Be the Best Dressed Wedding Guest

Frances Johnson

Posted on May 04 2014

Wedding season is upon us. I’ve got several to attend this summer, and my guess is that you do, too. Which means you are probably stressing out about what to wear (I know I am!). Because as much as we all enjoy celebrating our loved ones’ happy days, the wedding guest wardrobe can be a hard thing to perfect.

Here are some tips and rules to set you up for wedding guest success!

The most well-known rule of wedding guest attire is to never wear white, which really translates into: don’t upstage the bride! But, this rule has relaxed a little bit, so while wearing white and ivory is still out you can get away with cream-colored clothing and patterned dresses with white backgrounds.

Black clothes, red clothes and overly tight and revealing clothes are always out, and so are jeans even if the invitation says casual.

Jeans aside, causal weddings give you a lot of flexibility but business casual is probably the safest road. Always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed at such an important event. Try a bold floral shift, a sundress with a nicely tailored blazer—you can always ditch the blazer to dress it down if you need to—or a nice skirt and blouse.

If we’re talking about a casual outdoor wedding, don’t forget that heels and wedges are guaranteed to sink into grass and other soft ground, so stick with a nice pair of ballet flats instead.

And while we’re on the topic of shoes, here is another tip to keep in mind: whatever type of shoes you choose to wear, make sure they’re not brand new. Tempting as it is to debut something shiny and new for a major event like a wedding, nothing will put you on the dance floor sidelines faster than a pair of shoes you haven’t broken in yet.

A semiformal dress code can also be vague enough to leave you worried, but the same rule of thumb applies: err on the formal side. For daytime weddings, lighter colors and patterns are better (but remember, no ivory or white!). Bolder, richer colors are totally appropriate for evening weddings and dramatic make-up, such as a red lip, is A-OK, too.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a formal or black tie wedding, you can really pull out all the stops. We’re talking a floor length gown or ball gown skirt, luxe fabrics like lace and silk, and don’t skimp on the (tasteful) sequins and beads! Formal weddings usually take place in the evening, so high drama jewelry and a fancy updo will be the perfect finishing touches.

Whatever the dress code or location of the wedding you’re attending, layers or separates are never a bad idea and piecing an ensemble that way can better help you make use of pieces you already have. Winning! If you’re wearing a sundress, take along a lightweight cardigan. For a formal evening, pick out a shawl or pashmina to match.

And finally, the pampering isn’t just for the wedding party, so don’t forget to treat yourself before the big day with a mani/pedi, a fresh haircut, or a facial and massage. Just because it’s not your wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look your best, especially because you never know what ex-boyfriend—or handsome groomsman—you might run into! 

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