Whilst wedding season kicks off around the middle of the year, we all know that nuptials can crop up at any time of the year. At this time of year, with plenty to be getting on with from christmas gift shopping to dinner party preparation, there's enough to be getting on with without figuring out what to wear to your next wedding. And this is how we're here to help—by running you through some no-fail wedding guest outfit solutions.
We all have to walk that fine line when it comes to deciding what to wear to a wedding. We want to look striking, somewhat fun, but still appropriate. We want to be remembered for the right reasons, even if it isn't our day whatsoever. Well, there are some basic ground rules worth referencing before rushing to the big day in a floral-print panic. We've covered the official dressing dos and don'ts of formalwear so that you can be the best dressed guest at all manner of nuptials and soirées with zero wardrobe stresses.
From the wow dresses that are guaranteed to make a big impact—without outshining the couple—to the heels that'll see you through from the ceremony to the after-party. We've also cracked the code and found the wedding guest "rules" that are actually worth breaking (including black dresses), and now, with our help, you'll be in good stead to say yes to all those upcoming invites. Consider this your guide on what to wear to a wedding, no matter how big or small.
So whether you have a city wedding to attend, a religious ceremony to consider carefully or you just don't want to have a miffed bride on your hands (no white lace, okay?), this is a good place to start. We can all lose our heads when a swanky event comes a-knocking, but it's really just a case of being fully prepared for every eventuality—and learning from some of our own fashion faux pas. Those strappy stilettos looked great online, yes, but were they really cut out for a marquee reception in a field? Not so much. Click through to read the nine rules for what to wear to a wedding when you're just not sure.
#1: A dress is a safe go-to
If you're struggling to compile the perfect trousers-top-and-jacket combination with ease, then simply reach for one of your trusty statement dresses. Add heels or fancy flats, a few choice accessories and the makeup that makes you feel good. Perfection.
#2: Avoid short hemlines
While we would never want to be prescriptive when it comes to dress styles, we would say that it's worth bearing in mind that you end up sitting down for long periods of time at weddings, and sometimes minidresses aren't ideal or comfortable for this purpose. A midi will not only look elegant, but it will also end up being more practical in the long run.
Shop long dresses:
If you're a fan of a long sleeve, look no further.
Although black is a strong option (more on that in a moment), navy presents a softer base tone.
#3: Dress for the theme or vibe
If you're going to a city wedding, it's likely you'll wear something different than you would for a countryside do. The same goes for destination nuptials or something low-key that's designed to be more of a party.
Shop the look:
This looks so much more expensive than the price tag.
Espadrilles are probably the one of the most comfortable wedding guest shoe options (trainers aside).
#4: It's okay to wear black
The modern world has ushered in many wonderful changes: iPhones, Headspace, cronuts, oh and the acceptance of wearing black at weddings and baptisms. Black once was the mark of doom and gloom, but now it's a tone for the chic urbanites. Wear it to weddings, and wear it with aplomb!
Shop black dresses:
#5: Always carry a small bag for your essentials
Large tote bags and cumbersome shoulder bags don't really say "special occasion." Rather, they make it look like you're going on a daylong trek across the urban jungle. Go minimal and head out to the wedding with a micro or clutch bag, cutting loose from your heavy accessories for a day. Think of it as a handbag detox.
White accessories won’t detract from your outfit, whatever you choose to wear.
#6: Wear heels you can walk in all day
There's nothing worse than climbing into a pair of heels only to find that you are limping across the dance floor a mere few hours later. Find the comfy elevated shoes that will party harder than all your other footwear.
Shop comfy heels:
We’ll take any excuse to adorn our feet with oversized bows.
This bold blue will also pair perfectly with jeans, so you know you'll wear them after the wedding.
#7: Choose sleeves or bring a cover-up for religious ceremonies
There are lots of religious wedding ceremonies that may take place in sacred spaces that require a respectful covered-up dress code. Think royal enclosure at Ascot. Wear thick straps and take a generous silk scarf to drape across your décolletage, or wear sleeves to nail the issue in one. That or opt for a chic blazer.
Shop the look:
This one comes in an array of colours.
The chic silhouette won't take away from your ensemble.
The detachable scarf means this jacket will serve your wardrobe through all seasons.
#8. Check with the couple if you're not sure
If you're not sure about your outfit, and there isn't a clear dress code, it's always a good idea to check with the couple. Pro tip: Make sure it's at least a couple of weeks before the big day, as they will most likely have bigger things on their minds the days running up to the wedding and will not appreciate a text hours before they're about to walk down the aisle. And if you're still not sure, stick with a suit, jumpsuit or classic wedding guest dress.
Shop the look:
Subtle ruching and puff sleeves makes for a directional wedding guest look.
A dress you’ll absolutely get the wear out of after the event, fact.
#9: Try experimenting with outfit rental
The rental market has grown massively over the last year or two, and it's perfectly set up for occasions such as these. If you want to wear a different look to every wedding you attend, then consider renting something from a platform such as Rotaro or Hurr. You'll get all the newness thrill without the expense and fear that you won't wear it more than once. Plus, it's a great way to rent a designer piece that would usually be out of your budget.
Our editors have their eyes on this dress for summer weddings.
This will pair beautifully with shades like tangerine and pink for a chic clash.
The ruffles, the off-the-shoulder neckline, the colour—this is peak wedding guest.
Next Up: https://www.whowhatwear.co.uk/wedding-guest-dresses
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Maxine Eggenberger is Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor and has over twelve years of experience in fashion journalism. She been creating engaging and elevated style content for Who What Wear UK since 2018, covering runway reports, emerging trends, long-form features, self-styled shopping stories, and columns, including her edit of the best new-in buys. She ensures the highest editorial standards are met across the site, works closely with influencer talent on content initiatives, represents the brand at industry events, and regularly contributes to social media. Previously, Maxine appeared on TV in her own fashion segment and has interviewed countless celebrities—everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.
Prior to Who What Wear UK, Maxine’s career began when, after completing her first-ever internship, she was offered a position on the Look magazine fashion desk. She accepted, leaving university a year early in the process. She went on to become the title's fashion news and commercial content editor, with a stint as InStyle.co.uk’s fashion writer along the way. She later served as Look’s acting Editor in Chief before embarking on a successful freelance career, working with Grazia, The Pool, and Marie Claire amongst others. Maxine works remotely from her countryside home near Edinburgh.