This weekend I attended a wedding. Weddings are difficult days to dress for. What time is the wedding? Where is it located? What religion is the couple? What is your role (or the role of your date) in this wedding? What colors are unacceptable? Below I share what to wear for any kind of wedding… however I need to first ask a few questions to determine what sort of event you will be attending.
What to Wear to Any Kind Of Wedding
What Time is The Wedding?
Etiquette states that you do not dress in formal attire until after 5 pm. This means if the wedding begins before this time, one does not wear strapless, sequins, floor-length, or stylized updos.
The wedding I went to this weekend had a ceremony that started at 3 pm with the reception at 5 pm. To dress appropriately for both portions, I wore a cocktail dress with a wrap to cover up and show respect at the church. Come reception time, the wrap was left on my chair.
Safe bets for this mix are nice suits (with a skirt, or pants with dressy heels), or a sheath dress in a dark color like black, plum, burgundy.
For day weddings, attire is more varied. The basic sheath or suit is appropriate, but floral dresses, chiffon or lacy tops with skirts or dressy pants, separates (silk twinset and skirt) are appropriate.
Where is the Wedding Located?
You will dress differently if the wedding is on a beach or in a mansion. The invitation often alludes to the type of reception. For a beach wedding, wear layers as that it may be chilly. Slip dresses, dressy full trousers with a chiffon layered shell, pieces that catch the breeze, are dressy yet comfortable. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off.
For a garden wedding, again layers are in order. Forego the spike heels for a flatter shoe that won't sink into the soft grass. Floral dresses, simple sheaths, and softer fabrics help set the tone. Similar attire for a home wedding.
For a wedding at a hotel or an historical site, the dress is usually more formal. This is when the sequins can come out after 5 pm.
What Religion Is The Couple?
This matters even more if the ceremony is held in a house of worship. It is a good idea to bring a wrap or cardigan to cover your shoulders out of respect. If more traditional or conservative, try to have a skirt cover your knees. Some religions frown upon women wearing pants – if you are unsure be safe and wear a skirt. Out of respect, forego plunging necklines, form-fitting pieces, and anything too “loud” (hot pink satin anyone?).
Are you a Reader/Guest Book Attendant/Wife of the Best Man?
You will be more on display, whether you like it or not. The photographer will capture your image at least three times that day, and depending on your relationship to the couple, maybe in some of the group posed photographs that may end up on holiday cards and fireplace mantles across the globe.
Try to compliment the color of the wedding. If the wedding is pale celadon and ivory, do not wear bright purple. Compliment it with a muted shade like gray, tan, soft blue, soft pink, or even black (most often than not the men will be in black tuxes so you will blend). Attempting to blend or coordinate shows respect to the event and the bride's hard planning.
As a date of an important part of the wedding, similar rules apply. Try to blend, not distract. Black and subtle colors are best. Let your date take the limelight.
What Colors Are Acceptable to wear to a Wedding these days?
It used to be that one could not wear red for it is disrespectful. One could not wear black because it is the color of mourning. One could not wear white or ivory for fear of upstaging the bride.
Red is acceptable, though it's not always in the best taste to wear fire engine or scarlet to a wedding. Though impossible to upstage a bride, you may be drawing too much attention to yourself, when the day is about the couple and the wedding party and family. Preferred shades are garnet, Bordeaux, dark ruby.
As for black, it is acceptable on any occasion. These days even brides have been known to wear the color. Black is a safe bet for a wedding, and you should always have a simple black sheath in your wardrobe for events just like this. Accessories take a black sheath from work to a day wedding to an evening wedding to a funeral with ease.
The only color that hasn't seemed to change with the times is white. A dress can have a white background with a colorful pattern or floral, pants can be ivory or winter white with a color shell, but a solid white or ivory dress or suit is disrespectful. That is unless the wedding has a color these and you are asked to wear all white or all ivory.
Where Are the Best Places toShop for Wedding Guest Outfits?
While you can find stylish and appropriate wedding guest outfits at most any retailer, a few of my favorite go-to retailers are:
- Talbots: Talbots is great for daytime weddings. Sheath dresses, dressy suits, and elegant separates in a lovely range of sizes.
- Ann Taylor: Like Talbots, Ann Taylor is a consistent destination for sheath dresses, elegant separates appropriate for a daytime wedding, and tasteful suits that with a dressier camisole would do well for a reception.
- Macy's: Macy's is not my favorite department store as it can often be cluttered and sales support is inconsistent. However, when it comes to finding a great dress, especially last minute, Macy's is a good destination.
- Nordstrom: Nordstrom continues to be my favorite department store and does well for weddings, especially online where the size selection is more extensive.
Does an outfit exist that can be worn to absolutely any kind of wedding?
Some dresses can go from a morning wedding on the beach to black tie affair at a swanky hotel. Party of 10 or party of 1,000. Conservative family or flower children.
If you purchase wisely, you can have a dress that will work for a multitude of events in a multitude of seasons and levels of dressiness. Dress to flatter your body, not to fit a mold. Dress to feel attractive, not like a piece of furniture.
Dress to impress, but not overwhelm. Shop with enough time to not get desperate and just buy any old thing that will cover some skin. Think of this event and potential future events where the dress can be worn. Consider a good dress as an investment.