The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re turning on your air conditioning, which means that summer is officially on the horizon. The other major season that’s on the horizon, of course, is wedding season, as over 40 percent of weddings take place between May and August — meaning the question of ”what to wear to a wedding” is upon us once again.
Despite the celebratory occasion, many of us dread going to weddings for one reason or another. We may be forever alone and feel awkward being the single one in a venue full of couples who are in love; perhaps we feel pressured to get married if we’re in a long-term relationship; or we simply dread the thought of having to buy another dress that we’ll never wear again.
Undoubtedly, though, wedding wardrobes are often a hot topic, as there’s usually not a lot of wiggle room in the proposed dress code and wearing the wrong thing can make for an awkward day of possibly upsetting the bride. Plus, the other wedding guests are people that you know, so never seeing them again after an embarrassing wardrobe mistake isn’t usually an option.
If you’re the type of person who feels the struggle every time you have to pick an outfit for a matrimony, are confused by a nontraditional weddings dress code, or just want to avoid having to buy dresses that you will stuff in the back of your closet after donning for a day, here’s your guide for what is and is not OK to wear to weddings, based on the venue of the occasion.
General Do’s And Don’ts
You should never wear white to a wedding, unless the bride explicitly says that it’s allowed or it’s part of the theme. Although there is some debate as to whether it’s appropriate to wear this color when you’re not the bride, I say it’s best avoided as you never know who will be judging you or whether the bride will take offense.
It’s also better to air on the side of conservatism here. If you think your outfit is showing too much skin, then you shouldn’t wear it to the wedding. I don’t like all of the social rules we have around baring skin, but again, this day isn’t really about you. It’s better to blend in on an occasion such as this than to stick out because you didn’t want to follow the dress code.
Also, if you are unsure if a look will work for the wedding you’re going to, it’s always better to ask the bride or groom (or bride and bride, groom and groom) about the dress code than to be unsure and wear your questionable dress anyway.
Traditional Church Weddings
80 percent of weddings are held in churches, so this is the venue you probably have to worry about dressing for the most. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your dress code preference, this type of wedding usually requires the most formal dress code, typically black tie. You should probably wear either a dress or a suit if you’re going to this type of wedding. I totally believe women can and should wear suits if they don’t feel comfortable in dresses, so don’t be afraid to wear a suit if that suits you more.
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In terms of don’ts, just don’t wear something too short or too revealing if you know that wouldn’t fly well with the happy couple. Also, don’t squeeze into a dress from high school if you can’t fit into it properly, and the same goes with anything that’s uncomfortable!
Do wear something that reflects your personal style and fist into the theme and scope of the wedding. I like the idea of wearing something you’ve already worn before and feel confident in instead of buying a new dress, since you won’t have to agonize over finding an outfit and you’ll look forward to putting it on.
Weddings that take place on a beach are amongst the most romantic and fun for guests, in my opinion, although I haven’t been lucky enough to attend one myself. A beach wedding usually calls for a much more casual dress code, so a nice sundress, tailored pants with a blouse, or even shorts that are on the fancier side, could work. For shoes, definitely rock something open-toed, since you’ll likely be on sand. In fact, I think this type of wedding is one you want to be careful not to overdress for, since the event is usually going to be more relaxed in nature. Do keep your makeup natural and light, so that mascara and foundation aren’t melting off your face. And definitely wear sunscreen!
Destination weddings can be hard to dress for, since you have to pack your clothes ahead of time and the dress code can sometimes be confusing. Do ask the couple what they would like you to wear and what the dress code is. Since these usually have very small wedding parties and guest lists, it’s going to be easier to coordinate your attire with others.
Typically, destination weddings are not overly formal, though, so wearing a mid-length day dress and a nice pair of heels will take you far. Your accessories can often take a look from cute to dazzling, and they are easy to put on and off; so if you’re worried you won’t like your ensemble, pack as many accessories as possible to jazz it up! Accessories also usually add flair to outfit and make it less casual, which can work in your favor.
Weddings that are kept to a guest list of 50 or under are typically held in more intimate settings, like a private estate or the couple’s own home. These are also usually casual and not over-the-top, since the entire idea is to keep it simple. If you’re going to this type of wedding, definitely wear something cute and casual, like an A-line skirt and blazer with a pair of wedges. This is another case where you can consult with others to figure out your attire and always talk to the happy couple if you’re not sure if your outfit will work. If you’re going to a unique venue, they will usually detail what you should wear, so in these cases, just make sure to follow instructions.
Las Vegas is known as the Marriage Capital of the World based on the amount of weddings performed there (over 80,000 in 2014). If you’re going a Vegas wedding, it’s probably going to be small, short, and to-the-point, so don’t put too much stress on yourself over what you’re wearing. If it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, just wear something you feel comfortable in and focus more on the event at hand than on your outfit. Whatever you do, just don’t dress like Elvis.
Many people who don’t want the fuss of a traditional wedding choose to go to their county courthouse and have the ceremony performed by a judge, since marriage is technically just a legal contract anyway. These weddings often involve just the couple, but if you are invited, make sure to wear something slightly formal, but not too attention grabbing. Imagine you are actually going to court and use that as a mental compass to decide what attire will work. As always, check with the couple if you’re unsure!
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