Monday, September 2, 2013

Etiquette: Wedding Attire for Guests

For a future Mr. and Mrs., organizing a wedding usually requires months of planning, thousands of dollars and stress. Aside from details like the venue, the flowers, the officiant and the bridal party, they must confront other details--like appropriate attire for their guests. As a wedding guest, a little preparation and consideration of traditional attire etiquette can go a long way and prevent creating more stress for the bride.

Dress Code

    To gauge what style of attire you are expected to wear to the wedding, first check the invitation. The dress code may be printed somewhere on the card, usually in the lower left corner. You can also check the couple's wedding website. If you are still unsure, try to resist contacting the bride (who is likely already frazzled) and consider contacting a bridesmaid or the bride's mother to inquire. If you must contact the bride-to-be about this issue, do it well in advance of the big day.

Formal, Semiformal and Informal

    Etiquette expert Peggy Post recommends choosing your wedding garb by determining whether the event is formal, semiformal or informal. You can also use the time of day to choose appropriate attire. For a daytime formal wedding, Post writes that women should wear street-length dressy clothing, and men should wear dark suits with ties. For an evening formal wedding (sometimes called "black tie" on the invitation), women should opt for a floor-length gown or cocktail gown, while men should wear a traditional tuxedo. For a semiformal wedding, men can wear dark suits, regardless of time, while women should opt for street-length semi-dressy dresses during the day and cocktail dresses at night. For an informal wedding, men can wear slacks with sport jackets, while women should wear something "appropriate for the location."


    Marie Claire magazine recommends using the ambience of the wedding location to help choose your attire. This will help to ensure that you feel comfortable in the atmosphere, so that you can let loose on the dance floor without worrying that you are dressed inappropriately. For a country club, women should don pastel tea-length dresses and avoid any style or pattern that is too loud. For a beach wedding, a printed maxi dress is appropriate. A nontraditional venue, like Las Vegas, allows for edgier and more comfortable clothing---giving you more freedom in choosing a garment.


    While weddings are becoming less traditional and thus allowing greater flexibility in guest attire, there are still some accepted rules that should not be broken. First and foremost, a female guest should never wear white to a wedding. No matter how fantastic you may look or feel in your white dress, remember that the bride spent a lot of money on her gown, and it is her big day. Some etiquette experts recommend avoiding red also, as it can draw too much attention to your garment rather than the bride's. However, some rules are outdated. For example, while you may have heard that it is inappropriate to wear black, now even wedding experts at The Knot admit that a black dress is perfectly acceptable attire, particularly for an evening wedding.

Dictating Dress Code

    If you are a bride or groom planning your wedding, keep in mind that you are not entitled to completely dictate what your guests can or cannot wear to your celebration. For example, unless you have a "black tie" event, you cannot prohibit a female guest from wearing a denim skirt that she deems acceptable. The exception to this, however, would be if your venue does not permit certain attire, like denim or tennis shoes. Regardless of your chosen dress code, try to be as clear as possible on the invitation and the wedding website.

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