Navigating the etiquette surrounding a funeral and mourning can be difficult, and answering simple questions like what to wear can cause a lot of confusion. Your main goal should be to show respect to the family and the deceased by wearing something appropriate. If you’re wondering what to wear to a wake, we’ve put together a few guidelines to help you along.

What is a wake?

First, let’s define what exactly a wake is. Wakes are similar to funerals but are usually focused on visiting with the family. They are generally more casual and interactive than funerals, which are more structured around certain rituals. Many families will have both a wake and a funeral, with the wake taking place the day before the funeral service.

What should I wear?

  1. Wear low-key colors. You don’t have to wear black but a wake isn’t the place to wear your leopard print blouse or salmon colored khakis. Stick with neutral colors like navy, grey and dark green.
  2. Keep your accessories simple. Your accessories should be simple and neutral. Real Simple suggests simple pearl accessories and stud earrings for a wake.
  3. Keep patterns simple. You can wear a shirt or dress with a pattern, just make sure it is subdued.
  4. Don’t go too casual. Avoid wearing casual clothes like t-shirts and jeans. Business casual is typically acceptable.
  5. Stay away from festive or fun attire. Sometimes families choose to encourage celebration of their loved one’s life at the wake. If that is the case, wearing festive clothing is totally acceptable. On the other hand, if you haven’t been given this specific guidance, stay away from bright, festive clothing, as it may come off as disrespectful to the family and the deceased.

What to wear to a wake? Be respectful.

The most important consideration when you’re choosing what to wear to a wake is respecting the deceased and their family. You don’t want to try and draw attention to yourself; this event isn’t about you. Overall, your attire at a wake should be subdued, avoiding flamboyant colors or patterns, and should be at least business casual in the level of formality.

 

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