The last thing you want is to look back on your happiest moments in photographs and have them ruined by one of your guests wearing something inappropriate and tacky!
As much as I love weddings, I have not been to all that many in my 24 years [I can count them on my hand]. Although I’m new to the role of a guest, I’m not new to the rule of a polite party goer. I’ve been to my fair share of soirees where guests have shown up in some…lack of better words… embarrassing outfits that leave me cringing and muttering to my friend “did they NOT read the RSVP? Since when does formal attire mean club/street wear?” You would think that since a wedding is often a more formal affair, more thought goes into the outfit choice. However, that’s not always the case. And as a bride to be [with slight, very slight OCD tendencies] the thought of a guest wearing a too-tight-too-short mini dress or…GASP…a white frock brings me to my knees. So after doing a lot of research, I’ve created this easy how-to on wedding guest attire.
Rule #1: Be wary of white
To avoid facing a bride’s wrath, steer clear of white or bridal looking gowns.
I’ve talked to a few brides who feel this picture sums up how they feel towards the “guest wearing white” dilemma. I have to say, I sort of agree. There are so many colors of the rainbow, why chose the color of a wedding gown when you’re not the bride? However, before I get on my soapbox, I will offer a few exemptions to this understood rule. If the bride is having an untraditional wedding or is wearing a different color gown [such as red, pink, cream], wearing white is no longer out of the question. However, to be safe, consult with the bride. Ask her if wearing white would offend/upset her. If the bride is going the more traditional route with a white or ivory gown, the best bet is to tuck away your white and go with a different color. As always, check with the bride or the MOH first to see if the bride will mind.
Rule #2: Follow the Invitation
On most invitations, there is a request for the type of attire to wear. [See the guide below] If there is no explanation of the formality of the event, talk to the bride, groom or parents to figure out the proper attire. Women, if you must wear white, make sure your dress can not be mistaken for anything bridal. With so many gowns taking a more modern, less traditional look, it’s often hard to tell they are even wedding dresses! Another color to avoid, regardless of the invitation, is red. Red is such a bold and bright color and people’s eyes gravitate towards red before any other color [studies have shown this!] If you aren’t sure what the invitation means [strange wording] use these few examples as a guideline:
- Black Tie: If an invite states black tie required, this indicates that the wedding is formal. With this type of wedding, for men, stick with a tuxedo or a pressed black suit with a jacket. For women, wear a cocktail dress [knee length or long, satin, chiffon or silk], a little black dress or a very formal pant suit. If you are still confused, reach out to the bride, the mother of the bride or a bridesmaid for clarification.
- Black Tie optional/Formal attire requested: The tricky part about these descriptions are the words optional or requested. Many people take this to mean the formality of the event is much more informal, which in most cases, is not true. Some couples just feel this is less demanding on their guests. For men, stick to a dark suit and a nice dress shirt. Follow up to see if a tie is necessary. For women, stick to formal wear, as in a cocktail dress [long or short] or dressy separate.
- Semi-formal: This is a very common request for modern-day brides. Think of semi-formal as “after five” attire, or something you would wear out to a date or a nice evening out. For men, this means nice pants [dark preferably] and a nice dress shirt. No suit jacket or tuxedo is required. For women, stick with shorter cocktail dresses [not too short!] or nice dark pants and a nice shirt [fancier than what you would wear at work].
- Informal or dressy casual: Casual dress codes are often the regular for beach and some outdoor weddings. Although informal usually means jeans and a t-shirt, the definition for informal when it comes to wedding is much different. No matter how casual, jeans are a big no-no for weddings, so instead men, go for a nice pleated khaki or dress pant and a nice polo or dress shirt. For women, stick to nice sun dresses or a cocktail dress.
Rule #3: No matter what, dress appropriately
For good reason, I’m forgoing the picture on this rule [b/c who wants to see that? If you really want to, go to Vegas]. Although dressing for age, figure and occasion is something most of us know how to do, there is a still a vast majority of the population that has NO idea what this rule means. Which isn’t always their fault entirely, so I will be nice and list a few no-no’s for any wedding, regardless of the formality.
- If you can’t bend over in your dress, it’s inappropriate for a wedding [or anything but a nightclub]
- Don’t wear anything that is overly flashy, neon or overly embellished because this will take people’s eyes off the bride and groom
- Do not show off too much skin
- Do not wear anything cut off, stained or with holes [oh I’ve heard of this happening]
- Do not try to dress exactly like the bridesmaids [another top contender on my poll]
- Do not wear ANYTHING bridal or resembling bridal
You are invited to a wedding because you are an important person in the bride or grooms life, show your appreciation, support and excitement by dressing appropriately and nicely for their event. They will appreciate it more than they will express to you!