What to Wear to a Wedding


Weddings these days have many dress codes. Recently a friend of mine was horrified when turning up to a wedding in a floor-length gown (the invitation dress code said “formal”) to find out that really, all the bride had wanted was for people not to wear jeans!

The first point of call when figuring out the right thing to wear to a wedding is to call up the bride and ask what they would like. Formal traditionally meant a full-length gown, these days it often means cocktail (knee length, but dressy). It’s best to check if you’re not at all sure.

The reality is, the bride and groom have gone to some lengths to ensure that they look great. The wedding will have cost a pretty penny or two (it’s actually quite scary to me how much people spend on weddings these days!), so they want you to dress up and make an effort so that when they look back at the photos everyone looks gorgeous and glamorous.


What to wear to a wedding - cocktail

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Outfit

1. Location – Where is the wedding? A beach wedding is less formal than a church. A garden party less dressy than the grand ballroom of a big hotel.

2. Weather – What time of year? Will you be outside or inside most of the time? Are you someone who feels the heat or is always cold? Will you be more comfortable with a wrap or jacket?

What to wear to a wedding - outdoor

3. Colour – Wear colour, avoid black and white

4. Fabric – Think about dressier fabrics, something with a little sheen or sheerness will make you look dressier. Think about the Level of Refinement of your outfit – Weddings are a Level 1 occasion.

What to wear to a wedding - formal

5. Accessorize – It’s time to sparkle. Shoes that are strappy or have some bling. Sparkles in your ears and around your neck. Don’t forget the cocktail ring or stack of bracelets too. Take a clutch not your regular handbag.

what to wear to a wedding in winter

Don’t get obsessed with a completely new outfit. Most of the time everyone is focussing in the bridal party and won’t member that you wore that outfit to another event.

Think about changing the colour of your accessories to change the appearance of the outfit.

More Tips on Wedding Attire

1 Dress at 5 Weddings – How to Style One Dress Many Ways

What to Wear to a Summer Garden Wedding

How to Choose a Wedding Dress



What to wear to a wedding- formal wedding, winter wedding, outdoor wedding - get all the tips


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  • In the Midwestern part of the U.S., it seems that big city weddings (e.g. Chicago) are more formal than college town (e.g. Madison or Champaign) or small town weddings.

    • Yes – city is usually more formal than country – but it seems that people in general are often more worried about being overdressed than under dressed these days!

  • Love this post! The first fancy dress wedding I attended was years ago as a freshman in college. It was cocktail dress, I researched what was appropriate and dressed accordingly. I didn’t realize how many people didn’t have any idea what cocktail dress meant until the evening, when there were folks in t-shirts, polo shirts, flip flops!, and far too much denim. A few quick clicks and one can be easily informed as to what any dress code entails.
    I think another part of the problem is hosts often don’t know how to accurately ask for what they want, as in the case of the bride you described who apparently wanted business casual but requested formal.

  • I love this post! Especially the outdoor wedding outfits. I’m going to an outdoor wedding in about a month in Portland so it’s good to see some ideas.

    A word of caution about heels for outdoor weddings – get a sense of the terrain and the weather before wearing heels. The terrain could be soft and grassy, or even wet, and the heels will sink right into the ground. Or it could be rocky and you’ll roll your ankle. I prefer flats (like in outfit #1) or wedges, which are dressier and give me height, but I don’t have to worry about my shoes sinking into the ground and getting stuck.

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