Choosing What to Wear to a Wake

Navigating the etiquette of what to wear to a funeral or a wake can be challenging. Simple fashion etiquette can create much confusion, as you don’t want to disrespect the family and friends. When you’re considering what to wear to a wake, you want to be as respectful to the family of the deceased as possible.

To help you, our specialists have compiled a few guidelines to keep in mind when deciding what to wear to a wake.

What’s a Wake?

First of all, a wake is not a funeral, and it is often hosted somewhere outside the funeral home. In essence, a wake is focused on visiting the family after the loss of their loved one. Wakes are less formal than funerals, and some follow certain rituals.

Some families choose to host a funeral and a wake, the wake taking place a day before the funeral service. This is so those who don’t or can’t attend the funeral can still get a chance to share their condolences with the family.

Proper Wake Attire for Women

When thinking about what to wear to a wake, women have to remember that this is a somber occasion, it is best to choose conservative colors and styles. You don’t have to wear black, but it is acceptable if you decide to wear all black. Other colors include navy blue, gray, blush colors, and neutrals such as beige.

You also want to keep accessories simple, avoid wearing big earrings, chunky necklaces, and layered bracelets. When looking for shoes, avoid the high heels and choose sensible, closed-toe dress shoes; these can be flats or mid-heels.

What Not to Wear

Even though a wake is a more casual gathering than a funeral service, you still want to pay your respects to the family. Women should avoid wearing:

  • Bright colors and loud prints
  • Mini-skirts, blouses or dresses with low cleavage, and spandex
  • Noisy or sparkling jewelry or accessories

Proper Wake Attire for Men

For men, choosing an adequate wake attire is more straightforward. Men are expected to show their respects accordingly and dress in semi-formal attire. For example, some men opt to wear a tailored suit, others choose to wear dress pants, and others prefer to wear a tailored shirt with slacks or jeans. Colors for men should also be somber, think black, gray, and blue. Regarding prints, men can wear striped or checkered shirts and still look formal.

Shoes and accessories are also important for men attire. For example, some men may choose to wear a tie, while others might dismiss it; both are valid. Shoes should be polished and taken care of. Depending on the event, men can wear sun shades or bring an umbrella if the wake is outdoors.

What Not to Wear

Even though men have more freedom as to what to wear to a wake, there are still some items that are restricted from these events. Men should avoid wearing:

  • Graphic t-shirts
  • Sports caps or anything with writing on it
  • Vibrant printed ties or accessories


As with any family event, there will be some exceptions. Wakes are a very personal family gathering. Usually, they can be personalized to pay tribute to the deceased. For example, wakes can take place at a restaurant, a bar, by the beach, and so on. Some families choose to have a themed wake and thus ask friends and family members to attain a specific dress code. For example:

  • Wear your uniform
  • Dress casual
  • Wear your sports cap

These are some ideas to consider when looking at what to wear to a wake. Sometimes the family will expect their friends to wear their uniforms to pay tribute to their loved ones. When the wake is outdoors or by the beach, they will probably not expect you to wear a suit, and so on.

If you ever have a question or are unsure about what to wear to a loved ones’ wake, then talk to the family and ask them if there’s a dress code. If they don’t specify any exceptions or detailed dress code, always remember to wear something conservative and respectful.

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