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What to Wear to a Celebration of Life

When a celebration of life is announced, many people are unsure if they should come to the celebration in somber colors or bright colors. Is it considered bad taste to wear black or dark colors to a celebration of life? What about bright colors? Knowing the right outfit to choose can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be stressful.

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is a memorial service to honor and celebrate the memory of someone who has passed away. People come together to remember with music, memories, words from those who knew the person best – all in an effort to thank them for their contributions and pass on any special messages. Celebrations are not somber events! They are meant to be joyful and happy--to celebrate the positive impact the person had.

What's the difference between a funeral and a celebration of life?

Celebrations of life and funerals are similar in that they both serve to honor someone who has passed away. Typically, funerals are somber events that are more formal and structured around the loss of the individual. It's common to see folks dressed only in black or other dark colors. Celebrations of life are different from funerals in that they are less somber and more celebratory. Celebrations of life may be a celebration with music, food, drinks – even fun games or memorial events. They're meant to celebrate someone's life rather than focusing on mourning their loss.

What do you wear to a celebration of life?

Celebration of life attire typically consists of casual but stylish pieces that are lighter in color. What your outfit choice is for a celebration of life can depend on a few factors, such as:

  • Where the event is taking place (what to wear to a celebration of life at a restaurant can be a lot different than what to wear to a celebration of life at the beach, for example)
  • Any special instructions the family has given (sometimes families request that you wear a special item such as a silly hat or item of clothing in a certain color)
  • What type of event is taking place (some celebrations of life are held at bars, at restaurants, outdoors, at the beach and certain activities might be venue-specific) It's best practice to see if the person setting up the event has included any special instructions, event information, or guidance on any activities or themes occurring during the celebration of life. This is typically included in the celebration of life invitation or on the memorial website.

What does a woman wear to a celebration of life?

If you're a woman looking for celebration of life outfit ideas, here are some outfit choices you'd typically find:

  • Bright day dresses
  • Bright and flowing tops paired with slacks or nice jeans
  • Tops in colors other than black (such as blues, greens, oranges, pinks, yellows, and reds)

You should avoid wearing colors that are dark and somber and instead wear items that are colorful. It's also a good idea to remember that even though celebrations of life are focused on celebration and joy, you should still abide by general celebration of life etiquette when it comes to attire. That means no items that are extremely showy, heavily distressed or torn clothing, items that are dirty or unwashed, and any items that are dark colors (unless it's specifically requested).

What does a man wear to a celebration of life?

For men, the choices are similar to that of a funeral, except you'll just want to ensure you're wearing brighter colors and avoid somber or darker outfits. Possible outfit choices could include:

  • Lighter slacks and a nice button down
  • Nice jeans and a button down
  • A lighter color suit

Again, avoid wearing dark colors and choose to wear items that are lighter in color. If the celebration of life has a theme or requests you wear a specific item of clothing, do your best to abide by those requests and wear the item or type of outfit requested!

What to bring to a celebration of life

Typically, unless otherwise specified by the family, you only need to bring yourself to a celebration of life. Some celebrations of life will have an activity planned and ask that you submit something or bring something special beforehand, but you'll typically hear about this from the person planning the celebration of life ahead of time.

If it's at a family home, you could bring a meal or food of some kind if you want to contribute (although it's generally a good idea to check with the family before doing this). It can also be a kind gesture to bring photos or other memorabilia you have of the person who passed away to share with the family attending the celebration of life. Additionally, if you’re attending a celebration of life, sending flowers beforehand or to the ceremony is an appropriate gesture of sympathy.

Send flowers

If the person who passed away doesn’t have a memorial website yet, you should consider setting one up in their honor. Setting up a memorial website lets you share the site with friends and family, collect memories, share event details, and much more. Setting up a site on behalf of the family can be a huge help as they work to try and get events planned and information available, while dealing with a million other tasks.

Create a website

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Last updated November 15, 2021
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