What to Wear to a Wake

Most of us will sometimes have to go to a funeral, visitation, or wake. And because it’s not something that happens every day, many folks want to know when to show up there, how to dress, and other proper etiquette allowed.

If you’re stranded on what to wear to a wake, don’t worry. We’ve got your back. We will cover comprehensively what you should wear and what’s not allowed.

Difference between a wake and a funeral

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different. A wake is a gathering for loved ones to pay their respects to the deceased before the burial service the following day. To receive condolences from mourners, the surviving spouse, children, parents, and siblings form a receiving line.

Funerals are often held with a religious component to celebrate the dead’s life. At the funeral, loved ones can say their last farewells to the deceased. As a community, the congregation can comfort one another in their grief and remember the dead at the funeral ceremony. The funeral ceremony is typically held the day after the wake. Having a sense of what to expect at a wake and a funeral can help you be there for the family in the best way possible.

Related: What to Wear to a Funeral

Dress Code Requirements for Men and Women

It’s not always easy to decide what to wear for a wake. Dress respectfully and modestly, you don’t want to bring unwanted attention to yourself. The awareness of those present should be directed toward the wake, not your attire.

Wakes at funeral homes are typically more solemn than those at homes or other venues. Commonly, wakes are held in a slightly more casual setting than funerals. Your choice of attire may also be influenced by the nature of your relationship to the departed and the person they were in life. You should wear something clean and acceptable to the wake, but make sure it is comfortable.

The gathering offers a chance to share in the sorrow of the bereaved. That should be the focus, not your clothing. Families often provide suggestions on appropriate attire at wakes. The relatives of the deceased may specify the outfit for a wake held at a local restaurant, such as sportswear or t-shirts with sayings that reflect the dead’s interests.

Another possible exception is where guests are encouraged to wear something other than black. Be mindful of these requests and follow the theme provided if available. Comply with the family’s wishes if they provide any ideas or recommendations.

Related: Respectful Wake Attire Ideas For Women

Acceptable Outfits for Men to a Wake

1. Formal Look

The standard black suit, white shirt, and dark tie is the most common wake outfit. Suit possibilities also include charcoal, dark gray, and navy. A dark sweater or button-down shirt will do without a suitable suit jacket. Ensure that your garments are freshly laundered, pressed, and wrinkle-free.

Make an effort to wear well-fitting outfits. You should avoid wearing a baggy suit or highly tight pants. Wear a long black or dark dress coat to keep warm in the wake if it is held in the winter. If it’s chilly and you have to stroll, keep your hands warm with a pair of dark leather gloves and a black scarf. A black umbrella could come in handy if it’s raining, snowing, or the ground is ice. Don’t cover your head in public with a hat; it’s considered rude.

2. Wear Dark Colors

Selecting mournful, dark shades can help you express your sorrow and fit along with the funeral’s solemn atmosphere. The most acceptable colors to wear are black, navy, dark gray, and charcoal; these are acceptable anywhere. If you wear a suit jacket, stick to solid colors. Wearing a tie? Dark blues, reds, and greens are great options. A patterned tie can be worn if the pattern is subtle and the colors are subdued.

A white button-down shirt is a classic complement to a suit. Make sure the white shirt is not worn or discolored since this can make you appear unprofessional and could be taken the wrong way.

3. Complement with Dress Shoes

You should always wear dress shoes at a wake, no matter the location. Black oxfords are always a good choice, but monk straps, cap toes, and wingtips are also very nice. Wear something dark and neutral, and make sure it’s shiny before the wake. It would help if you paired your shoes with black socks and your belt with a buckle that matches your shoes.

4. Modest Accessories

The right accessory may often make an outfit pop, but remember to keep it under control. It’s inappropriate to wear a necklace in a wake unless it’s a religious symbol. Jewelry, including rings, should be elegant and not exaggerated. If you must wear sunglasses, stick with the dark, solid frames.

What to Avoid

1. Avoid flashy jewelry and belts

Excessive or ostentatious ornamentation is unsuitable. When accessorizing, less is more. Don’t use any extraneous jewelry or accessories that might make you stand out. Don’t accessorize with oversized jewelry, pocket scarves, or sunglasses. You should also avoid wearing any items that produce noise when you move.

2. Boots and sandals

No sandals, sneakers, boots, or flip-flops allowed. Don’t bring anything you might wear on a day off, to the beach, or to the gym. You should wear polished dress shoes if you want to fit in.

3. Shorts and T-shirts

Shorts and t-shirts are not appropriate attire for a wake unless otherwise specified. Pants, button-down shirts, and suit jackets made from lighter fabrics are suitable even in the hottest summer. At a wake, even jeans and T-shirts are inappropriate.

4. Intense Colors

Remember that bright colors and patterns are inappropriate for a wake. Bright colors are to be avoided, along with dark pants, jackets, sweaters, and ties. A button-down shirt of a lighter hue is the only acceptable choice, but only if worn with a suit jacket.

Recommendations for Women’s Clothing for a Wake

More clothing options are available to women than men, but the same rules still apply. Women should wear dark hues and appropriate work clothing. If you must wear patterns, make sure they are subdued and made of dark or neutral shades. Outfits consisting of dress pants, a shirt, and a sweater or suit jacket are recommended.

What’s Acceptable to Wear

1. Keep Things Formal

Keep everything formal. The business casual dress code is often accepted. Don’t wear anything that might be considered fun or festive. If the family chooses to have a wake where the deceased person’s life is celebrated, getting into the spirit by donning some casual outfit is entirely appropriate.

However, if you haven’t been told otherwise, dark clothing is appropriate, and bright, festive apparel could be misunderstood as disrespectful to the family and the deceased. You should dress as conservatively as you would for a job interview if you are unsure what to wear to a wake.

2. Dark Tones and Minimal Jewelry

Put on dark colors. Though black is not required, a wake is hardly the place for a leopard print blouse or salmon-colored khakis. Colors like blue, grey, and dark green are safe bets.

Keep your jewelry minimal. You should wear understated, nondescript accessories. Therefore, your jewelry should not be worn to draw attention to itself. Simplify your patterns. You are welcome to wear a patterned blouse or dress, provided the design is subtle.

3. Dress Modestly

Wearing a sleeveless dress requires layering with something warmer. You shouldn’t expose any skin below the knees or the shoulders. Dress modestly and avoid wearing a lot of makeup. Subtlety is the key to flawless makeup. A minimal amount of makeup is ideal for a wake.

Other suggestions on what to wear to a wake are as follows:

  • A dressy shirt, black skirt, and matching shoes.
  • Put on some dress pants and a nice shirt or sweater.
  • Traditional jewelry, such as a pearl necklace and stud earrings, is always a safe bet.

What Women Should Avoid to Wear to a Wake

1. Shorts or jeans

The ideal outfit for a wake is formal. You should not wear shorts or jeans to a wake. It makes it seem that you don’t understand the seriousness of the ceremony. Unless the family allows for casual wear as a theme, it’s best not to wear them. Jeans are typically not acceptable at wakes across the board. There could be special occasions where denim is appropriate. Dress pants are allowed during wakes

2. Clothing with a message

The last thing we want is for you to be the center of attention because of something written on your blouse or jacket. Any clothes you wear should be just plain.

3. Shoes that aren’t heels or sneakers

For men, the standard footwear is to wear dress shoes. For ladies, heels would pair well with a formal dress or skirt. You will go for sneakers if you want to feel more comfortable in your outfit. However, sandals and open shoes are not ideal. They seem too casual.

4. Clothing that is dirty or wrinkled

It is a no-brainer that your outfit should be clean. It would feel like outright disrespect if you show up to a wake with dirty clothes. It would be best to plan for the wake, so you don’t disappoint.

Dressing Your Children Appropriately for a Wake

Kids often have greater discretion in how they dress for a wake. Children under six do not have formal wear in most homes suitable for various events. Clothes don’t last long with kids since they grow so fast. In addition, it may need a significant investment of time and resources to find age-appropriate outfits for youngsters.

Adults typically wear somber tones to a wake, but it may be more challenging for youngsters. Although fashion designers manufacture young people’s formal wear, it tends to be pricey. And they’re not easy to track down in thrift shops. The light blue outfit your eight-year-old daughter wears to her cousin’s wake won’t be noticed by anyone.

When going to a wake for a close relative or friend, it’s appropriate to dress them formally if you can. However, kids can be dressed in just about anything at a wake.

Here are outfits they should not be dressed in:

  • Clothing with a message
  • Caps
  • Clothing that is dirty or wrinkled
  • Bright colored clothes

Other recommendations

There are still other common questions about dressing up for wakes. We’ll try to answer them as best as we can.

What should I wear to a wake in the summer?

Typically, wakes take place in air-conditioned venues. Whether a wake is held on a hot or chilly day shouldn’t make a difference. Formal attire is still required. Use moisture-wicking materials, or choose lighter fabrics like linen to avoid sweating.

What should I wear when it’s chilly outside?

Once more, wakes are typically held in air-conditioned locations. If you’re cold all the time, thermal underwear could be a good investment. If it’s freezing, you can opt to wear pants instead of dresses.

Can I wear pantyhose?

There is no definitive answer to this question. There was a time when ladies wouldn’t even think about showing their legs, but that taboo has been shattered for years. You decide. Put on some pantyhose if that makes you feel better. Don’t stress if you don’t have any stockings and have never worn them before.

Bottom Line

Consider the occasion when you decide what to wear to a wake. Part of being there for the grieving is putting on your best appearance. The deceased is deserving of the honor. Dressing in black shows your respect for the deceased and your solidarity with their loved ones. The way you dress should be appropriate for the event.

Generally, dressing respectfully for the departed and their loved ones is of utmost importance when deciding what to wear to a wake. This occasion isn’t a time for you to strive to be the center of attention. Attendees at a wake should dress somberly, avoid flashy colors or patterns, and aim for at least a degree of formality.

You should not let worries over what to wear prevent you from visiting a loved one at a wake. Even though this advice suggests dressing formally, showing up to the wake is the most important thing.