How To Dress When Attending A Wedding

Choosing what to wear to a wedding is rarely easy, but using some clues from the information provided by the bride and groom can help.

When a wedding invitation arrives in the mail, one of the first questions a wedding guest will ask themselves is, “What should I wear to the wedding?” It used to be that all weddings seemed to follow a traditional format, making proper wedding attire easy to coordinate. But modern wedding trends, such as theme weddings, destination weddings, or multi-cultural weddings, can make finding wedding guest attire a challenge.

Using The Wedding Invitation To Decide What To Wear To A Wedding

The first place to start when looking for the right attire to wear to a wedding is the wedding invitation itself. Invitations often contain clues as to how one should dress for the wedding. Some invitations might contain an added line that mentions proper attire for the event, such as “formal attire” or “casual attire requested.”

When such a line does not exist, use other clues on the invitation. Taking a look at the reception venue, for instance, can tell you how formal the event will be. A wedding taking place in an exclusive hotel or country club is likely to be far more formal than a barbecue wedding reception in someone’s back yard.

The time of day is also a clue when deciding how to dress for a wedding. Early afternoon weddings are typically less formal affairs, while events that take place during the dinner hour will require a more elegant form of dress.

Definitions of Wedding Guest Attire Descriptions

Even in the event that the wedding invitation dictates appropriate attire, the categories can often be confusing. The following descriptions give a more clear description of what attire is expected at the wedding:

 Casual Wedding Attire - Casual attire is the least restrictive wedding attire category. Casual wedding attire includes anything that is in the good, wearable condition that would be inappropriate in public. While jeans are not recommended, men might wear cargo pants or khakis, with a favorite shirt. Women would be suitable in a cotton skirt, shirt, or casual pants, and flat shoes are appropriate.
 Dressy Casual Wedding Attire - Dressy casual is increasing in popularity. Options for men in the dressy casual category include slacks and a button-down shirt, with a tie optional, while women would look nice in a dressy pair of pants and a nice blouse. A dress or a nice skirt is also an option. Heels may be worn, though flat dress shoes are also appropriate.
 Semi-formal or Cocktail Wedding Attire - Semi-formal and cocktail wedding attire are interchangeable. Suits and ties are appropriate for men at a semi-formal wedding. A shorter party dress, complete with matching jewelry and a handbag, is ideal for women. Shoes for men should be shined and in good condition, while a high heel shoe is recommended for women.
 Black Tie or Formal - The most formal of all of the wedding attire categories, a black-tie event sets the expectation that men will wear a tuxedo while women will arrive in a formal gown, usually floor length. Typically held in the evening, black tie or formal weddings usually mean wearing darker colors and accessories.

While the preceding guidelines can help a wedding guest better choose what to wear to a wedding, other factors need to also be taken into consideration. When in doubt, it is appropriate to call the mother-of-the-bride or the mother-of-the-groom to ask for guidance.

Wearing black is considered appropriate for late afternoon and evening weddings, but wearing white and red is considered inappropriate by most cultures. Wearing attire that is suitable for the occasion will ensure that both the hosts and the guests will feel comfortable throughout the wedding.