Navigating funeral attire with grace

Funerals are naturally sombre affairs and come with an array of societal expectations that guests are expected to follow, therefore it can be tough when navigating the question of what to wear to a funeral.

Keep these tips in mind if you’re getting dressed for a funeral. 

What to wear to a funeral 

The classic, tried-and-trusted dress code for a funeral is to wear all black. Considering black is practically our national favourite colour, this is an easy option for many. 

Specifically, any black clothing you choose should be on the smart or formal side. A black t-shirt or singlet would be too informal, whereas a black buttoned, collared shirt or blouse would be perfect for the occasion. 

If you don’t wish to wear black, it is becoming more common to step away from this tradition. In this case, you should still opt for smart, tidy clothing, but still stick to fairly sombre colours. Or, you might opt for clothing or accessories in the deceased’s favourite colour. 

Naturally, clothes should be clean, ironed, and tucked in. A funeral is about showing respect to the deceased, their family and loved ones, so making an effort to look tidy is a must.  

Cultural considerations when dressing for a funeral

New Zealand culture is becoming more diverse over time, making for a beautiful melting pot of cultures. That also means you might need to consider the culture of the deceased and their family when deciding what to wear to a funeral. 

Essentially, you may still wear dark, sombre clothing to any funeral. It’s unlikely that you would be expected to dress in a specific cultural style unless you were from that culture yourself. That said, this can be an opportunity to show respect. For example, at a Samoan funeral, men will often wear a lavalava, white shirt, tie, jacket, and leather sandals. Women will typically wear a white puletasi or mu’umu’u – however the colour is dependent on what the family would like.

If in doubt, ask someone close to the deceased if there is anything specific you should wear for the funeral, or check the funeral announcement for details. 

What to wear to a Tangihanga

A Tangihanga is the Māori ceremony for mourning someone who has died. It is commonly called a tangi, which also means to weep, and to sing a dirge (a lament for the dead). A tangi is usually held for three days at a marae (meeting ground), but it can also be held at a family home or hall.

Tangi etiquette can vary depending on the iwi (tribe) which has their own tikanga (customs or protocols). The best thing to do is to talk to someone from the deceased’s whānau on the best practices and what to adhere to. 

Generally speaking, you should dress conservatively in black, and expect to give a koha (gift) towards the cost of the meal.

What not to wear to a funeral 

Not quite sure what is appropriate for a funeral? Here’s a quick list of items not to wear to a funeral: 

  • A skirt with a hemline above the knees
  • Flashy or sequin garments
  • Bulky jewellery or bracelets
  • Casual tops such as t-shirts or singlets
  • Brightly coloured clothing (unless by request from the family or cultural norm)
  • Hats or caps
  • Anything dirty, ripped, or noticeably worn out

Of course, every funeral is different. And if the deceased made it clear in their funeral wishes that they wanted everyone wearing something specific, then you should also respect their final wishes and dress accordingly.

With that in mind, you might consider what you’d like to plan for your own funeral. You can outline your wishes for everything from the songs they play to who will give a eulogy.

Plus, you can make a plan for how to pay for funeral expenses. You might want to set aside money from your savings, or you could consider choosing an option such as funeral insurance. Find out more today by requesting a quote