What Should Wedding Guests Wear?

smart couple

Parties, family gatherings and celebrations are a great way to enjoy ourselves as well as a chance to spend quality time around family and friends to catch up and have fun. 

When a wedding invitation is received not only have you been asked to share in the joy of two people committing their lives to each other but it can be seen as an exciting opportunity to pull out all the stops and dress up in a classy and elegant way.

Being invited to a wedding should make you feel special because the bride and groom will have put a lot of effort, thought and time in deciding who to choose to celebrate their special day with them.  For some couples it could be their budget which decides the number of guests, while for others it may be down to how many people they are permitted at the venue but for whatever reason you should feel honoured that you have been chosen.

After receiving the wedding invitation your thoughts will turn to ‘what to buy them’ and ‘what to wear’. 

Look For Clues

If you are to be a bridesmaid, best man or usher the chances are your outfit will be chosen for you by the bride to coordinate with her outfit and wedding colours and the decision on what to wear will not be an issue.

As a guest careful consideration should be given to your choice of outfit. The main reason being that you don’t want to clash with, or ‘outshine’, the bride in any way.

Another reason for choosing wisely is you don’t want to turn up looking over or underdressed and sticking out like a sore thumb among all the other guests and feeling uncomfortable.

The invitation may give you the first indication on how to dress as it may state ‘formal dress or black tie’.  This lets you know that ladies can dress in full length dresses or ball gowns and men in a tuxedo or suit and tie. 

The colours on the invitation may also give you an idea of the chosen wedding colours and if this is the case then the chances are the bridesmaids and even the mother of the bride’s outfits will include these colours.

Consider the Venue

smart ladyKnowing where the reception venue is to be can also be a help. If it’s to be held outside a pretty summer dress with a hat and gloves can be worn to fit in with any summer wedding. For those more formal outdoor weddings a parasol can give that added dressy look but double check if the bride or bridesmaid will be carrying them and go for a totally different style.

Unless the invitation specifically asks for such outfits as jeans and t-shirts, shorts and flip flops you should refrain from being ‘too’ casual and so laid back you end up looking like somebody straight from the streets or a poor relative.

When the words ‘smart but casual’ are used on the invite, you can’t go wrong with a simple dress or skirt / trousers and a blouse.  All of these casual clothes can be brought up a notch by adding a scarf, some dazzling jewellery or a matching handbag, shoes and hat set.

For men the casual look can be achieved by smart trousers, crisp coloured shirt and a shine on your shoes.

Try and refrain from wearing loud and wildly patterned coloured material; this will only bring attention to yourself and unless you are part of the wedding party it really is not etiquette.

Talk to the bride or family members of the bride to find out the style of dress they are wearing as well as the colours and if you are close with the mother of the bride or groom you may be able to find out at least what colour their outfit is.  The last thing you want is to turn up in the same outfit as either one of them.

If you manage to find out what the actual wedding party is wearing this will make it a bit easier for you to pick your own colours.  Don’t try and ‘match’ their colours.  Remember it is their day, not yours and you are there as a chosen guest.  If they had wanted you to dress like one of the wedding party they would have asked you!

Dress Wording on Wedding Invites

smart couple notThe rule of thumb is the more formal the invite the more formal the occasion.  Evening dresses should be worn by female guests if ‘black tie affair’ is stated and male guests’ dressed in a suit and tie.

For Female Guests

  • Informal Daytime: Short dress or suit (business attire is fine for morning weddings)
  • Informal Evening: Cocktail dress
  • Semi-Formal Daytime: Short dress or suit
  • Semi-formal Evening: Cocktail dress
  • Formal Daytime: Short dress or suit. Hats and gloves optional.
  • Formal Evening or Black-Tie: Long or dressy short cocktail (beading, glam accessories, wrap)
  • Ultra-formal or White Tie: Long gown, extra glitz (faux furs, diamonds, etc).

For Male Guests

  • Informal Daytime: Dress shirt and slacks, preferably a sports jacket.
  • Informal Evening: Suit
  • Semi-Formal Daytime: Suit
  • Semi-Formal Evening: Dark suit
  • Formal Daytime: Dark suit and tie
  • Formal Evening: Tuxedo (if invitation states "black tie") or dark suits if women wear short dresses.
  • Ultra-formal Evening or White Tie: White tie, cummerbund or vest and shirt.

Golden Rules

  • Don’t wear white or ivory.
  • If wearing gloves, take them off when eating.
  • Don't go overtly sexy as in see through dresses etc – this type of clothing is not apt for most weddings.
  • Male guests should not wear a tuxedo during the day unless the wedding invitation stipulates.
  • Have respect for the bride’s wishes.

Tips and Suggestions

If you are travelling a fair distance on the day of the wedding it may be a good idea to travel in casual clothes and change when you get near, if possible that is.  If there is not a way for you to do this then bear it in mind when choosing your outfit and look for material that won’t wrinkle the first time you sit down.

Choose clothing that is appropriate to the weather conditions of the season.  With the unreliable British weather we can be caught out so it may be a good idea to have a fold away umbrella that will help protect you from rain or sun.

Empty your handbag to get rid of all the bits and bobs that can clutter up the space.  Pack necessities such as tissue, make-up, spare pair of tights, travel sewing kit, mints and face fresheners. 

Decide if you are going to come home the night of the wedding or stay overnight in a hotel/B&B.  Book ahead to ensure a room as the one’s closest to the venue will be the first to go.

Remember the most important people at the wedding are the bride and groom followed by the wedding party.  By choosing your outfit wisely and not bringing attention to yourself you can be comfortable and at ease. Join in the celebration of love, family and togetherness and remember you are there because the happy couple want you there.