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Deciding what to wear to a wedding isn't always an easy task. Once you send your RSVP in the mail, there's a good chance you'll start thinking about the outfit you'll don on the big day. While the invitation will often include a suggested wedding dress code, it can be confusing when it comes time to actually pick an outfit. And, as any seasoned guest knows, the last thing you want to do is procrastinate finalizing your look until it's the night before the wedding and you feel like you have nothing to wear.
If you find yourself asking "What do I wear to a wedding as a guest?" you're not alone. In fact, it's one of the most common questions guests have. And, luckily for you, we're here to help. In this comprehensive wedding guest fashion guide, you'll find expert-approved tips on choosing exactly what to wear to a wedding (and what not to wear) regardless of the dress code or season. Below, read up on their tried-and-true wedding fashion tips that'll help you pick an outfit you feel your best in. And, to give you the easiest shopping experience possible, we've also outlined our top five favorite places to shop for wedding guest attire that you'll want to re-wear over and over again.
In this article:
- What to Wear to a Wedding as a Guest
- Where to Buy Wedding Guest Outfits
What to Wear to a Wedding as a Guest
If you're not sure what you should wear to a wedding, we've got you covered. When it comes to wedding fashion etiquette, there are a few rules that'll help you find an outfit that's appropriate and stylish. Brush up on these fool-proof tips below before you start shopping so you know exactly what kind of clothes you can wear to a wedding.
Follow the Dress Code
The dress code is the most important factor to take into consideration when choosing what to wear to a wedding. The majority of couples will set a wedding dress code depending on the style of the event, as well as the time of year it's taking place. What you wear to a black-tie wedding in the winter, for example, will be vastly different than what you wear to a casual wedding in the middle of summer.
"If the dress code is black-tie, then there is only one correct outfit: a black tuxedo," explains Brian Sacawa, style expert and author of The Groom Guide. "Guests should also have the appropriate tuxedo shirt, a stud set and cufflinks in a matching metal, either a cummerbund or vest waist covering, black bow tie, white pocket square, and black patent leather shoes." Similarly, women are encouraged to dress up in a floor-length evening gown or an elegant dress.
Fashion rules for a casual daytime wedding, on the other hand, are much different. "You can never go wrong with a navy blazer, a blue button-down shirt or khaki pants for a casual wedding," says Virginia-based wedding style expert Monte Durham. "And, for ladies, you can always opt for a dress with a nice neckline and simple accessories."
Understanding the wedding dress code is key for picking an appropriate outfit. To help you distinguish what different terms mean, use our comprehensive wedding dress code cheat sheet to learn the difference between white tie, black-tie optional, formal attire, semi-formal, cocktail attire, dressy casual, and everything in between. Once you know what different dress codes mean, you'll be able to make an informed decision on what to wear to a wedding.
Shop by Seasonality
In addition to the suggested attire, the time of day and the season of the wedding can give further fashion insight too. "The season and location of the wedding are great indicators of what to wear," says Ranu Coleman, CMO of wedding fashion brand Azazie. "For example, if it's a beach wedding, that's an indicator that you shouldn't show up in a formal dress. Summer weddings usually lean towards shorter styles with lighter colors, for example, while a fall wedding caters to darker jewel-toned colors and richer fabrics like velvet and silk."
If you find yourself asking, "What should I wear to a wedding?" start by gathering inspiration in stores. Durham, who also appears on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, recommends browsing styles that are currently on the racks to find an outfit that's seasonally appropriate. "Shopping in-person at a traditional store can help you find what to wear," he explains. "If you're attending a winter wedding, for example, you'll find outfits with wool, cashmere and velvet, as well as blazers, jackets and heavier shoes. If you're invited to a wedding in the height of summer, you're going to respond to what's on the rack: fabrics that are sheer, lightweight, flowy and comfortable. Take your cue from what's in the stores when shopping."
For more outfit inspiration, shop our comprehensive outfit guides by wedding season:
- What to Wear to a Summer Wedding: Given the warmer temperatures that often accompany summer weddings, look for breathable fabrics like chiffon, cotton, linen and rayon to stay cool. Consider opting for a lightweight sundress or midi dress with strappy heels or sandals, or a button-down shirt or short sleeve polo tucked into chinos or dress pants with loafers.
- What to Wear to a Fall Wedding: Fall is the perfect time of year to wear bright jewel tones that reflect the changing seasons. A sleek jumpsuit, maxi dress or knee-length cocktail dress would suffice, as well as a dark suit with a crisp dress shirt underneath.
- What to Wear to a Winter Wedding: Winter weddings tend to be more formal by nature, especially with nuptials around seasonal holidays like Christmas or New Year's Eve. If you're headed to a formal wedding during the cooler months, you can't go wrong with a classic tux with a bow tie and cufflinks, or a long sleeve floor-length evening gown. If you'll be wearing a sleeveless dress, consider wrapping up in a faux fur shawl or wrap to stay warm. And, depending on the style of the wedding, you can never go wrong with sequins and shiny fabric, especially for a glam soirée.
- What to Wear to a Spring Wedding: As the season transitions into spring, pastel colors and floral prints are great choices for clothes to wear to a wedding. Choose a knee-length floral dress to match the blooms around you, or accent your suit with a bright pocket square or floral-print tie.
Use the Venue as a Guide
The location of the wedding can also offer some clues as to what you should wear to a wedding. For instance, your outfit for an outdoor wedding at a farm will be different from what you wear to an evening celebration at an upscale ballroom. It's also important to plan your look around any religious ceremonies included in the wedding. "Be mindful if you're attending a wedding in a religious facility," Durham warns. "Be sure that your shoulders are covered and remove any hats."
The venue can also indicate what kind of shoes you should wear too. "If you're outside, opt for a chunky heel for walking purposes and a strappy top if it'll be hot," Durham adds. "If you wear a kitten heel or a stiletto, you might risk sinking into the ground. If indoors, you can never go wrong with a pump heel."
Do some research into the venue before the wedding date so you know what to expect. Looking for photos on the location's website or social media pages will help you understand what clothes are appropriate to wear to a wedding on their property.
Avoid Wearing White
Consider this the golden rule of wedding guest attire. Unless explicitly directed on the wedding invitation or the couple's wedding website, avoid wearing an all-white outfit. "While it's probably obvious to most guests, it's important not to wear any shade of white to a wedding unless it's specifically stated in the invitation," Coleman adds. In some instances, the couple might request that guests wear white to match a particular theme. Before picking your outfit, though, confirm that this is the requested guest attire by double-checking the instructions on the invite.
You might wonder if men can wear white to a wedding, or if you can wear a dress with a white print. It is perfectly appropriate to wear a white dress shirt under a tuxedo or suit jacket. Similarly, it's also acceptable to wear a dress or a jumpsuit with a hint of white as long as it's not the main color. When choosing what you should wear to a wedding, use your best judgment to pick outfits that are not primarily white. And, as a general rule of thumb, it's also advised to skip wearing overly casual pieces like t-shirts, flip-flops, jeans or sneakers. Following these rules will help you avoid any fashion faux pas on the big day.
Accessorize Your Outfit
Clothes are just one element of a great wedding guest outfit. In addition to picking a nice dress or suit, accessories have the power to completely enhance your look. "Jewelry completes an outfit," Meaghan Rose, Founder and CEO of jewelry subscription company Rocksbox. "You can have a beautiful dress, but finding the perfect earrings or a necklace to compliment the neckline of your outfit really pulls everything together."
The same is true of men's wedding guest attire too. Accents like a colorful pocket square, a printed tie or a sleek belt will upgrade any tux or suit. "My favorite accessory is a suspender," explains Andrew Roberts, CEO of luxury accessory brand Del Toro. "Alternatively, a classic wristwatch or a vintage piece will always be a good conversation starter. Or, a signet ring worn on the pinky finger is subtle, but will drive up the style quotient of anyone wearing it."
If you're choosing what to wear to a wedding on a budget, intentional accessories can enhance an outfit you already have in your closet. "Accessories can take an old outfit and make it look brand new," Durham explains. Adds Roberts: "The key is adding your own tasteful twist to the outfit and wearing it with bold confidence."
Alter Pieces You Already Own
Alterations can play a large role in what to wear to a wedding as a guest. If you have a busy wedding season, it might not be financially feasible to invest in new outfits for every event. So, in addition to accessorizing thoughtfully, experts recommend altering pieces you already own to change up their look.
"The number one key to looking and feeling your best is to make sure that you're nailing the fit of your garments," says Sacawa. "If the fit's not right, that can affect your confidence." Adds Durham: "You never want to wear an outfit you have to tug up or down. You can breathe new life into the clothes you already have by raising or lowering the hem of a skirt or creating a new silhouette."
Where to Buy Wedding Guest Outfits
Now you know what to wear to a wedding as a guest—but where should you shop for an outfit? Fear not: as self-proclaimed wedding fashion experts, we've rounded up five of our favorite retailers that have great wedding guest outfits for all price ranges.
If you're ever not sure what to wear to a wedding, a trip to Nordstrom is a sure way to get exactly what you're looking for. With over 400 locations throughout the US, you can easily find a store near you to try on outfits in person. Or, if you prefer the comfort of shopping from your home, you can always browse the brand's extensive store online too. From formal tuxes to cocktail dresses and trendy jumpsuits, the retailer carries wedding guest outfits that fit just about any dress code. Shop styles from popular brands like Topshop, Free People, Madewell and more—or, for even more style inspo, browse top-selling looks from their curated lists of wedding guest dresses and men's formal wedding attire.
If you're attending a casual or semi-formal wedding, you'll find plenty of outfit ideas at ASOS. This trendy Instagram brand is perfect for wedding guests that are on top of the latest style trends. Thanks to their low prices and frequent sales, you'll find just what you need within your budget. Plus, in addition to size-inclusive wedding guest dresses and jumpsuits, the brand's menswear section also includes guest-appropriate suits, dress pants and shirts. And, if you're looking to splurge on a unique outfit for a special wedding, you'll find plenty of colorful and printed styles that'll make your guest outfit one to remember.
When you need a wedding guest dress quickly, you can't go wrong with Lulus. With an extensive collection of seasonal dresses, you'll have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the perfect clothes to wear to a wedding. Plus, with free shipping over $50 and free returns, shoppers have flexibility with shopping online. And, for styling help, guests can browse the brand's curated collection of dresses for weddings of any style.
When it comes to deciding what to wear to a wedding, you might want to invest in a classic suit that'll be a mainstay in your closet for years to come. After all, buying a new outfit for every wedding on your social calendar is expensive, and it's not always an eco-friendly option. To make the most out of your budget, consider investing in a timeless suit that you can re-wear. We recommend buying through a brand like Indochino, which allows shoppers to buy custom-fit suits. Through an algorithm that uses your exact measurements, the brand creates one-of-a-kind suits that are created to fit your body type in the materials of your choice. While you can complete the entire process online, you can also shop in-person at an Indochino showroom, or at the brand's pop-up shops in select Nordstrom stores across the country.
We're obsessed with all of the size-inclusive wedding guest outfits at CoEdition. This online retailer specializes in trendy, of-the-moment styles for any occasion. You'll find easy maxi dresses, printed rompers and jumpsuits, simple sundresses and a variety of accessories to take your outfit to the next level. We also recommend using the brand's "Best Dressed Guest" edit to find outfits for every wedding on your radar.