddhist Funeral Traditions – Burial Rites & Etiquette
    3. Jewish Funerals: What to Expect When You Go
    4. Islamic Funeral Guide: Etiquette, Rites, & Traditions