What to Wear to a Visitation

Tweet The process of mourning a loved one can be painful, difficult and, at times, awkward. Guests who attend the visitation or funeral want to provide as much support as...

The process of mourning a loved one can be painful, difficult and, at times, awkward. Guests who attend the visitation or funeral want to provide as much support as possible to their grieving friends and may also be mourning the loss of the person. It can be difficult to know how to behave at a visitation, an occasion which has less defined protocol than funerals. Friends planning for a wake or visitation may wonder what is appropriate to wear. Although this may seem like a minor detail, the message each person sends through their attire may positively or negatively affect those closest to the deceased.

A visitation provides a time for loved ones to offer their respects in an atmosphere that is less structured and formalized than the funeral service. Guests should use their clothing to send the message that they care about the pain present at the occasion and that they respect the deceased and grieving survivors enough to dress well. While suits should be worn at a funeral service, they are not necessary for the visitation. Conservative business casual wear in dark colors is most appropriate. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing clothing for a visitation.

You should be sure to choose clothes that fit. Garments that are created for a different body size may restrict movement and cause you to spend most of your time focusing on this discomfort instead of those around him. Your clothes should reveal a defined shape without being tight or restrictive. Sleeves should be long enough to cover the wrist bone while slacks and pants should reach the top of the shoe.

While a polo shirt or other pullover style may be appropriate in some situations, it is usually best to wear a button down shirt with nice pants or slacks to a visitation. Be sure to choose muted, conservative colors. While black is always a safe choice, other dark colors such as navy or charcoal are also acceptable. The main principle to keep in mind is to wear items that will not draw attention either in a positive or negative manner. If you choose to wear a tie, for example, do not wear one with a bright color or outlandish design.

Depending on the time of year, layering can be a way to further ensure that you are comfortable at the visitation. Wearing a v-neck sweater over your dress shirt allows you the option of added warmth. A lightweight men’s vest is a good layering option for the summer when a sweater would be overly oppressive. Select garments that are well made as cheap or gaudy pieces may send the wrong message.

Finally, you should be sure that any clothing you are wearing to a visitation is clean and free of wrinkles. Advance planning ensures that any necessary dry cleaning or ironing is completed in time. Either dress shoes or more casual loafers are an appropriate choice; any type of footwear should be free of scuffs or scratches. Guests should extend this care of their clothing to their personal appearance. Attending the visitation with an unshaven face or messy hair may communicate a lack of respect. A well-groomed appearance allows you and other guests to focus their attention on the occasion at hand.