What and What Not To Wear To a Wake
Published Nov 23, 2020
Attending a wake, funeral, or memorial is something that we all will, unfortunately, have to go through at some point in our lives. With death being such a sensitive matter, we all want to be respectful in dealing with it. One important question we ask ourselves during these events is what we should wear. In an earlier article, we discussed the differences between a funeral and a wake, but how exactly should one dress for a wake?
What is a wake?
Before talking about the dress code, let’s define what a wake is. Wakes are similar to funerals in the way that they are events surrounding a person’s death. However, the primary difference is that wakes are more centered around visiting the family and seeing how they’re doing. By nature, they’re more casual and don’t quite follow such a rigid schedule. The wake is usually held the night before a funeral, but they may last for a few nights in some cultures. These are typically held in the surviving family’s home, a funeral home, or the social hall of a church.
General guidelines in selecting what to wear
As with any event, deciding what to wear to a wake can be somewhat tricky, especially if you’ve never attended one before. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always better to overdress than underdress. With that, here are some of the safest bets for an outfit choice.
- Wear dark or non-flashy colors. The last thing you want to do when attending an event like a wake is to attract unnecessary attention. The whole point of attending this event is to pay your respects to the dead and keep the focus on them. Instead of wearing bright colors and prints, try muted colors like black, navy, gray, and brown.
- Accessorize minimally. We also suggest keeping jewelry to a minimum. Keep it nice and simple.
- Don’t dress too casually. While wakes are less formal than funerals, that doesn’t mean you should just show up in a t-shirt and shorts. Wearing something along the lines of smart or business casual will be well-received.
These guidelines will likely get you through any wake without standing out too much. But while these will apply for virtually all cases, sometimes you do have the luxury of dressing up a bit flashy or funny.
Some wakes are themed, most likely if the dearly departed had a fun and easy-going personality. To celebrate their memory and life, the family could choose to require attires, such as costumes or sports jerseys. If that’s the case, you’ll want to stick to the theme to avoid being a Debbie Downer. In other cases, the family hosting the wake won’t even be too strict in enforcing some sort of dress code. If you want to get an accurate idea of what you should wear, try asking the departed’s family members.
Outfit ideas for men
These are some business casual or smart casual attires that will be appropriate in most wakes.
- A button-down shirt with dark pants and dress shoes
- A long-sleeved button-down shirt
- A sweater with nice pants
Outfit ideas for women
Similarly, women will also want to wear formal or semi-formal attire for most wakes. A general rule of thumb is to wear something that you would wear to an interview. Here are some ideas.
- Simple and neutral-colored dress
- Dark skirt with a blouse or sweater
- A sweater or blouse with dress pants
What both men should avoid
- Bright-colored and popping patterns
- Graphic or statement shirts
- Denim jeans
- Baseball caps
- Flip-flops or rubber shoes
- Tattered clothing
- Skimpy skirts
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.