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Winter wedding guest dresses
Five tips to help you be the best dressed guest at any winter wedding
If you thought wedding season was over, you were wrong. While it is true that the majority of nuptials take place during the summer months, more and more couples are beginning to see the allure of a winter wedding.
According to register office data, thousands more people are tying the knot between October and March than in previous years, with the number of couples getting married in winter increasing by up to 15 per cent in some areas, and for good reason.
From snow-covered settings to fairy lights, choruses round the piano and flagons of mulled wine, there is plenty of romance to be found in the winter.
But while the venue may be easy to bedeck, mastering a winter wedding wardrobe is an entirely different battle.
The cold weather means guests are forced to grapple with a string of sartorial conundrums, including finding an outfit that will shield them from the elements while still maintaining a sense of occasion.
The rules surrounding wedding guest dressing during the winter are as nuanced as they come but according to fashion stylist Rebecca Lockwood, it also affords attendees the chance to break their own style rules and try something new.
“Dressing for a winter wedding is all about luxury and layering but it can also be your time to experiment with something fun,” Lockwood says.
Sameera Azeem, creative director at London-based fashion label Ghost agrees, adding that while winter presents itself as a bit of a challenge, there are plenty of ways guests can stand out from the crowd.
“Weddings in the winter do have more of a festive feel, whether it is in the colour or fabrication,” Azeem says, adding that “warmth and looking chic” should be key factors when assessing your style.
Here’s our handy guide to winter wedding guest dressing, with tips from industry experts on the trends and colours you need to know about this season.
A ubiquitous summertime staple, dresses are classically the go-to choice for wedding guests and there’s no reason a winter wedding should be any different.
However, Orlagh McCloskey, co-founder of retro-inspired fashion brand Rixo, says it is important to recognise that the colder months call for a shift in colour and texture.
“Winter weddings are a great occasion to make the most of wearing textures like sequins and velvet, as well as longer sleeve midi styles, which you might ordinarily not get the chance to pull out your wardrobe during summer wedding season,” McCloskey says.
“It’s also a great time to reach for earthier and jewel tones such as green, burnt orange, deep blues, purple and magenta.”
Lockwood agrees, adding that while deep tones such as black, navy and red are perfect for the occasion, guests shouldn’t dismiss lighter hues altogether.
“I love the combination of a black velvet skirt with a soft mint green cashmere jumper,” Lockwood says.
“It oozes style and luxury. Team with some pointed heels, tights and a beaded bag.”
If print is more your thing, personal stylist Anna Berkeley argues that florals aren’t the sole reserve of summer affairs. Simply opt for a blooming motif against a dark backdrop to ensure it is more seasonally appropriate.
Silhouette-wise, Frances Cookson, co-founder of British fashion brand Rewritten, makes a case for midi lengths with side splits or open backs, while Emily Gordon-Smith, director of consumer product at trends intelligence company Stylus, says retro shapes are all the rage.
“The pretty, modest dresses – think covered-up, frilled and ruffled, with high necks and long sleeves – that have been so popular on the red carpet and runways are perfect for a winter wedding,” Gordon-Smith says.
“Erdem is the go-to for this look or if that’s out of budget take some inspiration and seek out midmarket and high street versions or, even better, an original 1970s vintage one.”
The Trouser Suit
Winter gives wedding guests the opportunity to take their style in a new direction with warmer outfit options such as a sharply tailored suit or jumpsuit with long sleeves.
“There are some great suits around this season,” Lockwood says.
“I have fallen in love with the velvet tuxedo suit as it’s super-sexy and sophisticated. It is definitely worth it as an investment piece that would be sure to last for many seasons due to its classic style. Team with an embellished heel and headband.”
To avoid looking too corporate, Gordon-Smith suggests investing in a suit that fits your body well and to not be afraid to experiment with bold hues or fabric finishes.
“The recent spring/summer runways were full of patterned trouser suits, which could make for a bold winter wedding guest look as well as prove a sound investment for next year.”
If a trouser suit doesn’t appeal, Cookson states that she is a “massive advocate” of jumpsuits as an alternative for women who usually shy away from wearing skirts or dresses, admitting she owns one style in four different colours.
“Not only do they look super cool as an alternative to a dress but they are an incredibly versatile choice,” she says.
“A trouser leg also means you can avoid the tights/no tights conundrum.”
As the weather cools and nights draw in, a stylish coat sits at the core of every woman’s wardrobe. But, is it really acceptable to wear your favourite floor-length puffer to your best friends nuptials?
Scruffy sleeping bag-styles aside, Berkeley says a statement coat is a must.
“Layers become key. You’ll need a very smart coat as you may be in it for a while, depending on the venue. I spent an entire wedding in my coat once,” she says.
“It’s totally acceptable to wear a coat or blazer to a wedding. In fact, make it all about the coat if you like.”
Azeem agrees, sharing her preference for belted or longline double-breasted options, while Lockwood adds that the right coat can really help to elevate your wedding look.
“I would suggest going for something statement in colour or, if you are not brave enough for that, maybe a statement fabric. Faux fur can work well or even try a check print,” Lockwood says.
“Blazers are also a great alternative if you want something a little lighter or, if you want to update your current coat, why not try an embellished belt worn over the top to nip in the waist – a great styling trick for this season that looks both cool and flattering.”
In recent years, occasion hats have slipped out of fashion favour, but a recent resurgence for fancy headwear (sales are up by 250 per cent on luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter in the last year) means they have officially regained some credibility.
Australian milliner Lisa Tan says the key to selecting the right hat for you is to keep comfort at the forefront of your mind.
“I generally recommend wedding guests wear smaller pieces without large brims, as they can be quite restrictive when greeting people,” Tan says.
“I would definitely recommend wearing either a felt or fabric hat, straw is definitely out and saved for spring and summer.”
The designer adds that headbands are also a popular choice, with the schoolgirl accessory having experienced a coming of age.
“Headbands with small veils are a lovely alternative to a hat or headpiece, but ensure your veil isn’t so restrictive as to prevent you from eating or drinking comfortably,” Tan explains.
“Wide, padded satin or velvet headbands are also a great choice for a less formal occasion and easily pair with most outfits.”
Azeem agrees, explaining that as weddings become “more relaxed”, accessories such as beaded hair clips, hairbands and simple fascinators “give less of a formal feel than hats but still give a subtle nod to traditional headwear”.
Footwear is largely a matter of personal preference but with a winter chill in the air, it seems open-toe options are a no-no.
Instead, Berkeley recommends opting for closed-toe heels, a pair of smart boots or even sandals with dainty socks.
Cookson and Azeem both agree, adding that while the cooler climes are likely to impact how they choose to finish their big day look, comfort comes first.
“Accessories-wise I would opt for a closed toe, block heel shoe any day,” Cookson says.
“Not only will they keep your feet warmer but they are infinitely more comfortable – your feet will thank you later.”
Wedding Guest Style for Her
These days, women have a lot of freedom and almost innumerable options available to them for wedding guest attire. The most important guideline for women is not to wear white, off-white or ivory. This is an old-school rule but it still applies, as you don’t want to outshine the bride on her special day. (The only exception here is when the invite specifically states that it is a “white wedding,” in which case guests are encouraged to wear all-white as well.)
For daytime weddings, remember not to wear black or sequins, as those are colors and details best reserved for evening occasions. (The sparkle will make you look overdressed.)
Even if you’re attending the wedding of a young friend, remember how many wedding guests are older, including the families of the bride and groom — especially those who paid for it. Out of respect for the occasion and those closest to the couple, overly sexy, low-cut, revealing or high-hemmed outfits should be avoided. That’s not to say you can’t look feminine and attractive — just be reasonable. If you have any doubts, consult other guests, friends or your mom for advice. (Most likely, if you have to ask, there’s your answer.) 03 of 08
When Dress Code Is Not Specified
If the invite does not give a dress code, use your best judgement. A cocktail dress, little black dress or even a full-length jumpsuit will work just about anywhere. High heeled pumps or sandals are always a good bet as well. Your shoes have the ability to dress your look way up or way down, so choose a pair of shoes based on the formality of your dress and you’ll achieve the right balance.
Do not bring a large purse to a wedding. Carry a small clutch or a small cross-body bag. Mini bags are on-trend right now, but a classic metallic or satin clutch will never do you wrong. All you need to bring is keys, a credit card and ID, your phone and lipstick — no tote bag required.
No matter what time of day or the vagueness of an invitation, it’s safe to say that jeans or shorts are never appropriate. This is a special occasion and often a religious ceremony, so show respect for the couple by putting in some effort. The venue, time of day and character of the hosts should give you all the clues you need to show up looking fantastic and appropriate. 04 of 08
Wedding Guest Style for Him
Lucky for you, men, dressing for weddings isn’t particularly difficult. You will always look appropriate in a suit and tie, no matter what. How easy is that?
If you want to get into specifics though, there are some guidelines that men should follow in order to look their best at a wedding. For example, a summer or spring wedding means you can wear a suit (or shirt and chinos for informal daytime) in lighter fabrics and colors. (Think linen and cotton blends.) For fall or winter weddings, you may want to wear a wool or wool-blend suit in a dark color like grey or charcoal.
If the wedding is strictly black tie, stick to a traditional tuxedo and avoid “getting cute” with it. A black bowtie and polished black dress shoes are a must. You may get an invite that suggests “creative black tie” or even something like “Texas Formal,” in which case switch out your dress shoes for black cowboy boots or wear a playful vest under your jacket.
Unless it is a black tie or formal wedding, a navy blue suit is the most tasteful and appropriate option there is. (Do not wear a black suit, as they are reserved for very formal occasions and funerals.) Just make sure it is tailored, and your accessories fit the occasion.
A white shirt and tastefully patterned tie (think subtle stripes or swiss dots) will work for any occasion. Don’t be afraid to add a pocket square or unique cufflinks to add some personality to your look. 05 of 08
Informal Weddings, Daytime and Evening
Informal, Daytime: For her, an informal daytime or morning wedding means a sundress, skirt and top or even pants (but no jeans), and no high heels required. For men, slacks or chinos and a shirt (tucked in) works great. Avoid sneakers and opt for oxfords or loafers.
Informal, Evening: For her, an informal evening wedding suggests a dress, and allows for a lot of flexibility. You could wear a maxi dress and flat shoes, or a little black dress and heels. For men, the dress requirements are the same as informal daytime, but you may want to add a jacket; no tie needed. 06 of 08
Semi-Formal Weddings, Daytime and Evening
Semi-Formal, Daytime: For women, a semi-formal daytime wedding suggests a cocktail dress and heels or dressy separates. For men, a suit and dress shoes; tie is optional but always looks smart. In the summer months, a light-color or linen suit will work, but go with a heavier fabric for a fall or winter wedding.
Semi-Formal, Evening: For women, a semi-formal daytime wedding suggests a cocktail dress and heels or dressy separates; an LBD is an excellent option. For men, a suit and dress shoes; tie is optional but always looks smart. (If the wedding begins after 6 p.m., definitely wear a tie.) 07 of 08
Formal Weddings: Black Tie and White Tie
Black Tie Optional: For women, black tie optional weddings mean you can wear either a cocktail dress and heels or a formal dress. (Trendier dressers may opt for a jumpsuit as well.) For men, you have the option of a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, with black dress shoes.
Black Tie: A black tie wedding requires a formal dress for women, or your dressiest cocktail attire. For men, a tuxedo (or black suit with a black tie) is required.
White Tie: A white tie occasion is the dressiest of them all, and women will want to wear a long, floor-length gown and their best jewelry. White tie attire for men means a tuxedo worn with a white bow tie and vest, the jacket may have tails. Dress shoes should be black patent leather. (Don’t worry, this formal dress is usually reserved for royal ceremonies and debutante balls.) 08 of 08