Choosing what to wear to a wedding can be downright taxing, especially as dress codes become more and more unclear.
No matter what type of wedding you attend, there is always a set of etiquette and dress code rules that accompany it.
Whether it’s a black-tie, semi-formal, or casual wedding, these rules are in place to guide you in your outfit selections, and most importantly, to keep the couple happy and satisfied on their big day.
There’s not much a couple can do about what guests wear to their wedding other than state the dress code on the invitation.
If the guests and couple are close friends, they will respect the dress code. However, we have been to more than one wedding where guests were dressed in outrageous outfits or mimicked the bride. Boutique Events Group has proven itself to be an iconic wedding venue and function centre in Melbourne. Book today so you don’t miss out.
Couples will (and should) provide the guests with clear expectations on their dress code. The invitation will state the venue and how formal the dress code is.
What Should You Not Wear to a Wedding?
A wedding is no ordinary party, where you can throw on whatever you please and turn up to make an impact.
Quite the opposite. A wedding is all about the couple getting ready to say their vows, and it’s not at all about you.
Rather than saying what not to wear, remember what the day is about. It’s about celebrating the couple and their love, so you would want to avoid wearing anything that could distract from their special day.
Getting dressed for a wedding shouldn’t be challenging, but if you haven’t planned your outfit, you may be in some hot water (even if you do know the dress code).
When rummaging through your wardrobe trying to find something appropriate to wear, keep these pitfalls in mind; you don’t want the bride to be giving you side-eye all evening because of your outfit choices.
Note: if the wedding’s dress code asks you to wear one of these items, go ahead and ignore our rules (obvi).
Ahead, see wedding guest attire etiquette to help guide you in what you should avoid wearing to a wedding.
Clothing Outside of the Dress Code.
You show up to the wedding to honour the couple. Your appearance should reflect that. Make sure your ensemble is respectful and appropriate for the event.
Take the extra effort to ensure you understand what you should and shouldn’t wear to a particular ceremony.
You don’t want to be the girl in a long ball gown while everyone else sports a cocktail dress.
If you can’t figure out precisely what “beachy chic” or “festive casual” entails, reach out to a bridesmaid (not the bride) for help.
Anything Loud and Flashy.
One of the most significant rules of dressing for a wedding is never to outshine the bride and groom.
Avoid sequined ball gowns, sparkly tiaras, sky-high platform heels, or other articles of clothing that will draw attention away from the bride.
A wedding isn’t the proper time to make a bold fashion statement.
Anything Too Revealing
Skip the skimpy cocktail dress and opt for something a little more on the conservative side.
Dresses and skirts should be approximately knee-length. At a hot summer outdoor wedding, try wearing lighter fabrics rather than less of them.
If the ceremony is held at a church or a temple, it is a good idea to bring a shawl or cover-up to cover your shoulders.
A White Dress.
Unless you’re the bride, wearing a white dress to a wedding is traditionally a faux pas.
Leave all white, ivory, and champagne-hued shades alone unless the invitation requests explicitly that guests wear white.
The bride deserves to stand out in her gown, and you don’t want to upset her or other guests by wearing anything bridal-esque.
Along those lines, find out the colour of the bridesmaid’s dresses and avoid wearing a similar shade, so you aren’t mistaken for a bridal party member.
Unless you are the bride, you should not wear white. It’s a pretty simple rule to follow, but one that many guests have snubbed.
If the couple is hosting a black and white or other themed wedding and encourage their guests to don white outfits, absolutely go wild, but otherwise steer clear of solid white costumes and any outfits where the predominant colour is white, off-white or cream.
This is possibly the most commonly known of all things you should never wear to a wedding, yet we still see it come up again and again!
Your Everyday Jeans and Sneakers.
While you might assume that a barnyard wedding theme calls for your favourite pair of jeans, this is not the case.
Unless the wedding invitation explicitly says to wear denim, opt for some well-tailored trousers instead.
Remember, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed at a wedding.
It doesn’t matter if the dress code requests “casual” attire; jeans, t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers are never appropriate to wear as a wedding guest.
Show respect for the bride and groom by dressing formally. Sabatino suggests that men show up in a jacket and tie, even when the invitation is casual.
That is honouring the occasion in my mind.
Skip Skimpy Pieces.
Never wear something with a lot of exposed skin.
Crop tops dress in mesh on the sides, short skirts, plunging necklines, and form-fitting gowns are more appropriate for a nightclub than a wedding.
A skimpy outfit will attract negative attention from other guests and take attention away from the bride.
Your Most Uncomfortable Shoes.
Think about what’s appropriate for the setting and the venue.
If the wedding will take place in a natural landscape, consider ditching the heels for a pair of cute flats.
There’s no need to struggle with stiletto heels in the grass all night or go home early because of painful and insensible footwear.
Sabatino suggests sticking with a long or short black dress if you’re at a complete loss for an outfit.
Find a piece with a flattering cut, and dress it up for the occasion.
Avoid wearing anything see-through or sheer at a wedding.
Make sure you try on your outfit in a few different lighted areas (both natural and fluorescent) to ensure that nothing shows through.
Try wearing more modest materials like chiffon or satin.
If you still want to wear a sheer fabric, try wearing a dress with exact details in the sleeves, so long as it’s done tastefully.
The colour black is a somewhat grey area.
Because it is a traditionally sombre colour held firmly in the realm of funerals, it can be a bit on the nose to wear it to a celebration of love and a new life together for the couple.
But with so many traditions being thrown to the wind, more brides are becoming relaxed about guests wearing black at their weddings.
Use your judgment, and if the dress looks fun and light, you should be fine.
If you love a dress but want to make sure you are in the clear, have a quick chat with the bride to make sure it wouldn’t upset her.
Bridal Party Colours
When you receive an invitation in the mail, you will more often than not get a glimpse into the wedding’s colour scheme.
These are colours to avoid when choosing your wedding outfit as they are the ones most likely to be worn by the groomsmen and bridesmaids – and you are not one of them.
Too High or Too Low
If the hemline is questionably high or you can see some bra poking out the top of your dress, it’s better to not wear it to a wedding- at risk offending friends or family of the couple, be sure to keep it classy.
You don’t want to look too casual.
For the gents, if your pants are getting a bit big or you have a flat backside that doesn’t hold up pants on its own, you might need to borrow or invest in a belt to keep everything under wraps.
If you are going to a beach wedding or a wedding that is more on the smart-casual side, do not show up in a sequined ball gown, tux, or anything that would make you look dressier than the bride or groom.
This is their day, and they do not need to be upstaged by a poor wardrobe choice.
Even if you have been told the affair will be casual, shorts and a t-shirt are never okay. Neither is denim or sweats.
So avoid, avoid, avoid! It’s not hard to throw on some slacks and a shirt, even if you end up rolling the sleeves up after a while.
Unless you’re attending a very laid back beach wedding, you’ll want to save your shorts for another day.
The happy couple has probably invested in fans or A/C if their wedding day is scorching, so you should have no trouble getting through the day in a pair of trousers.
The only footwear that is almost always unwelcome at weddings is flip flops.
They’re the farthest thing from a formal shoe and should be used for more casual outings, like taking your laundry to the dry cleaner.
Save your flip-flops for the beach. If you’re not keen on wearing high heels all day, try some dressy sandals or stylish flats.
For guys, pick a pair of closed-toed shoes. If you’re attending a beach wedding, check with the bride and groom to see what their expectations are.
Don’t be the guest who can’t walk in their shoes – even before they’ve had a couple of drinks at the open bar.
They may look stunning on the rack, but there is zero practicality in wearing sky-high heels to a wedding, especially if it is outdoors.
If you must wear 3-inch stilettos, at least make sure you can walk in them prior. Wear them first!
If they are made from plastic or foam, they do not belong at a wedding. That’s not to say you cannot wear flats because you absolutely can. Just steer clear of things and *gasp* Crocs.
Leopards, zebras and giraffes have no place at a wedding, so don’t dress up as one with loud prints that scream ‘look at me!!’
Once again, this is out of respect for the bride to allow her to be the centre of attention.
This is not the 80s; there is no need for neon anything under any circumstances.
Believe it or not, wedding guests have turned up wearing tiaras in the past. So are they intentionally trying to steal the limelight? You have the dress, you have the shoes? But what about the Wedding Jewellery? Check out our list of Wedding Jewellery Shops here.
Most likely. But this is a reminder to avoid tiaras or any other kind of ornamental headbands or pieces that look bridal in any way.
Too Much Makeup
You may want to pretty yourself up to be a guest at a wedding, but keep a lid on the number of bold colours you choose for your lips and eyes.
Body glitter should stay at home and try not to overdo it on the fake tan – you will end up standing out for all of the wrong reasons.
Anything That Shows Your Undergarments
Are you going to a bar? It’s A-OK to have your bra straps exposed. Are you hitting the grocery store? Nobody will bat an eyelash if your boxers are out.
Are you going to a wedding? Put all of that away, STAT. Nobody wants to know where you buy your undies at this event, so keep all of it under wraps.
Something That Mimics the Bridesmaids’ Dresses
As a guest, you want to make sure the bridal party gets the attention they deserve.
If you are unaware of the wedding’s colour scheme, reach out to one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen and ask.
If you don’t want to pry, reference the colours found on the wedding invitations.
A Statement Outfit
Now’s not the time to try to get a laugh out of your friends with a kooky statement ensemble.
The spotlight should be firmly planted on the newlyweds, so leave the bold prints, zany 80’s fashions and costumes at home and go for something more subdued, like a muted cocktail dress or tailored suit.
Anything Against the Dress Code
The happy couple is most likely going to list their dress code on the invitation. Please note this and dress accordingly as a sign of respect towards this unique moment in their lives.
Even if the event is ‘semi-casual, it is still better to show up in a suit and tie or a flattering dress than to appear underdressed.
Tips on Wedding Attire Etiquette
Don’t Match the Bridal Party.
As a guest, you don’t want to blend in with the wedding party (or even mimic it).
Try to get intel ahead of time about what shades and colours the bridal party and the groomsmen will be wearing.
From there, select an outfit that blends nicely with the tones or something opposite but not too loud.
Also, look at the invitation because it’s the first source of information about what colours you should or shouldn’t wear to a wedding.
The invitation will contain the colour scheme for the wedding. There will be a colour scheme throughout the invitation, and these shades are typically the tones used in the wedding decor and bridal party.
So, if you notice a repetitive royal blue or fern green, it’s safe to say those are what the wedding party will wear.
So choose colours that aren’t too close to them.
And, if you’re wondering about a classic black dress, it’s a safe and acceptable choice. Although black might indicate sadness, it’s appropriate for a formal black-tie wedding and cocktail attire.
Avoid Attire That Is Too Revealing
It’s one thing to select an outfit that makes you feel confident, empowered, and adds a touch of sexiness.
However, showing up in something too exposed could offend other guests (and children) attending the wedding.
Keep your selections mostly modest with little hints and playfulness of sexiness through slits, mesh, and open-back dresses.
You’ll want to consider the wedding’s dress code for guidance on how formal or casual your selection should be.
From there, choose something that will make you look and feel your best.
A wedding isn’t a chance to show off your body. Instead, remember that a wedding is a sacred ceremony and reflect that in your outfit selection.
Steer Clear of Anything Too Casual
We get it, especially after spending most of the past year at home. No one wants to quit their coziest clothing like yoga pants, slippers, and jeans.
But these have no place at a wedding. So even if a marriage is casual and relaxed, still dress with respect.
No flip, flops, shorts, or jeans should be on your list of options to wear. Instead, ladies find a casual dress, and men wear a nice pair with a relaxed shirt.
Keep those shirttails tucked in, and wear a belt regardless of how casual the wedding is.
When in Doubt, Ask
After you’ve deciphered the invitation and investigated the wedding website, stalked the venue on their website and all social media channels, and you still don’t know what to wear or to steer clear of, ask.
You can talk to the bride about what she would like people to wear or connect with one of the attendees to help—that’s what they’re there for.
There is that rare occasion where the language on both the invitation and wedding website is vague and unclear with the dress code. When this happens, it leaves you guessing what to wear.
This is why the type of wedding: Formal, semi-formal, or casual, should be discussed. Just check in to be safe!
Wedding Guest Ideas for Each Wedding Dress Code
Grotts outlines ideas for each wedding dress code below. When all else fails, take inspiration for this list.
- Beach Wedding: A sundress and Bermuda shorts with a linen shirt is appropriate.
- Casual Wedding: Flowy dresses with a nice pair of low heels or sandals and khakis with a sports jacket are best.
- Semi-Formal Wedding: A maxi dress and dark suit are excellent, comfortable options.
- Formal Wedding: A long skirt that makes a statement and a tuxedo, without exception.
As a wedding guest, it is essential to show respect towards the bride and groom. After all, they did invite you to one of the biggest days of their lives. Need help planning your wedding? Check out our list of Wedding Event Planners here.
To show your gratitude, make sure you know the wedding basics like digital wedding etiquette and how to find the right wedding gift idea that will put a smile on the faces of the happy couple.