Deciding what to wear to a wedding can be tough, especially if there’s a vague dress code.
To decode the wedding guest dress code — and prevent any wardrobe malfunctions — INSIDER spoke with wedding planner Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events. Jacobs revealed what a dress code really means, when it’s appropriate to swap your heels for dancing shoes, and the things guests should definitely not wear to a wedding.
Make sure you follow her nine tips for proper wedding attire etiquette below.
Let the location of a wedding inform your outfit.
If you’re unsure of how to dress for a wedding, Jacobs suggests taking dressing for the location.
“Is it a seaside affair? A barn? Or a historic ballroom? Generally, the location of the wedding will give you a cue for attire,” she told INSIDER. “You wouldn’t wear a beachy maxi dress to The Plaza Hotel, but you wouldn’t necessarily wear a satin ballgown on the beach.”
For a farm wedding, Jacobs said to “skip the denim and diamonds and opt for your hippest look.” The wedding planner recommends that women wear a maxi dress or a short patterned dress with wedges, and said that men should wear a jacket or gray suit with a checked shirt.
Avoid being too casual.
It is never acceptable to wear denim, rubber flip-flops, sweatpants, or shorts to a wedding, Jacobs said.
“If it’s something you’d question when you’re in the dressing room, it’s best to put it back on the rack,” she said.
Even if the wedding has a “dressy casual” dress code, the wedding planner said there are still some restrictions.
“Unless its requested, we’d say it’s still appropriate to leave the jeans at home,” Jacobs said.
For a “dressy casual” wedding, she suggests that women wear a romper or fitted jumpsuit with sandals, while men should opt for a linen blazer, a crisp white or checked dress shirt, slacks, and loafers.
Whatever you do, don’t wear white.
Jacobs said that guests should not wear white to a wedding unless they’re specifically asked to.
However, if you’re attending a snowball affair — a wedding where everyone wears elaborate white outfits — there’s an entirely different set of rules.
“This is the ultimate white party invite,” Jacobs said, adding that you can go “super glam and super formal” for the occasion.
Arrive to the wedding fully dressed.
While it might sound obvious, Jacobs said that guests should show up to a wedding ceremony or reception in their full outfit — including high heels.
If a reception has a less strict dress code, like semiformal or festive, Jacobs suggests that guests stash flip flops or other dance-friendly shoes in their purse to change into later in the evening.
Know the difference between “black-tie required,” “black-tie optional,” and “white-tie” dress codes.
The differences between black-tie optional, black-tie, and white-tie weddings are small, but important. Jacobs explained the nuances to us.
“Generally, when a couple calls for a black-tie optional, they want you to dress more formally, but they don’t want to put you out if you don’t own or can’t rent a tux,” she said.
For a black-tie option wedding, Jacobs said that women should wear a long dress or a formal cocktail-length dress in a dark, metallic, or neutral tone. She recommends that men wear a dark suit or a tuxedo.
“Traditionally, black-tie events take place in the evening,” Jacobs said. “Think formal, upscale, long, and luxe.”
She recommends that women wear a full or tea-length gown, or a detailed cocktail dress to black-tie events. She also said that men should wear a tuxedo with a black bow tie.
A white-tie event, however, is the most formal type of wedding. Jacobs said that a royal wedding is one example of a white-tie affair.
“When an invitation calls for white-tie it means a tuxedo jacket with tails, a white pique vest, a white bow tie and gloves for the guys,” Jacobs said. “For the the ladies, call your stylist! Time for a formal, Oscar-worthy ballgown.”
For semiformal weddings, dress in a bright or dark color depending on the time of the event.
“Time of day will dictate the best approach for a semiformal wedding wardrobe,” Jacobs said.
During the day, women can experiment with bright colors and unique fabrics, Jacobs said. She suggested that men wear a black, gray, or tan suit with a tie.
“For the evening, opt for a darker suit and a cocktail dress in a dark hue and interesting textures,” she said.
Remember that a destination wedding is not a day at the beach.
The wedding planner said that guests should not wear beach attire to the wedding itself — even if the ceremony is right by the ocean.
“Dress your best — but dress for sand!” Jacobs said.
If the wedding ceremony or reception will take place near the water, it might get cold. Instead of throwing on a hoodie when the temperature drops, Jacobs recommends using a dressy shawl to stay warm.
If you’re going to a festive wedding, match your outfit to the theme.
At a festive wedding you’ll likely be dancing the day or night away. Guests should wear something bold that embraces the party spirit, Jacobs said.
The wedding planner suggests that women wear a colorful, patterned dress accessorized with a statement necklace, bold earrings, and “killer” heels.
Jacobs said men should get creative with their outfits, too. She recommends that men wear a tuxedo jacket in an unusual color or fabric, like navy or velvet.
When in doubt, follow a traditional dress code.
If a couple sets a specific dress code, they expect their guests to follow it. However, vague dress codes can sometimes confuse guests.
“When it comes to what to wear to a wedding, couples are bucking tradition by getting more creative with the attire requests. However, the traditional dress codes still apply,” Jacobs said.
Remember that if you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dress more formally.
elegant dresses for wedding guests
Best wedding guest dresses: The stylish wedding guest dresses and outfits to shop now
Banish your RSVP woes
By Ellie Davis24 August 2020W
edding season has taken on a whole new form this year with lavish functions of hundreds of people swapped for more intimate affairs, but there’s one question that remains unwavering – what are you going to wear?
Our loved ones are getting creative with their nuptials during the Coronavirus crisis. Whether you’re attending via Zoom, with just your nearest and dearest in their back garden or planning ahead for the celebrations that have been postponed to next year, there’s one thing that’s for certain. There are festivities to be had and the perfect outfit needs to be purchased.
If you’re anything like us, over the past few weeks, there has been a seemingly never-ending flow of engagements that have started filling up our previously vacant lockdown diary for this year and 2021. While plans may still be uncertain, the mini sartorial panic is real as you search frantically in your full-to-the-brim wardrobe with nothing to wear.
Wedding guest dressing is an art. After wearing nothing but loungewear and pyjamas for the past four months or so, this gives us all the perfect opportunity to finally dress up to the nines in a number that’s still comfortable enough to dance the night away in.
You want to look your best so you can treasure the photos for years to come as well as feeling confident as you reunite with old friends. There’s also the possibility of a wedding romance – but it goes without saying that you can’t upstage the bride herself. Dress code, time of year and location are all worth considering, along with musing over the wedding guestwear taboo of wearing white
We have gathered our favourite party dresses to help you nail your wedding guest woes.READ MOREBest shapewear for the tummy, hips and thighs
Summer to winter, this midi number is the ultimate wedding guest all-rounder. It has a lightweight construction but is fitted with long sleeves to withstand any weather. It is demure yet sexy with the ability to show some leg thanks to a perfectly placed slit and it nails this season’s square neckline and puffed shoulder trend. It’s the total package and a yes from us.
Short sequin dress
Up the glitz and the glam of any festivity with this sequin number. Bringing all the disco ball vibes, this is the statement-making piece you need to dance the night away – and it has elegance in spades. The dress has a short length, long sleeves and a flattering v-neck knotted design.
Josephine – Large Rose Black Polka
We have had this Rixo number on our wish list since we first spotted it at the brand’s presentation and what better excuse to finally invest in the piece than to celebrate your friend, family or loved one’s wedding. It is adorned with a polka dot and floral pattern set on a long dress with a sweetheart neckline. Fun and feminine.
Primrose Dress in Dulcie Ditsy
Oozing with timeless elegance, this is the kind of dress that you’ll reach for time and time again – no matter the occasion. Weddings, of course, but really any warm weather function as you can easily dress it up and down with the right accessories. It takes an even more elegant twist on a classic slip dress with an ethereal floral print. When winter arrives, slip a t-shirt underneath and you’re good to go.
ASOS Design satin maxi tea dress
No matter whether their nuptials are accompanied by a heatwave or a storm, this dress brings the sunshine and positivity with its vivid floral design. This may just be the only piece where you can include white as the pattern on top is bold and eye-catching. Invest in this dress now to get your wardrobe ready for a whole host of summer soirees.
Floral Diamond Ruffle Gown
Answering your froufrou dressing dreams in the most elegant way possible, Needle & Thread is on hand with this romantic piece. It is made up of tulle that has been embellished with an early 1990s vintage floral print, frill detailing and voluminous sleeves.
Jenna Neck-Tie Detail Midi Dress Teal
Move away from your all-black wardrobe by investing in this Tiffany-hued number from Reiss. The dress falls to a flatterin midi length and is balanced by a sleeveless construction with a high neck and open back with a handy, well-placed insert to avoid bra-related drama.
Nail effortless style with this leopard print piece from H&M. It may have a different feel from the traditional wedding colour palette but we’re encouraging you to go bigger and fiercer with the animal design. Big ticks for us include an A-line silhouette, balloon sleeves and a subtle flounce.
ASOS Design halter neck ruched waist midi dress
Mint green has been the undeniable colour of the season and it’s surprisingly subtle enough to suit even the chromophobes. For boho dress codes or to suit a softer venue like the beach or countryside, one onf our favourite designs is this knockout piece from ASOS. It has a halterneck style, flattering shirred waist, sophisticated pleated and romantic ruffle detailing. Love.
Delphine Dress in Roscoe Rose
Giving us retro feels, this vintage-inspired dress from Ghost is feminine, chic and elegant; solving your sartorial stresses in seconds. The frock has a v-neck line, button front and a gathered detail around the shoulder with a gentle empire-line silhouette. It has a sumptuous soft satin fabric that feels lovely against the skin.
Max Mara Leisure Teoria slip dress
A slip dress may have been originally synonymous with 90s fashion but they are the timeless, wardrobe staple that have become quintessential wedding wear. This elegant iteration from Max Mara Leisure nails the minimalist and refined aesthetic with a buttery brushed satin and cowl neckline. It is also available in black for those who prefer to slink around in darker hues.
Belted Puff Sleeve Mini Dress
Whether you are attending nuptials home or abroad, this dress covers all the bases. For more casual dress codes, this floral number is meets all requirements. It feels special enough for those garden or day celebrations without drawing attention away from the lady of the day.
Josie Zip-Detail Bodycon Dress Berry
Black-tie dress codes have met their match with this sophisticated piece from Reiss. A bodycon with a twist, it has an elegant knee-length design and flattering draped neckline. It is offered in this transitional burgundy shade or white for those non-wedding functions.
ASOS DESIGN panelled satin midi dress
Slip into this elegant satin dress from ASOS and watch all wardrobe-related worries melt away. The stunning feminine piece has a floral print set on a lovely lilac backdrop. If you’re a fan of the front, you’ll swoon even more for the open back with cowl design.
ASOS DESIGN tiered smock mini dress
The psychedelic 70s called with this frock, and we very much answered. We love the floaty tiered style and the floral print that has universal appeal. When you don this dress, you will be well and truly ready to party, be it a wedding, BBQ or Saturday night at your local.
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Anna Blue Ditsy Print Midi Dress
A winner year-round, this versatile piece nails wedding dressing. From the stunning cornflower blue hue to the posey floral design, this frock rocks with a summertime feel that can be worn in colder weather with the simple addition of a pair of tights. It has a midi fit, chic full sleeves, and on-trend gathered detailing at the sleeves.
Puffed sleeves dress
Mango’s effortlessly chic frock has a satin-like construction and playful organza puff sleeves that together, nail some of the biggest trends this season in one. Depending on how you style, you can work it for all dress codes from cocktail to casual as well as formal.
Norma Kamali Diana jersey one-shoulder midi dress
Nail any formal dress codes with this head-turner from Norma Kamali. This one-shoulder dress oozes elegance and won’t fail to make a style statement. It is constructed with a ruched design for an extremely flattering look and offered in a pleasing bold red hue.
Rick Owens Lilies knit dress
Giving us real nostalgic 90s feels, this halterneck dress from Rick Owens can be styled anyway you want to suit all occasions from weddings, to heading to the pub on a Saturday night. It’s so versatile you’ll find yourself looking for reasons to slip into this understated design.
Hope & Ivy maxi cami dress with open back
This red carpet-worthy frock will bring a sultry and elegance look for your warm weather weddings this season. The slip-like piece has a tie-back with a floral design and stunning lace inserts.
Feel party ready with this mini halterneck dress from Seren. The stunning piece has a loose-fitting design with a flattering tiered hem. You can easily style it up and down to suit your dress code be it black-tie or cocktail. Just add strappy sandals and statement earrings and you’re good to go.
This floaty fuchsia frock deserves its place in your summer wardrobe for wedding season and beyond. Whether the nuptials are at home or abroad, it has a lightweight feel to suit warmer climates and will keep you cool when you’re throwing some shapes on the reception dance floor.
ASOS EDITION volume sleeve midi dress
This dreamy blue number has a unique cut that brings a new dimension to summer formalwear. We’ve fallen hard for the retro oversized shoulder design and vintage-inspired floral print combo.
Square Neck Floral Midi Dress
Set to be one of the standout dresses of summer 2020, & Other Stories is offering this floral design set on a universally flattering square neck silhouette. It has subtle puff sleeves and a side slit to add drama and elegance.
Aria Floral Print Midi Dress
From weddings in the city, country or further afield, this floral frock from Kitri is the perfect purchase to have ready and waiting in your wardrobe. It has a silky satin-like fabric with a versatile navy hue to firm its status as the ultimate transitional piece. Finished with a stunning floral design and a puff sleeve embellishment it will look gorgeous in wedding snaps.
Beatrice Maxi Dress
Taking inspiration from vintage designs, this maxi dress offers an effortless option. Styling is made easy thanks to the lustrous fabric, plunging v-neck and flutter sleeves. It comes in a range of colourways but we’re quite taken with this radiant sandy hue.
Ganni Floral-print crepe midi dress
If you find yourself lacking in wardrobe inspiration, look to Copenhagen-born brand Ganni. Its floral frock is ideal for wearing to all kinds of formal events and is a reliable go-to for warm weather dressing.
Make a statement without spending a small fortune with this seriously on-trend frock from H&M. The high street hero is offering the midi-length piece with oversized balloon sleeves in this fun floral print, or a neutral all-beige colourway for those who shy away from pattern.
ASOS DESIGN floral organza mini dress
Soothe your sartorial panic with this easy, breezy frock from ASOS that taps into this season’s ubiquitous organza trend. The floral print piece has a high neck, puff sleeves and sits at a mini length.
Rat & Boa Magnolia floral-print georgette maxi dress
Elegant yet easy, this floral-print maxi dress from Rat & Boa nails retro glamour and will give you a sultry edge as you glide into the wedding venue. Already a fan favourite with the like of Emma Louise Connolly, it has a sweetheart neckline and daringly deep side-slit.
Baum und Pferdgarten Atena tiger-print maxi dress
Channel beach wedding vibes in this midi number, which can also be styled just as easily for autumnal nuptials. Animal print is the new neutral, so amp up the effect by going wild with your accessories or keep it minimal with just a gold chain and contrast heels to make it work for formal dress codes. A blank canvas of a frock, the styling possibilities are endless.
ASOS DESIGN maxi tea dress
If you are on the hunt for a more modest number, may we introduce you to this polka dot piece. It has long-sleeves, a full-length skirt and high neck silhouette. The timeless print works for all occasions, from smart, to casual and everything in between.
Rae – Abstract 60’s Floral Swirl
This playful floral print takes inspiration from the Swinging Sixties and we’re so here for it. The genius design duo at Rixo know a thing or two about wedding guest dressing and this is the perfect piece to wear as you watch the happy couple say ‘I Do’.
Belted Puff Sleeve Mini Dress
& Other Stories’ oh-so flattering mint-coloured frock taps into another big trend – puff sleeves – and has a floral embossed design. The high neckline keeps the whole thing looking demure – match with pearls for extra style points.
ASOS DESIGN maxi dress in floral print
For a lower cost alternative on a certain Rixo dress, this maxi from ASOS comes in tops. It is flattering, fun and can be upgraded with the right accessories and a chic little clutch. Consider your wedding attire woes well and truly sorted.
There’s no such thing as having too many LBDs in our book. They’re so versatile and can be prevented from looking too sombre with the right finishes; think chandelier earrings, a jewelled headband and sky-high heels that make the most of your pins. The genius in H&M’s design lies in its simplicity – a clean silhouette, mini length and v-neck – with a few quirks, like the catwalk-worthy puffed sleeves. As well as block black, it comes in stop-traffic red with a floral print. A steal at this price.
16 Arlington Michelle feather-trimmed mini dress
One of fashion’s favourite partywear labels, you can always count on 16Arlington for frothy frock that is in equal parts stylish as it is opulent. The classic LBD is turned on its head with the Michelle dress that has a fanciful feather-trimmed embellishment.
Batsheva Ruffled plissé cotton-velvet mini dress
Red is one of the cleverest colours on the palette: not only is red a natural stand-out by nature, but the colour maintains an air of sophistication and luxe as perfectly demonstrated with this Batsheva number.
Whistles Vilimina Silk Mix Velvet Dress
‘Tis the season to swap your linen for velve and after seeing this pretty pink piece, we relish the prospect of the switch-up. The feminine piece has puffed sleeves and a bow tie detail at the back.
Rixo Antoinette ruffled-trim crepe maxi dress
As Dusty Springfield once sang “The look of love is in your eyes…” You may only be a guest at the wedding but you’ll fall head over heels in love with Antoinette, Rixo’s romantic midi.
Available in sizes XS to XL, the high nip at the ribs flatters the waist and the delicate ruffles create a playful movement.
Palones Aurora Angel Sleeve Maxi Dress
Palones is the new British brand to fall in love with and we’re starting our affair with the Aurora dress. Consider it for AW20 weddings, pair it with a contrasting clutch and minimal jewellery – or save it for spring where the elegant print will pop alongside a pair of embellished sandals.
This is an eye-catching, cultivated dress to wear across the seasons.
ASOS WHITE raw collar maxi dress with godets
This dress from ASOS is the reliable wardrobe addition your future self will be so thankful you had the good sense to purchase. In a seasonal favourite burgundy hue, it has a full length sleeve and maxi silhouette that firms its status as a luxe party staple.
Hamaji The Nomad African Night Dress
Made to order, this stunning Italian silk crepe dress by Hamaji The Nomad via Akojo Market, has been embroidered with eye-catching botanical designs and decadent details.
The craftsmanship of this piece is truly exceptional – each dress has been embroidered by a group of skilled artisans the designer works closely with in Nairobi, Kenya.
Expertly stitched at the Hamaji studio at the base of Mount Kenya, this is the artisan showstopper for wedding season and beyond.
Kitri Serafina floral-print satin midi dress
Have you ever looked at an object of desire and in Liz Lemon’s voice thought “I want to go to there”? Because we want to go to there.
Produced in limited quantities, this floral-print satin midi is one of the most dreamy dresses of the season. Get it while stocks lasts.
Liquorish satin slip dress in multi abstract animal print
This attention-hogging dress is just the ticket for winter wedding season. The unique piece can equally be dressed up as it could down depending on your event’s dress code.
It has a clashing print design that features an enduring leopard print, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
Self-Portrait Lace-trimmed pleated chiffon midi dress
You can always depend on Self-Portrait for an extensive collection of wedding guest-worthy dresses. This romantic chiffon piece features an underwired bust for support and a flattering ruffle detail at the waist.
ASOS DESIGN pleated shoulder pencil dress
While the design of this monochromatic spot print dress from ASOS is classic, the silhouette brings an interesting twist to the piece. It has an asymmetric neckline and a flattering ruched detail that ensures you can feast away at the wedding buffet without worrying about a skin-tight fit.
LF Markey Olan Dress
This drop-shoulder beauty is made from 100 per cent heavy drape textured rose linen and features a pleated waistline giving way to two sets of pockets – in dress terms, this is nirvana. Say goodbye to carting your bag around all night just to keep track of your phone and lippy.
An occasion chameleon, this dress is so versatile we think it’s an all-year winner.
Reformation Gavin Dress
Often simple is best, and LA hit brand Reformation know this all too well. Balancing a high neck against a high silt—this is a thoroughly sophisticated dress with a real come-hither appeal.
Available in multiple prints and colours.
Richard Quinn Navy One Shoulder Dress
With an asymmetric design, this 80s inspired knee-length dress is sure to turn heads at the party. The dark navy colour, wide mesh strap and sophisticated silhouette means this dress can take you from the morning ceremony to cake-cutting at the reception without a hitch.
Available from sizes 6 -18. Play up the polka-dot lining with matching accessories.
Whistles Eleanor Dress
We’re majorly into the Baroque-worthy print on this Whistles mini dress. The shorter option remains wedding-appropriate with a high neckline and hem that falls right above the knee. Plus, it makes the perfect party dress for when heels are abandoned under the reception tables at the end of the night.
KITRI Roxanne embroidered frilled crepe midi dress
The embroidery on this playful crepe midi is a sunny-summery motif that is perfect for both formal and informal weddings. The asymmetric neckline and flared skirt will suit any shape and you can dress it up or down with simple or OTT accessories.