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Dress to Impress: A Guide to Wedding Guest Fashion

Introduction: What do I wear?

Are you attending a wedding soon and wondering what to wear? Not a part of the wedding party but still want to look great? Dressing appropriately as a wedding guest can sometimes be a challenge, especially with different dress codes and fashion trends to consider. But stress not! In this easy to read blog post, I will use my professional wedding planner experience and skills to walk you through everything you need to know about wedding guest fashion, from dress code etiquette to outfit ideas for different types and styles of weddings. So, get ready to dress to impress and make a stylish statement at the next wedding you’re a guest at!

Dress Code Etiquette for Weddings

As an honored guest, one of the first things to consider when choosing your outfit is the dress code specified by the couple. And 99% of the time, it’s the bride and her MOH that list what to wear. Most wedding invitations include a dress code, which can range from casual to black tie. It's important to respect the engaged couple’s wishes and dress accordingly.

For a casual or beach wedding, you can opt for a light and breezy outfit. Men can wear a nice pair of trousers or chinos with a solid button-down shirt, while women can go for a simple sundress or a flowy maxi dress. You will want to avoid wearing anything too revealing or casual, such as jeans or shorts.

If the wedding has a semi-formal or cocktail dress code, men should wear a three-piece suit or a blazer with dress pants, paired with a dress shirt and a tie. Women can choose a cocktail dress or a chic pantsuit. Add some accessories to spruce up your look, such as a statement necklace or a clutch.

Formal or black tie weddings call for a more sophisticated look. For this upscale attire, men should wear a tuxedo or a formal suit, while women should wear a formal evening gown or a classy cocktail dress. Don’t forget to accessorize with elegant jewelry and a stylish clutch.

No matter what the etiquette calls for, tennis shoes or sneakers are never ‘ok’ to wear. Be sure to wear the right style, the right colors to match your outfit, and the right dancing shoes that best suit you. 

Woman in yellow dress toasting champaign with a male guest. Woman is also wearing a flower ring on her right ring finger, holding the filled champagne  flute.
Woman in yellow dress toasting champaign.

Seasonal Wedding Guest Fashion Trends

Wedding seasons often coincide with different times of the year, and it's important to dress appropriately for the season. Such a case would be in my beautiful stat of Virginia where we are lucky enough to have all four seasons, with fall being the busy wedding season as the leaves change colors and the temperatures are decently nice. Let's explore some seasonal wedding guest fashion trends to help you make a stylish statement.

In the spring time, you can embrace pastel colors and simple floral prints. For men, a light-colored suit or a blazer paired with chinos can create a fresh and vibrant look. Women can select a flowy dress in a soft pastel hue or a simple floral pattern. Add some accessories like a wide-brimmed hat or a colorful scarf to complete your ensemble. 

Summer weddings are all about embracing the heat while staying stylish. Men can go for a linen suit in a light color, paired with a crisp white shirt. Women can choose a lightweight and breathable fabric like chiffon or light cotton for their dresses. Aim for vibrant colors or bold prints to make a statement. Don't forget to protect yourself from the sun with a stylish hat and sunglasses. Bring that light-weight clutch to carry your keys, lipstick, and to hold your sunglasses when your indoors.

As fall arrives, especially in Virginia, it's time to embrace richer colors and textures. Men can go for a tweed blazer paired with dark-colored trousers and a classically patterned tie. No outrageous pumpkins dancing with leaves type pattern, just a nice plaid will do the trick. Women can put on a dress with autumnal hues or a stylish pantsuit. Layering with a cozy scarf or a stylish jacket can add warmth and sophistication to your look. Avoid leggings or vibrant prints that sidetrack other guests from looking at the bride. You want to look great, not flabby.

Winter weddings call for elegant and cozy outfits. Men can wear a dark-colored suit with a cashmere sweater and a stylish overcoat. Women can opt for a long-sleeved dress in a rich fabric like velvet or satin. Pair it with a faux fur stole or a stylish cape for a glamorous touch. Don't forget to accessorize with statement jewelry and a chic clutch. Too many layers are better than not enough. Remember that you can always take layers off, just remember to take them home with you at the end of the night. 

Woman sharing her phone screen with other women at a wedding. All four ladies are either wearing a head piece or a hat. One woman is holding a small clutch in her hands.
Ladies at wedding wearing head pieces and hats.

Planning packages with Elegant Events by Leece starting under $199! Take a look at the affordable planning options by clicking here.

Stylish Outfit Ideas for Different Types of Weddings

Now that we've covered the general dress code and seasonal trends, let's dive into some stylish outfit ideas for different types of weddings. Whether you're attending a rustic outdoor barn wedding or a glamorous ballroom city affair, there's options for wedding attire that will make you stand out in the best way possible.

For a rustic bohemian wedding, embrace a relaxed and free-spirited style. Men can wear a linen suit in a light color, paired with a patterned shirt and loafers. Women can choose a flowy maxi dress with floral prints or a lace detail. Accessorize with natural elements like a flower crown or a woven bag to complete the look.

If you’re headed to a barn themed wedding, sticking to classical country attire would be a great option for you as a guest. For the cowboys, throw on a cowboy hat and clean boots to go along with your suit. If the couple is into it, add a bolo tie for accessorizing, but don’t over do it. For the farm gals, a flowy dress with boots would look nice. Keep it simple with jewelry to match the style, and a matching clutch to go with your barn look.

If you're attending a beach or destination wedding, opt for a breezy and tropical-inspired outfit. Men can wear a lightweight linen shirt paired with tailored shorts and sandals. Women can choose a colorful sundress or a jumpsuit. Don't forget to wear comfortable footwear like sandals or wedges for walking on the sand. If you decide to wear close-toed shoes, remember to empty the buckets of sand you’ve collected when coming off the beach!

Garden weddings are often romantic and whimsical, think fairy lights, and your outfit should reflect that. Men can wear a light-colored suit or a blazer paired with dress pants and a pastel shirt. Women can choose a feminine and flowy dress with light floral prints or lace details. You can add some light  jewelry, like a simple chain necklace, and a pair of heels to complete your garden wedding look. Bring a light cardigan or jacket and remember you can always take that layer off if you get too warm. 

For a glamorous city wedding, like a ballroom with chandeliers, it's time to dress to impress. Men should opt for a formal tuxedo with a crisp white shirt and a black bow tie. Women can choose a floor-length gown in a bold color or a chic cocktail dress with statement accessories. Don't forget to add some sparkle with elegant jewelry and a clutch. Stay away from anything that is completely white, ivory, or cream. The last thing anyone wants is to steal the show from the bride! 

Mens black loafers next to a neatly folded green tie. Men's wear for black tie.
Men's black loafers next to a neatly folded green tie.

Choosing the Right Accessories for Your Wedding Guest Outfit

Accessories can make or break an outfit, and when it comes to wedding guest fashion, they play a critical role in completing your guest look. Let's explore some tips for choosing the right accessories for your wedding guest outfit.

When it comes to jewelry, go with my Nanny’s favorite saying, ‘less is best’. Aim for just one statement piece, such as a bold necklace or a pair of chandelier earrings, and keep the rest of your accessories minimal. If your outfit is already bold and vibrant, choose delicate and understated jewelry to balance the simple look.

Your choice of shoes can showcase your outfit and add a touch of personality. For a formal or black tie wedding, select those classic pumps or heels. If you're attending a beach or outdoor wedding, choose comfortable yet stylish footwear like wedges or sandals. Don't forget to match the color and style of your shoes with the overall theme of your outfit. 

A handbag or clutch is a practical accessory that also adds a stylish touch to your ensemble. Choose a clutch or a small handbag that compliments your outfit and is spacious enough to carry your essentials, but not big enough to be your overnight luggage. Stick to the neutral colors like black or metallics that can be easily paired with different outfits.

Lastly, don't forget to consider your hairstyle and makeup as part of your overall look. If you're wearing a statement accessory, like a headpiece, keep your hairstyle simple and elegant to let the accessory shine. Coordinate your makeup with your outfit and choose colors that complement your skin tone and the overall theme of the wedding. Think about the weather, indoor or outdoor ceremony, and how much dancing you’ll be doing. Sweat happens, and so does humidity. Make sure to bring your lipgloss with you and a small pack of tissues!

Three women wearing bohemian styled dresses.
Three women wearing bohemian styled dresses.

Take a look at all the options available with Elegant Events by Leece  with planning packages starting under $199! Take a look at the affordable planning options by clicking here.

Tips for Dressing Appropriately as a Wedding Guest

In addition to considering dress codes and stylish outfits, there are a few general tips that can help you dress appropriately as a wedding guest. Let's explore these six tips:

  1. Always avoid wearing white, ivory and cream to a wedding, as these colors are traditionally reserved for the bride. Opt for other colors that complement your skin tone and the overall theme of the wedding.

  2. Pay attention to the length of your dress or skirt. Avoid anything too short or revealing, especially for more formal weddings. Aim for a length that is appropriate and respectful.

  3. When in doubt, it's always better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. It shows respect for the couple and the occasion. If you're unsure about the dress code, opt for a slightly more formal outfit. Also consider any religious or cultural aspects that might be incorporated into the wedding day. Nanny said it best, ‘modest is hottest.’

  4. Consider the venue and the weather when choosing your outfit. Outdoor weddings may require more practical footwear, while indoor weddings may call for more formal attire. Dressing appropriately for the weather will ensure your comfort throughout the day.

  5. Don't forget to dress for comfort. Although sweats and a comfy hoody aren’t appropriate, being comfortable in your dress wear is important. Weddings often involve a lot of standing, dancing, and socializing, so choose an outfit that allows you to move freely and enjoy the celebration. Avoid anything too tight, restrictive, or uncomfortable. Practice getting in handout of the car as you can tell how your outfit will feel on you when you stand, sit and move around. 

  6. Lastly, always remember that your outfit should be a reflection of your personal style and personality. While it's important to adhere to dress codes and consider the couple's preferences, don't be afraid to add your own unique touch to your wedding guest attire. You’ll likely be in pictures that the couple will keep for decades to come, so be true to yourself and let your own light shine!

Conclusion: How to Tell Your Guests What to Wear to Your Wedding

As a wedding guest, it's important to dress appropriately and follow the couple's dress code. But what if you're the one getting married? How do you communicate your dress code preferences to your guests? Here are some tips for telling your guests what to wear to your wedding:

  1. Include a dress code suggestion on your wedding invitations. This can be as simple as stating "Black Tie," "Cocktail Attire," or "Casual Chic." Make sure to explain any specific requirements or restrictions, such as "No jeans" or "Outdoor footwear recommended."

  2. If you have a wedding website, create a dedicated page or section for dress code information. Provide examples and inspiration for different dress codes, and include photos of what you consider appropriate attire. This can help your guests better understand your expectations.

  3. If you have a specific theme or color scheme for your wedding, communicate that to your guests. For example, if you're having a vintage-inspired wedding, you can suggest that your guests wear vintage-inspired outfits or specific colors that match your theme.

  4. If you have any cultural or religious requirements for attire, such as long sleeves or head coverings, be sure to clarify and include them in your invite.

  5. Double check that your wedding party knows the dress code for their significant others and family. 

  6. Kids or no kids? What about babies? Can your second cousin once removed on your step-mom’s side bring her three kids? Make sure it’s clear if children are not allowed, allowed up to what age, and if kids are invited, be clear on the attire! 

Hire a professional wedding planner to help you, or even better, do it all for you! Don’t let stress get the best of you, hiring a professional wedding planner can alleviate any headaches that might pop up from the overwhelm of it all. Save yourself the hassle, the stress, your time and some money. My team at Elegant Events by Leece has many options to choose from with planning packages starting under $199! Take a look at the affordable planning options by clicking here.

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