As wedding season rolls around, many of us are stumped as to what to wear. Did you know there are five simple rules to follow? We discuss the generally accepted guidelines for wedding guest outfits.
What Should You Wear At a Wedding?
The invitation has arrived and your excitement is tinged with anxiety because once again, you are plunged as a wedding guest into the minefield of what to wear and what not to wear to a wedding.
You only have to look at the media bashing Chloe Madeley got for ‘exposing her shoulders’ and ‘breaking royal protocol’ at the wedding of Harry and Meghan to realise that a faux pas can be of nightmarish proportions.
So how do you avoid the pitfalls of wearing the wrong thing?
RULE 1 – What the invitation says
This is split into two broad categories;
- The happy couple tells you what to wear by s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g it out, quite literally. From ‘it’s an informal affair, come dressed as you like’ to ‘morning dress please’, some couples are including either direct instructions or suggesting a mode of dress.
- The couple doesn’t specify but there are clues in the invitation as to the standard of dress expected. For example, an invitation that is giving off obvious signals of the wedding being formal is a cue that a tailored approach is required. Look at the venue too both for the ceremony and reception, and you’ll find a few hints there.
Breaking the dress code is considered the height of bad manners, so if the invitation says ‘hats please!’, then hat or fascinator it is.
Really not sure what to wear? Ask. Ask the couple themselves or other people in the wedding party to see what the overall consensus is.
RULE 2 – Don’t match the bridal party in colour
The thing with some weddings is that the couple keeps everything top secret so that on the big day, all is revealed from the bride’s dress to the colour of the flowers, to the colour of the bridesmaid’s dresses.
For you, as a guest, this may be lovely but presents you with a fashion headache – what colour can you wear and which can’t you?
Turning up wearing the same colour as the bridesmaid is considered to be a faux pas of epic proportions.
Avoid it by;
- Asking what shade or colour the bridesmaid are expected to wear. Or ask which colour you should avoid wearing.
- Taking note of what colours are on-trend currently for bridesmaids dresses. Blush pinks seem to be very much ‘in’ at the moment so our suggestion would be, for a summer 2018 wedding, you avoid deep blush pinks.
- Choosing a darker shade of a colour. For example, if pink has to be the colour for you, wear a much darker shade so you don’t morph into a bridesmaid.
- Avoid a dress that looks too ‘bridesmaid-like’ too. A more tailored approach will work better than a floaty, strapless number that could be mistaken for a bridesmaid dress.
Can you show your arms, shoulders etc? Royal weddings are steeped in etiquette and tradition, some of which are emulated in other weddings. However, the issue of covering your head with a hat or fascinator, not showing your shoulders or arms (for the ladies!) is to do with what is seen as appropriate dress for entering a church or cathedral. Showing arms and shoulders was considered ‘vulgar’ in yesteryear…
RULE 3 – Sensible footwear and essential accessories
We know a wedding can be an excuse, if you need one, to get glammed up and let your hair down!
But get the shoes wrong and miss out essential accessories, and you could be in a whole world of pain before the first canape is served.
Our suggestions are;
- Sensible shoes. A castle may be an idyllic backdrop for a wedding, but murder on your feet if you are clamouring up medieval stone steps in heels. Consider the venue and invest in two pairs of shoes if needed. Sensible ones for when you need them, and killer heels for the dance floor. And don’t wear new shoes without breaking them in first – you’re just asking for trouble.
- Accessories. There are some things that you just can’t do without:
- If there is one thing you can predict, it’s the unpredictability of the British weather. Regardless of whether the wedding is outdoors or not, wedding umbrellas are essential.
- One thing that can be predicted as happy tears (or maybe even sad ones for some people) at a wedding so plenty of tissues and or a handkerchief is also essential.
- Lip balm, perfume, mints, head balm, plasters… just a few other small essential to have hidden away about your person or bag.
The dress code for the day is set by what the bride and groom/bride and bride/groom and groom are wearing and not the venue or location. If they are in wedding dresses and suits, guests are expected to be smart too. If the couple is in jeans and trainers, then your attire should be equally as informal…
RULE 4 – NO white
An all-white wedding in terms of the bride and bridesmaid may be vogue but for wedding guests, wearing white is still a no-no, irrespective of what style of wedding you are attending.
Queen Victoria set the trend for white wedding dresses when she married Prince Albert. The trend quickly caught on and has been with us ever since. Prior to this point, brides wore a pretty day-time dress with the hem usually sitting at the knee. Many of the wedding traditions we have stemmed from someone trying something different and it ‘catching on’.
RULE 5 – Understated, understated, understated
If there is one rule every wedding guest MUST follow – in our book, at least – is to pare back.
A wedding is about the two people getting hitched, not your talk-of-the-town fascinator or your garish suit with clashing waistcoat.
And so this rule is simple, if the item you are wearing risks being the talk of the day, put it back.
Opt for something simple and stylish, without the flourishes, as well as something that is simple and elegant. Don’t look like ‘a mother of the couple’ either…