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What to Wear to a Celebration of Life Event

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
October 7th 2022 - 8 minute read
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Wondering what to wear to a celebration of life event? Here is a guide to celebration of life attire for men, women and children.

Black, formal attire is usually the standard dress code for funeral services. That is unless it is a celebration of life. Then the rules change. Traditional funerals are typically somber events, while a celebration of life is usually upbeat and festive and sometimes eclectic. As such, dark formal clothing won't pair well with a livelier atmosphere. So if you have been invited to a celebration of life party and are wondering what to wear, read the guide below for help choosing your wardrobe.

What is a celebration of life?

Like other funeral services, a celebration of life is a ceremony or party where family and friends gather to memorialize the life of a deceased loved one. (Learn how to plan one.) However, the celebration dispenses with dwelling on loss and instead celebrates the deceased person's life in a joyful manner and with gratitude for having known them.

It doesn't mean there are no solemn or sad moments. Often it is a mixture of both. Regardless, a celebration of life can be viewed as an opportunity to remember someone who has died and celebrate their life through activities, music, food, decorations, etc.

What attire is expected and appropriate at a celebration of life?

In most cases, a celebration of life is likely to have a less formal setting. The events can be less structured and more customizable than traditional funerals, so choosing an appropriate wardrobe can sometimes be challenging. But there are general guidelines to keep in mind to help you dress appropriately. These include:

  • Colour and style
  • Expectations for men, women, and children
  • Type of event
  • Activities
  • Location
  • Time and weather

Colour and style

Celebration of life events are lively and upbeat, so the dress code should match accordingly. Families usually will share a preferred dress code outlining colour and style preferences. You might see wardrobe guidance like "business casual" or "dress comfortably" on an invite.  Or you may even see more specific requests like "dress for the beach" or "please wear yellow" in the case of a themed party. However, if wardrobe guidance has not been provided, below are some general guidelines.

Dark colours, such as black or brown should be avoided. Instead, choose light colours, such as pink, blue, red, green, yellow, etc. Some families may also request that guests wear the deceased's favourite colours as a tribute. Vibrant colours help bring brightness and conviviality to the festivities.

Casual attire (e.g., jeans and slacks) are usually acceptable. Nonetheless, guests are still expected to be respectful and conservative with their clothing choices, like a casual day at work. For example, wearing a bright coloured dress may be fine, but wearing a graphic tee with ripped jeans may not. Likewise, wearing flats or nice sandals should be fine, but flip-flops may not be. Unless, of course, you have been otherwise directed by the event organizers.

Some celebrations of life are themed. For example, if the deceased person was a hockey fan, their family may request that guests wear their favourite hockey jerseys. If the celebration is beach-themed, wearing items like flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts may be in order.

Dress code expectations for men, women, and children

Men, women, and children follow the same general attire guidelines. Below are some wardrobe ideas for each one.

What men should wear to a celebration of life

At traditional funerals, men are often expected to wear a suit and tie or a dress shirt. However, for a celebration of life, jeans, shorts, and slacks are acceptable. T-shirts are as well, but steer clear of graphic tees and large logos. Likewise, avoid tank tops, undershirts, swimsuits, and the like.

Examples of wardrobe components for men include:

  • Jeans
  • Slacks
  • Khaki pants
  • Shorts
  • Clean t-shirts
  • Nice shoes (e.g., dress shoes, boots, or clean sneakers)
  • Polo shirt
  • Simple or minimal accessories

What women should wear to a celebration of life

Formal dresses or shoes (e.g., heels) are not required for women. Clothing can be casual but also conservative, so low-cut shirts and miniskirts should be avoided, as should neon colours, loud prints, noisy accessories, and exercise clothing.

Examples of wardrobe components for women include:

  • Modest day dresses
  • Nice pants (e.g., black leggings)
  • Jeans
  • Flowy tops
  • Blouse
  • Skirt
  • Shorts
  • Nice shoes (e.g., flats, heels, nice sneakers, boots, or sandals)
  • Button-down shirt
  • Simple or minimal accessories

What non-binary people should wear at a celebration of life

Like everyone else, non-binary people should wear what makes them comfortable while following general attire guidelines. If you are looking for ideas, you can turn to the guidelines for men and women and adjust them accordingly to fit your preferences.

What children should wear to a celebration of life

Depending on the type of celebration, it may be best to leave children, especially young children with a babysitter, family, or caregiver. However, if they attend too, much of the same attire guidelines are appropriate. Children can also get away with wearing more casual clothing.

Dress for the type of event

A celebration of life can be anything from dinner and drinks to a hike in the mountains. There are no specific criteria for these types of celebrations. However, be sure to dress for the occasion. If you understand the kind of event scheduled, you will be able to dress accordingly.

For example, if the celebration is at an upscale restaurant, dress up and avoid clothes that are too casual. Likewise, avoid formal attire if the venue is a bowling alley or arcade. Guests are invited to dress according to the theme. In that case, many of the recommendations would not apply. Guests are usually advised beforehand. If not, you can use your best judgment or ask the hosts for suggestions.

Celebration of life activities

Celebrations of life are not always just a party. Families sometimes incorporate custom activities to honour their loved one, so it is essential that your clothing be well-suited for those activities. For example, wearing sneakers is advised if a hike is planned, and activewear would likely be acceptable. However, if there is a dinner after the hike, a change of clothes may be needed. Likewise, if the event is held at the beach, wearing jeans and a blouse would not be ideal, but swimwear and flip-flops would be. Find out from the organizers what events are planned and dress accordingly.

Location appropriate attire

The location of an event can also provide valuable insight into what is expected of guests to wear. Celebrations of life can be held almost anywhere. However, it is common to have them in less formal venues such as someone's home, a rec centre, a restaurant, etc. Nonetheless, the location is vital to consider when choosing what to wear.

For example, if the event is outside, it would be good to wear comfortable footwear and avoid items like high heels. Additionally, it may be best to avoid light colours like white or yellow, as they may get dirty or stained more easily.

Dress for the weather

A celebration of life can occur at any point in the year. Therefore, guests must dress according to the weather.

In colder seasons, guests must be well-equipped for the cold, especially if the event is held outside. This includes coats, jackets, scarves, gloves, etc. Dressing in layers may also be a good idea, as would wearing things clothes that are warmer like jeans, pants, and sweaters.

It is a good idea to wear light and breathable clothes in warmer seasons. Clothes like shorts and dresses work well. It is also important to bring items to protect yourself from the sun, such as sunscreen and sunglasses.

It is also crucial to be prepared for all types of weather. Many celebrations are planned weeks or months in advance, so it is unlikely that the event will be cancelled due to a bit of rain or snow. An umbrella would be handy for rain and shielding yourself from the sun on a hot day. A change of shoes may be helpful on rainy or snowy days since they may get wet or muddy during festivities. Weather can be unpredictable, so it is good to keep these things in mind and prepare beforehand.

Ask a question

If you have a question about cremation, aquamation or funeral events, you can ask our experts at Eirene Cremations. Email support@eirene.ca. If you need to book funeral arrangements, click here. For information about our service areas please visit our locations page.

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