Wedding Guest Attire 101
It is that time of year when you start getting thick cream-colored envelopes in your mailbox.
You open them up to find a beautifully calligraphed or embossed letterpress invitation announcing an upcoming wedding. Isn’t it great to be a wedding guest? You get to have all the fun of being part of this meaningful celebration without the stress of having to plan and pay for the party!
If you are like me, one of your first thoughts, after you send back that RSVP card, is “what should I wear to this important occasion?” You want to look nice and stylish, but you don’t want to outshine the couple-of-the-moment.
The invitation itself can also dictate wedding attire
Often the invitation will include wording to suggest the type of dress you should adopt for this momentous occasion, so do check this.
It will usually appear on the lower right-hand corner of the invitation or the response card.
Phrases such as “White Tie”, “Black Tie”, “Informal attire”, or“Cocktail attire” can give you a hint as to what type of outfit is expected.
The invitation itself can also dictate wedding guest attire: a formal embossed invitation on heavy card stock says “dress up!” and an informal, fun invitation that the couple did themselves with their computer and color printer can mean “anything goes, as long as you are with us on our special day!”
If the invitation says “White Tie”, you can expect the fanciest of weddings. You would, therefore, want to wear a long, formal gown, with your best jewelry, hair, and makeup. For men, you would rent a long tuxedo with tails, and perhaps a white vest underneath. Top hat and gloves are appropriate.
If the invitation says “Black Tie,” you can still expect a glamorous wedding but one step down from “White Tie.”
Black Tie attire means a stylish cocktail dress or long gown but not a ball gown. For men, a regular tuxedo (no tails), black bow tie and satin cummerbund would be correct attire.
The next step down would be “formal attire” or “black tie optional.” A little less posh, but still fancy nonetheless.
For this, women can wear a nice suit, a cocktail dress or a midi-length dress. For men, go with a simple tuxedo or dark suit and tie.
If the invitation says “cocktail attire” you know that this event is less formal but still chic. Women can wear a cocktail dress or nice party dress, and men a suit and tie as their wedding guest attire.
What is the wedding is taking place at a beach site? For beach attire, think cute summer dress with a hat to protect you from the sun, but not a baseball cap, please. Heels would make sand difficult to navigate so stick with flat but chic sandals, maybe in patent leather with pretty flower decoration.
Make your toes pop with a neon color pedicure to match your sundress. For men, a linen suit in tan or beige would be appropriate for a beachside ceremony, with a rakish Panama hat for protection, and light canvas shoes, even espadrilles.
Outdoor lawn wedding attire
For an outdoor lawn wedding, your wedding guest attire can be casual but make it fit for the site.
For women, go with a floral print dress, in chiffon or other flowy fabric. Put a couple of fun flowers into the band on your sunhat. Sandals are great for a lawn wedding, but remember that any sort of spike heel will sink right into the lawn and make it impossible to walk. Better to opt for a flat ballerina type shoe or a large, chunky heel that stabilizes you on grass.
For men, light khaki trousers, or linen, with a light shirt or polo is a good look for an outdoor wedding. For fun, how about a porkpie hat, or a straw boater hat? Add a bright floral-pattern tie to complete the look.
For a wedding where “casual” or “daytime” attire is noted, women would be fine wearing a nice suit, dress, or even trousers and a blouse. Shoes can be sandals, flats or low heels. Men can choose a casual suit, no need for a tie, or pressed jeans with a nice shirt or polo and sportcoat.
When shopping for your wedding guest attire, remember no white. Don’t even go with off white, ecru or cream. These colors are reserved for the bride; you do not want to outshine her. White accents are fine, however, like a white belt cinching in your dress.
Be respectful of religious tradition
For Catholic or Muslims weddings, bare arms are discouraged, and showing a lot of cleavage would be frowned upon. Catholic weddings have a mass; you will be standing for long periods so make sure you have comfortable shoes.
You will also spend some moments kneeling so make sure your clothes can handle that. It used to be that it was inappropriate to wear black to a wedding, but this has changed, with many women wearing their favorite LBD (Little Black Dress) for an evening ceremony.
If you are wearing high heels to the wedding, plan on packing a pair of flats in your bag.
You’ll be happy you did after several hours of dancing, when you will notice that guests will be taking off their uncomfortable shoes and dancing barefoot as the band plays into the night!
Bandaids can come handy
It’s a good idea to include some bandaids for any blisters you may incur, just so you don’t have to stop rocking out if your feet take a beating!
When in doubt, overdress rather than come wearing an outfit that is just too informal. It’s better to look polished, and everyone will appreciate the effort you made to look lovely for the couple’s special day.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.