Wedding Guest Attire Etiquette & Guideline

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Choosing the perfect wedding outfit can be a hassle, especially when there is no mention of it in the wedding invitation. Haven’t we all faced the situation where we have gotten the invitation for a wedding, happily circled the date on the calendar and even started shopping for their gift, when all of a sudden it hits us, that we have absolutely nothing to wear for the D-day. Not to mention the dilemma of choosing an attire that should not outshine those of the newlyweds and wedding party, and should not make you look under-dressed as well.

Wedding Attire Etiquette: Rules for Guests

The wedding attire is usually specified in the invitation itself, such as a “formal” or “black-tie” event implying that guests should dress up in tuxedos, suits or dresses. The words “casual potluck” on the invitation mean a more laid-back event where you can don dress shirts, slacks or even sundresses. Sometimes the style of the wedding invitation itself should hold the clues for the expected guest attire. So, a wedding invitation that arrives on expensive paper with an engraved calligraphic script and formal language, chances are the wedding will be a formal affair. However, if the wedding invitation is contains pictures or caricatures of the bride chasing the groom in a wedding dress it’s safe to assume the dress code will be casual. However, if the wedding invitation does not tell you anything about the event, then wedding etiquette rules state that you choose the wedding attire based on the time of the day or the location.

Wedding Attire for Guests: Time of the Day

Morning Wedding

Depending on the season, your morning wedding attire should be a lighter color and a bit more casual than the one you would wear for an evening wedding. For men, the ideal choice would be to wear a light-colored suit, a nice sports coat, slacks, and a tie. In winter, men can wear woolen suits, a navy blazer with charcoal pants, and a sweater and tie underneath a blazer. Women can dress up in a colorful floral dress, a skirt, or a sweater with slingback shoes or a light-colored suit, the addition of a beautiful hat to your wedding attire.

Afternoon Wedding

You can dress up the same way as you would for a morning wedding.

Evening Wedding

For weddings held in the evening, men should wear dark suits, and women should opt for beautiful cocktail dresses, skirts, or elegant cocktail suits. The key is to select darker, more sophisticated colors and fabrics than you would choose for a morning or afternoon wedding. You can also opt for elaborate accessories like jewelry, and women can choose to carry a beautiful clutch rather than a big heavy bag.

Wedding Attire for Guests: Location

Outdoor Wedding

For an outdoor affair, avoid skirts and dresses that can easily blow upwards; instead, opt for a tailored suit or skirt. Avoid high heels, which would sink into the mud or grass. If the wedding is to take place under the scorching midday sun, then men should avoid wearing dark suits with jackets and instead go for a light suit with a jacket that can be easily removed. In winter, guests can wear warm boots, gloves, coats, and wraps over their dress clothes.

Indoor Weddings

Traditional daytime church ceremonies and afternoon sit-down receptions should indicate a formal wedding attire where men are expected to wear 3 piece suits, and formal gowns should be the attire for women.

Wedding Attire for Guests: Indicated on the Invitation

Casual Attire

Although it is rare to see this indicated on an invitation, it is sometimes used to indicate that the guests should not be too dressed. This can get quite confusing as even your shorts and flip-flops are casual. However, please DO NOT wear clothes that you might wear to a baseball game or for running errands on a Sunday afternoon. Instead, women can opt for a casual dress or suit with flat shoes. Men can wear slacks and a dress shirt with or without a tie.

Cocktail Attire

Dress as you would for a fancy cocktail party with elegant and chic clothes, high heels, and fashionable evening bags. Men should dress up in dark suits.

Black Tie Optional

“Black Tie Optional” on the wedding invitation indicates that the male guests may choose to wear tuxedos and female guests may wear evening gowns, but this is not required. Men can opt to wear a dark suit in black, navy blue or dark gray instead of a tuxedo and women should ideally be dressed in cocktail-length dresses.

Black Tie

This is the most formal attire. Men should ideally dress up in a tuxedo, and women can don floor-length formal dresses.

Attire Etiquette for Wedding Guests: Do’s and Don’ts

  • You can wear black to a wedding. The long-standing tradition of ladies not wearing black to a wedding is now nonexistent. However, consider accessorizing your little black dress with a brightly colored scarf or blazer. However, avoid black during a daytime wedding.
  • Do not wear white or ivory-colored clothes. Wearing white competes with the bride’s dress.
  • Refrain from wearing revealing clothing suggestive of your figure with plunging necklines or miniskirts to a wedding.
  • Do not wear jeans to a wedding, however casual the event might be.
  • If all else fails and you’re still wondering what to wear, seek the help of someone close to the bride for a heads-up on guest attire.

So choose your dress with care and remember that choose an attire that expresses your style and fashion. After all, even though absolutely everyone will look at the happily wedded couple, you will want to look your best and follow wedding etiquette.