What To Wear To Celebration of Life or Memorial Service

woman wearing a short sleeved black dress approriate for a celebration of life or memorial service

It’s funny because one of the most vivid memories I have of shopping with my Grandmother is shopping for a funeral dress for her. For some reason, I still have that in my mind about her. We didn’t go shopping together often. However, every season she always shopped for a new dress appropriate to wear to a funeral. Fast forward many years. Now it seems as if we hear more and more about celebration of life or memorial services versus traditional funerals.

I know that my friends and I have all seen more of these types of services over the last several years. Is the etiquette the same as a funeral? What is appropriate to wear? So I thought I would put together a synopsis of some of the scenarios I have encountered.

Before we dive into the celebration of life and memorial service dos and don’ts here are a few other posts I have written that you might want to check out.

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Celebration of Life or Memorial Service Dress Code

When we think about going to a funeral we automatically think black, conservative clothing. This has been a tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire. Doesn’t matter which month of the year. Dark and quite plain clothing, dark shoes, dark hosiery if in winter, and a dark handbag. Just like my grandmother shopped for all those years ago. In recent years dark browns, greys, burgundy, and navy have become acceptable to wear to a funeral.

Now Celebration of Life and Memorial services have a different vibe if you will. The events are not somber. They are an event to remember and celebrate the loved one. The celebrations or services can take place in many different venues other than a church or funeral home. Celebration of life services can be held at a special events venue, a restaurant, or a hotel ballroom to name just a few options. So what we wear when the occasion arises is a bit different.

What Do You Wear To A Celebration of Life?

A celebration of life is organized in such a way that it is an uplifting and lighthearted event. There are usually speeches. Friends and loved ones talking about wonderful memories. Food and music are usually part of the celebration as well. If it is held during the day, then the attire is usually more casual. If in the evening then you may want to dress up a bit more.

Many times the person coordinating the celebration will ask all of the guests to wear some sort of theme. I remember one where everyone was asked to wear golf attire. The woman being celebrated was a huge golfer and the event was held at her country club.

The photo below is from a celebration of life that a friend of mine and her family went to recently. The man being honored was a University of Georgia alumni and a huge sports fan. The event was held at his favorite local sports bar and everyone was asked to wear something in University of Georgia colors. Yes, families were invited. Not just adults.

Celebration of Life Dress Code

The attire is always going to be more casual for a celebration of life than for a funeral or memorial service. Here are some options for men and women that would be appropriate. Again, check the invitation for specific requests.

  • Dresses and skirts that are not too short.
  • Slacks with a blouse that is not too low-cut or revealing.
  • Comfortable shoes.

What Not To Wear To a Celebration of Life

Remember that this is just a guideline. The coordinator could request one or more of these items, but typically you would not wear the following to this type of event.

  • Shorts
  • Leggings or tight stretchy pants
  • Graphic Tees
  • Clothing that is revealing
  • Athletic gear such as sweatpants or sports jerseys.

What Do You Wear To A Memorial Service?

A memorial service is similar to a funeral. What is different is that there is not a casket present. Also, the memorial service can be held weeks or even months after the death. Memorial services, like funerals, include a eulogy, readings, prayers, songs, and reflection. It could be held at a place of worship, funeral home, or another venue. It just depends upon the style of the service.

Memorial services tend to be very personal. Many times there will be special requests for you to wear more joyful colors than you would wear to a funeral. Still, you will want to keep your attire on the more conservative side, just lighten up your neutrals.

Memorial Service Dress Code

  • Simple dark dresses or suits for women. Skirt lengths should be at the knee or below.
  • A blouse with a skirt or dressy trousers is also acceptable.
  • Comfortable shoes with closed toes such as a pump or slingback.

What Not To Wear To A Memorial Service

  • Don’t wear anything tight or revealing.
  • Avoid clothing with loud, busy patterns.
  • Nothing edgy or glitzy.
  • Sneakers or athletic shoes.
Thanks, Let’s Keep In Touch

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope that these tidbits helped you figure out what to wear to a celebration of life or memorial service. I think the best rule of thumb for something like this is that you would rather be overdressed than underdressed.

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