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What Should I Wear to a Wedding?

A cocktail dress with lightweight fabric works well for an evening wedding in the spring or summer.
A skirt and blouse works for an informal wedding.
Semi-formal attire for men.
Man wearing a suit, tie and a vest, which is appropriate for an afternoon wedding.
Outdoor weddings in summer are usually less formal than a church wedding.
Grooms may wear a boutonniere on their wedding day.
A bride with a manicure that complements her dress.
Church weddings usually require more formal dress attire than weddings at other venues.
The dress code for a beach wedding is usually more relaxed.
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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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Times have changed since the days when most weddings were morning church affairs, with a “wedding breakfast” following. Consequently, what people wear to a wedding has changed, as well. Wedding wear runs the gamut from very casual to black-tie: it all depends on the kind of wedding.

“Destination weddings” have become very popular, and you can wear almost anything to this type of event. For an outdoor, ski-themed wedding at a resort in Colorado, the bride and groom might wear black and white ski suits, with the guests wearing similarly warm clothing. A wedding at the ski lodge would probably dictate casual dresses for women and slacks for men. Similar attire would also be appropriate at a beach wedding. Guests can be guided by the specific destination and plan what to wear accordingly.

Another rule guiding what to wear is the formality of the wedding, which includes the time and place. An evening wedding in a church or similarly formal venue will mean suits and ties for the men and cocktail-style dresses for the ladies. If children are invited, they should wear their Sunday best, according to the season. Sometimes, invitations will give a clue about what to wear to a wedding, specifying “black tie” or even “casual.” For a wedding with a sit-down dinner at the reception, however, dressier is usually better.

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Afternoon weddings are generally more semi-formal. That is, the groom and his attendants will wear tuxedos, and the bridesmaids will typically wear tea-length dresses. When thinking about what to wear to a wedding of this type, most people will think “Sunday clothes.” Men should wear jackets and ties (suits are optional) and ladies should wear a nice dress, similar to what they would wear to the bridal tea or luncheon. Women may also wear a dressy pantsuit. Outdoor weddings may require something a little less formal, such as a nice skirt and blouse, with low-heeled sandals for the ladies. The season also comes into play when deciding what to wear. Obviously, lighter-weight fabrics are suitable for spring and summer, while the heavier fabrics and darker colors are more suited for autumn and winter.

At informal weddings, guests can wear more casual clothes. This may translate to a sport shirt and slacks for men and a skirt and blouse or dressy slacks for women. Children should wear a child’s versions of this. Church weddings are usually a bit more dressy than weddings at other venues, although the reception venue should be considered when deciding on clothing.

The key in deciding what to wear to a wedding is good taste. This means women should not wear short skirts, low-cut blouses or tops, or other too-tight or revealing clothing. In short, they should not seek to compete with the bride. Men should wear shirts and slacks in good condition. Jeans and T-shirts are rarely appropriate at any type of wedding unless the couple specifically suggests it. Parents should insist their teens dress neatly, even if their usual garb consists of ripped clothing and black make-up. They do not have to give up their individuality, but should understand they should not compete with the bridal couple for attention. When good taste and good manners rule the day, wedding attire will typically not be a problem.

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anon312651
Post 5

Thank you for covering this.

I just wanted to add a few things, to clarify.

Please, please, please dress age appropriately. There is a fine line between "in style" and "trying to be 25 when you're actually 45". There may be some people who can pull it off, but most can't, so be wary.

Also, be at least semi-modest. Everything hanging out is rarely attractive, so cover it up. There is no issue with skin showing, just monitor where that skin is. The other attendees do not want to see your belly-button when you bend over. (This goes for men and women.) Add to the "no-no list" uber formfitting attire. Anything that fits like a second skin is out. Remember, you're there to celebrate the joining of the bride and groom,not how "hot" your body is.

Also be careful to avoid the wedding theme's colors. Ask what the color the bridesmaids are wearing, and avoid it. The wedding party is supposed to stand out.

Assuming there is a reception, and you will be attending, wear something you can "celebrate" in. Whatever form you take part in, you should be able to move in the least. Those who cannot walk in heels should not wear them.

And lastly, your goal in your attire should be to fade into the crowd. When someone first walks in, their eyes should not be drawn to you. So skip the day-glo colors, even though that's what's "in". Eventually, when their eyes do settle on you, they should have the thought "Oh, so and so looks nice."

And that's all. Please heed this, in order to avoid your own embarrassment, and that of those related to you.

anon189870
Post 4

The only definite rule is to avoid white. I don't care if you just got a cute new dress and it has some colored print on it — if it's mostly white, leave it in your closet!

cafe41
Post 2

Sunshine31-I agree with you. I just want to add what not to wear to a wedding.

Women should never wear white to a wedding. That color is reserved for the bride and she should be the only women wearing that color on that day of the ceremony.

Also, a women's dress should be a lively color not a somber black or grey. An outfit to wear to a wedding should be formal, anything less might offend the bride and groom.

sunshine31
Post 1

I just wanted to add that clothes to wear at a wedding should be formal for the most part.

A dress to wear to a wedding should include a simple cocktail dress preferably of silk material.

Shoes to wear to a wedding include standard pumps or stiletto heels. Weddings are formal events and the attire should reflect it.

If the wedding is in the evening then a women should include a wrap and more formal accessories like sparkling jewelry.

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