What should I wear to a Catholic church on Easter Sunday?
April 3, 2009 10:39 AM   Subscribe

What should I wear to a Catholic church on Easter Sunday?

I'm traveling to the northeast next week with my SO. During a part of our trip, I will be meeting his entire family. They're Catholic and there's a good chance I may need to go to church with them on Sunday for Easter.

The problem is that I haven't been to a Catholic mass (let alone a Catholic Easter mass) in ages and I have absolutely no idea what to wear.

I figure, of course, I should avoid anything too revealing, casual, or overtly offensive. But, other than this, does anything go?

Can I wear a simple black dress? Is black even an acceptable color? Or am I obligated to wear something pastel or white? Could I do nice dark pants with a light colored blouse or sweater?

I'm trying to avoid a major faux pas here, so any guidance at all would be appreciated!
posted by LittleKnitting to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total)
As a lifelong Catholic, I can assure you that anything goes, BUT it's not that the Catholics you want to impress, it's the SO's family.

Wear something that would seem appropriate and dressy in their eyes and you'll be fine.
posted by unixrat at 10:45 AM on April 3, 2009

You can wear black, but many people will probably be wearing lighter colors. From the perspective of someone who grew up Catholic and has attended many, many, many Easter masses: I would say that it tends to depend a little bit on the formality of the particular parish you're attending, but in every Catholic church I've ever been to, Easter is generally a dress-up occasion. Nice dark pants and a light colored blouse or sweater would be fine and acceptable if you aren't into the whole skirt thing. But you might be less dressed up than many other ladies. You'll probably see a lot of sundresses (depending on the weather) and skirt/blouse or skirt/sweater combinations.
posted by teamparka at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2009

On preview, agreeing with unixrat. Also, when meeting new SOs' parents, I feel like a good rule of thumb is always that it's better

1) to err on the side of being dressed more nicely, rather than less nicely, as this is a "mark of respect" sort of thing
2) to make sure you're wearing something that makes you feel comfortable, because people who are uncomfortable in their clothes are going to act awkwardly.
posted by teamparka at 10:48 AM on April 3, 2009

An Easter Bonnet. And no I'm not joking.
posted by Gungho at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2009

Is your SO bringing a tie? If he's planning on suiting up, that's your cue that you should treat this like you're going to a wedding. If he's just going to wear khakis or something, then you can wear pants and a blouse as if it were a dressy day in the office. Err on the side of dressing up if you're nervous about it.

The only people who wear black to my parents' Catholic church are (awesome) Italian widows.
posted by bcwinters at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2009

Think "dress up" but not "black dress cocktail party" dress up. People do tend to dress up more for Easter mass. Depending on the location, the men will be more likely to wear ties and sportcoats, or suits, and the women in lighter colored skirts or dresses. No, you're not obligated to wear something pastel or white. Dark pants and light colored blouse or sweater would be fine.

If they know you're not Catholic, I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you just ask them what would be appropriate in their parish.
posted by jcmilton at 10:52 AM on April 3, 2009

Dress: nothing revealing if you want to impress the older parishioners. Usually people wear something bright and cheerful. It's a happy, joyous holiday that primarily celebrates Jesus's resurrection, and also to an extent the coming of spring and life after winter. The themes all tie together.

Mass: a little more pomp and circumstance, but not usually a whole lot of extra stuff. Compared to the masses on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Vigil, this one is pretty standard.
posted by sbutler at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2009

An Easter Bonnet. And no I'm not joking.

No disrespect meant to Gungho here, but I am going to disagree. This might just be the part of the country I was raised in, but...I haven't seen many Easter bonnets on women under 65, and also: do you really want to run the risk of being "that girl with the eccentric hat"? Just sayin'.

(And that is the last thing I will say! Sorry!)
posted by teamparka at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2009

Imagine you're going to a spiffy Sunday brunch at the Ritz Carlton. Dress like that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:56 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

I agree with Gungho. No one wears "bonnets" but in my parish they do wear non-eccentric hats, usually straw.

However, in the Northeast, the wind and temperature might negate a fashion hat. Many attendees might even keep their coats on for a bit.

Cool Papa Bell has a great idea.
posted by jgirl at 11:14 AM on April 3, 2009

In the northeastern US, the only women who, as a group, routinely wear hats to church are black women of a certain age (i.e., over 40). Even at Easter, it's not the norm for white, Asian, or Latina women in the northeast to wear hats to church--you might see a couple of elderly women from these groups in lovely Easter hats, but it's not at all expected.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on April 3, 2009

I'd go with a dress instead of pants, myself, even though my SO is an utter ex-Catholic, his parents still go to church and I've gotten dragged to my fair share of holiday masses over the years. Considering, too, you're trying to impress the SO's parents and even if he's not much of a believer (or, we can presume, a fashion guide, since otherwise you'd have asked him this, no?), mothers in law tend to like a girly girl, at least for first impressions' sake.

No black, but white's hard to pull off, too. I'd stick to colors, fairly plain shoes (especially in the more conservative parts of the northeast...what'll fly in Boston will not, say, go over well in a tiny town in Maine, trust me), no hat and fairly conservative jewelry -- i.e. nothing super-dangly or large.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2009

Black wouldn't be terrible, but light-colored work clothes would be perfect. If you are trying to make a good impression, going somewhat traditional can't hurt you.

I mostly wear black day to day, but I'm going with green for Easter.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2009

On preview: oh no, don't wear a hat. No one does that at my church except the little old ladies. If you don't have one, it is fine.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:19 AM on April 3, 2009

What Cool Papa Bell said. It's slightly dress-up, but not Southern Baptist Sundays dress-up. Blouse/cardigan/trousers; possibly even a shift dress in best Kennedy style, with a cardigan on top. Cardigans are good here.

If they're going to the Easter morning Mass, it's going to be slightly less hardcore than the midnight vigil. It will still be the whole Prayer I shebang -- I always associate "We come to you, Father" with a slump of the shoulders, knowing it's going to be a long one -- so be aware when choosing footwear that you're likely to be kneeling for extended periods.

Take cash for the offertory collection: $5-10 seems to be the standard 'twice-a-year Catholic' donation. Non-Catholics may be invited up for a blessing at communion, but don't feel obliged to join the somewhat crazy lines that usually form.
posted by holgate at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2009

Remember, you're going to have to kneel down several times. And then get back up. So not crazy high heels or anything. (And if you decide not to kneel, you won't be able to lean back as someone will be kneeling right behind you so you'll have to kind of perch on the end of the seat.)
posted by artychoke at 11:53 AM on April 3, 2009

Maneuvering in, out, or through the pews at Eucharist time is another reason to avoid crazy high heels. As is the possibility of slate floors in a cavernous environment.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2009

It just occurred to me that we're sort of assuming 'northeastern Catholic' will be Kennedy-style with Monsignor Francis X. O'Brien as the celebrant. That's only one facet: I've been to a couple of churches in NJ which couldn't be further apart.

If your SO's family and church is old-stock Catholic (Irish, Italian, Polish) then the atmosphere might be a wee bit more conservative than one reflecting a new-growth congregation (Hispanic, Portuguese, Brazilian). But congregations are pretty diverse, so it's worth asking your SO whether his parents go to a bells-and-smells church, or something a bit more laid back.
posted by holgate at 12:18 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's called, "wearing your Sunday best" for a reason. You can't go wrong with a simple dress. Don't wear black.
posted by availablelight at 12:29 PM on April 3, 2009

Light colored dress + soft light cardigan. IANACatholic, but you kinda can't go wrong with that combination.
posted by Night_owl at 12:41 PM on April 3, 2009

Easter Sunday (as opposed to Good Friday) is a happy mass, when you think about it. So definitely not black.

Think of every movie you've ever seen with Southern folks having a picnic on a Sunday afternoon, kids all dressed up in pretty dresses, boys in those scary suits with shorts. You want the prototypical summer picnic dress, just a little more formal, like with hat or little sweater over it. Pastels are good. Flowers are good.

You're celebrating Spring.
posted by rokusan at 12:52 PM on April 3, 2009

I grew up in New England and now live in California. When I go back east, I wear black or navy pants in every season and to every event: wedding, funeral, church on Christmas eve, and I haven't caught a whiff of gossip about my attire. I agree with Cool Papa Bell. Wear something a little dressy that shows you took care with your appearance -- no business-wear if you can avoid it. I wouldn't wear a black dress -- or maybe I might with a springy jacket or cardigan, and shoes that aren't somber.
posted by wryly at 2:23 PM on April 3, 2009

If you're not Catholic yourself it's perfectly OK not to kneel. Stand when other people stand, sit when they sit or kneel.
posted by zadcat at 4:53 PM on April 3, 2009

If you're not Catholic yourself it's perfectly OK not to kneel. Stand when other people stand, sit when they sit or kneel.

Absolutely! Do scoot to the front in your seat just a tad while others are kneeling, as a courtesy to those in back of you.
posted by jgirl at 5:32 PM on April 3, 2009

Thanks for the input, everyone! Looks like I need to do a little shopping..
posted by LittleKnitting at 4:25 AM on April 4, 2009

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