The Do’s and Dont's of Wedding Guest Dress


The Do's and Don'ts of wedding guest attire

By Irene Feeney Steele


Wedding season is back – (after a major lull during the Covid pandemic), you’ve got the invitation, the ‘plus-one’ and the time off work – now what to wear? Have the ‘unwritten’ rules changed when it comes to wedding guest attire?


Weddings certainly have fewer fashion rules today than previous decades, which is great, but things are also a tad more complex.


Here are my top do’s and don’t when considering what to wear.


DO think about the colour palette


Whether you’re close to the bride or bridal party or not, find out the main colour palette for the wedding. There’s nothing worse than turning up looking like the extra bridesmaid, confusing the photographers and the other guests. If you find out the bridesmaids are wearing blue – steer clear of blue and all it’s different shades and hues. Avoid those awkward moments by planning in advance and finding out the necessary info. It will also make shopping for an outfit a tad easier.


DO consider the dress code


Understanding the dress code is key. If an invitation specifies ‘black-tie’ – then your dress will need to be below the knee or floor-length. If it specifies ‘white-tie’ – then this requires extra formality and a floor-length dress is mandatory. White tie, although not that common, is quite conservative and proper – this is not the time to experiment with a cropped trouser suit or cut-out beach dress! Summertime see’s garden weddings more popular with romantic and intimate venues such as marquees, barns and even beaches, so attire in this case can certainly be a tad more relaxed with a boho, floral or even colourful sundress vibe for example.


DO think about your footwear


If you want to ensure you are at your ‘glam best’ at a wedding, heels are a must. But weddings can ensue a long day of being on your feet so unless you are Tina Turner and you can dance the night away in your heels – consider having another ‘more comfortable’ option with you on the day such as a pair of flat flip-flops, ballet pumps or even a pair of Converse.


DO consider a hat


I’m not implying here you MUST wear a hat or fascinator to a wedding but good etiquette is ALWAYS in style. A wedding (or a horse-racing event) is one of the few places where you can wear a hat without raising eyebrows. If the wedding ceremony is performed before the evening – a hat is more than acceptable to wear. But, if the wedding is a black-tie event or an evening ceremony – it’s usually inappropriate to wear a hat.



DO consider the weather


Depending on where in the world the wedding is – the weather will be a factor. If it’s a typical winter setting, consider layers to protect yourself from the elements. A faux fur stole or jacket is great as a cover up here plus will look great with any outfit. If choosing a coat for the event, ensure the coat is a longer length than your dress. Colour is also important here – think pastels and bright colours for summer weddings. Deep plums, red, navy and black are ideal for winter events.


DON’T wear white


Seems like an obvious rule, but it’s surprising the amount of people that still don’t adhere to this. White, cream, off-white and ecru etc., is for the bride (and bridesmaids) ONLY.


DON’T over-shadow the bride


Apart from wearing white, showing up in a loud, crazy and over-the-top design is not acceptable. It’s someone else’s day, not yours, so unless it’s a white-tie wedding affair, keep your outfit subtle yet stylish and definitely not a lavish sequinned gown.


DON’T wear anything too revealing


Weddings are sophisticated and classy affairs. Keep that in mind when choosing your outfit and avoid anything too tight and revealing. Tasteful is the vibe here especially when it comes to showing too much leg or cleavage.


DON'T wear jeans


Not everyone likes to dress up, that’s a fact. But it doesn’t mean you wear your favourite pair of denim jeans to a wedding, even if they are a dark wash, skinny cut, designer pair! As an alternative, consider a tailored pair of trousers or a suit.


Remember, if you’re not sure of the correct etiquette for the particular wedding you’ve been invited to – just ask. If it’s a culturally different ceremony to what you are used to, find out what’s expected. Wedding websites set up by the bride and groom are a common feature these days and can be a field of information about the requirements on the day.