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What to Wear to a Wedding?

Wedding Guests

It is really not that easy to decide what to wear to a wedding. Everyone is expected to be decked out in acceptable attire, and what that constitutes is completely dependent on the location, time of day, dress code, and their roles in the festivities. If you are feeling stressed out because you have no idea what to wear, don’t fret. Before you rummage through your wardrobe, or plan a grand shopping spree, let’s take a look at some basic principles so you can put together the perfect wedding day outfit.


1. Location

Location gives you a big clue about how to dress for a wedding. For example, farm or backyard nuptials are usually very casual, while a country club wedding can be quite formal and fancy.

2. Time of Day

Whether the ceremony takes place during the day or after 6 PM is a definite indicator of what type of wedding attire you should wear.

For example, you should rock bright colors or pastel hues in airy fabrics when you are attending a daytime wedding, yet an evening affair requires a darker, more refined style of dress.

3. Dress Code

Dress codes for weddings vary, but many times the invitation will specify the couple’s preference. If they have something particular in mind, then it will take precedence over what is usually associated with the precise location or time of the day when the nuptials will take place.

Let’s take a deeper look at each style of dress in detail:

a. White Tie

This style is not very common, but it is the fanciest and most formal wedding dress code of all. It is on par with an award ceremony, or a royal wedding.

A man is expected to wear a full tuxedo with tails, patent leather shoes, and possibly white gloves.

The ladies should don ball gowns, full length, with matching stilettos.

White Bow Tie
$ 15.95

b. Black Tie

Black tie is the next most formal wedding dress code and is usually most appropriate for an evening ceremony.

For the men, nothing but well-tailored tuxedos will do. This debonair menswear look requires a cummerbund, bow tie, white dress shirt, and black leather shoes. You can wear suspenders, but they are not required.

For women, dramatic, dressy separates or a long evening dress are more than appropriate. Just be sure to accent the look with the right accessories, hair, and makeup.

Black Bow Tie
$ 15.95

c. Black Tie Optional or Formal

This distinction is slightly more casual than black tie, but still very dressy. With formal attire, wedding wear can’t get too crazy with colors, patterns, and textures. If you are unsure of what to wear, dress in black tie and err on the side of caution.

Men can wear a dark suit and tie rather than a tuxedo, but it should still be more on the conservative side. They may also choose a tux, and can always remove their cummerbund or bow tie later if they feel overdressed.

For the ladies, cocktail dresses are simply perfect for dressy casual or semi-formal events. They work best when accented with the right choice of handbag, shoes, and statement or chunky jewelry.

d. Semi-formal

Guests Dancing at Wedding

This dress code is right between formal wedding attire and casual. Since it’s fairly dressy, men can go with or without a tie, and women will not need to sport a maxi-length gown. However, the word “formal” is part of the name, so don’t dress too much on the casual side.

For the guys, this usually means a suit and tie, with or without suspenders, in a dark color for autumn, winter, or evening ceremonies (think dark gray, black, or brown) and lighter shades for spring, summer, and daytime affairs (think powder blue, beige, lavender, and tan).

If you want to shake up a more mundane look, think accessories, accessories, accessories! This is a secret that women have known for years. Try a personality-influenced tie, or a bow tie in an interesting hue with a matching belt or suspenders. Cuff links or tie clips make unique additions to your outfit as well.

Women, for a semi-formal wedding, should try a knee or tea length number with flat, bejeweled sandals. Also, full-length rompers and jumpsuits are certainly a viable alternative.

e. Casual

Casual wedding attire usually means anything goes, but, that also means within reason.

To be on the safe side, think of casual as “business casual.” This is a special day for someone you care for, so keep in mind that you must still dress to impress.

A man may or may not wear a sports coat, but will not look out of place with a polo, a button-down shirt, in a solid color or checked, or a sweater. These can be paired with chinos or khakis, and accented with simpler footwear, like boat shoes.

Ladies, remember, color and material are always key for casual weddings. For example, you can try a patterned, festive, and brightly-colored frock with open-toed heels and large hoop earrings.

f. Traditional

Indian Wedding

This doesn’t happen often, but there may be times when you are asked to dress to reflect the couple’s culture. For example, you may be asked to don Indian sari wedding outfits.

g. Custom

Some couples may ask you to match a particular color palette, such as taking inspiration from the desert landscape for an ceremony by the Grand Canyon.

These are couples that are getting more creative with requests rather than relying on tradition.

h. Festive

Festive weddings are usually centered around a particular theme and require you to dress the part. They embrace the party spirit and are all about dancing and having a great time, so bring a change of shoes.

If the wedding is festive and not particularly black tie, men can try a tuxedo in a creative fabric like velvet, or a cool color like navy blue. Try one of Armoniia's classy bowties in different colors and patterns to top off the outfit!

Women should opt for a cute cocktail frock. When it comes to sleek, dressy cocktail attire, wedding ensembles like these can be worn with cute flats for a festive-type ceremony with lots of dancing! Remember, for these types of events, you can try less formal footwear.

i. Beach Formal

Wedding on the Beach

This means the wedding is elegant, but you should also dress to accommodate the water, sand, and sun. Dress similar to how you would if you were dining in a fine restaurant in a warm location. It certainly is not a pool party and regular beachwear is frowned upon.

If a man wants to stand out at a beach wedding, he should try a crisp shirt in white or a pastel color paired with a linen blazer, loafers, and dress slacks. This is also a great look for any daytime nuptials.

Remember, you can wear semi-formal attire, wedding day or evening, with or without a tie. You can also go jacketless and sport suspenders instead to complete the ensemble. Armoniia has elastic suspenders in multiple shapes, colors, styles, and sizes that are sure to fit any man.

For casual beach nuptials, ladies should opt for a sundress with sandals or matching flats. Or, you could pair a dress blouse with a skirt. Just keep your makeup and hair natural to match!

What Not to Wear to a Wedding

When attending a wedding ceremony, there are just as many rules about what you shouldn’t wear as there are about what you should. Here are some looks you never want to sport at a loved one's nuptials:
  • Revealing clothing
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Denim
  • Athletic wear
  • Red color
  • Black and white colors

1. Revealing Clothing

Ladies should seriously refrain from donning plunging necklines, miniskirts, high-cut slits, and anything else that can be deemed as too revealing. You don’t want to appear tacky or out of place. Also, guests should avoid detracting attention from the bride.

As a matter of fact, anything too revealing is actually disrespectful if the ceremony is taking place in a house of worship. Shoulders may even require covering in some situations. Just bring a shawl or sweater that can be removed later.

2. Inappropriate Footwear

Flip-flops of any design are not appropriate footwear for a wedding. Decorative sandals are ok, but only for the ladies. No one should sport sneakers, either.

3. Denim

Any type of denim, including dressy jeans, is certainly inappropriate, no matter how casual a wedding may be.

4. Athletic Wear

Sweatpants, tee shirts, shorts (including such as part of a jumper), and all types athleisure wear are all completely out of the question for both men and women.

5. Red Color

Red dresses or ensembles draw the eye away from bride and stand out as sore thumbs in photos among a sea of pastels or subtle evening hues. So be careful choosing red dresses.

6. White & Black Colors

Selecting the right colors to wear to a wedding is far from simple. And, while dark colors and jewel tones are standard for the evening, and brighter hues rule the day, there are still other considerations to be made.

First of all, the wearing of white by any lady other than the bride is disrespectful and inappropriate. You never want to outshine her on her big day.

The only exception to this rule is if, and when, guests are asked to wear white, such as during a snowflake ball-type of wedding where everyone dresses in white or ivory and the rules are different. This is more of a white-tie white party.

Another blunder for a wedding guest outfit is wearing the same colors as the wedding party. This applies to men and women. Try to find out what they are wearing ahead of time to avoid this faux pas. Again, you do not want to steal their spotlight.

Black was formerly unacceptable for wedding guest attire because it was associated mostly with mourning and sorrow, rather than the joyous tone of a happy couple tying the knot. Younger generations have long bucked this trend, however, and many have never even been aware of it at all!

So, while this was a bone of contention in the past, it is now completely acceptable to wear a black ensemble. This is especially true if the ceremony is set in the evening, or it is deemed a white or black tie or a formal event. Think of a debonair black tux with a matching bow tie or a sparkly, ebony, floor-length gown. Remember, everything comes down to the time, place, and dress code, as always.

It should also be noted that wearing black is more widely accepted outside the United States, as well as in ,the Western and Northeastern areas of the country. In the Southern United States, it is still considered having bad manners to wear black to a wedding.

Etiquette for Mothers of the Bride and Groom Dresses

Both mothers should refrain from wearing the same color, or colors, in the case of a rainbow wedding, as the bridesmaids. They are not members of the bridal party, so this is considered bad taste. They can, however, don a variation of the color, such as a lighter or darker form of it. When in doubt, it is best to ask the bride directly.

The mother of the bride traditionally chooses her dress first, paving the way for the groom’s mother to choose her dress. Nowadays, both women usually discuss what direction they want to go in regarding style, length, and color.

1. What about Matching Colors?

This decision rests with the couple tying the knot. The bride should have a blunt discussion with her mother and future mother-in-law before they get a chance to go dress shopping so everyone is on the same page. Just be sure both ladies feel comfortable in the colors chosen.

2. Is There a Difference Between Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom Dresses?

The dresses should be similar in style, length, and possibly color, but should never match exactly. They should also differ from the bride’s dress substantially.

3. What Color Should Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom Dresses Be?

Gold, silver, and other metallics work well for evening weddings, as well as navy blue. Black really only applies to an extremely fancy event.

Most mothers stick to flattering colors like mint green, pale pinks and yellows, and powder blue. While the time and place are still relevant, in these matters, the final decision rests with the bride.

4. Where Can You Find Dresses for the Mothers of the Bride and Groom?

Upscale department stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s feature elegant dresses in nearly any style you can think of. Do you want a more affordable, casual alternative? Try JC Penney, or if you want a designer gown, look to Vera Wang or David’s Bridal.

  • Macy's
  • Dillards
  • Nordstrom
  • David's Bridal
  • Dillards
  • JCPenney
  • Bloomingdales
  • Vera Wang
  • Amazon

In conclusion, there are many choices out there when comes to getting dressed for an upcoming wedding. But, hopefully, these simple suggestions should bring some clarity to the process. Now you should be a sophisticated and stylish wedding guest waiting to see your loved ones tie the knot!

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