Wedding attire decoded: Expert tips for what to wear to every type of wedding

woman choosing what to wear to a wedding
Bookmark these expert tips for what to wear to a wedding. (Getty Images)

If the past two years have let us appreciate anything, it’s how exciting it is to get dressed up for special occasions. Whether you're heading to a Caribbean destination for a summer wedding on the beach or a lavish banquet hall in town, it's the perfect excuse to get dolled up and bring out your finest attire.

Chances are a there will be dress code requirements, and while some invites may explicitly state the type of dress code (black tie, casual, etc.) other are less clear about what you should be wearing.

To avoid any possible wardrobe malfunction or faux-pas at your next special occasion, ahead, find five helpful tips for what to wear to every type of wedding.

What is appropriate to wear to a wedding as a guest?

For the most part, weddings are formal, if not semi-formal, events and should be approached tastefully. There is nothing wrong with wearing something that makes you feel beautiful and your best, and that is playfully sexy — like an open-back dress or a skirt with a modest slit, but avoid anything that draws excessive attention in the presence of other guests and small children. In other words, if you would consider wearing your outfit to a nightclub, it’s likely not appropriate for a wedding.

Dos and don'ts of wedding dressing

Happy wedding couple and bridesmids with groomsmen running and jumping on a sunny day in the park.
Asking questions ahead of time can spare awkward wardrobe situations at the wedding. (Getty Images)

There’s a fine line between wanting to look your best at a wedding and stealing attention from the bride, the groom and the bridal party. Remember that this day is about celebrating others and letting them bask in the spotlight.

To avoid dressing in such a way that you might be mistaken for a member of the entourage, a great tip is to try to find out what colours they’ll be wearing and to choose something which compliments those tones. Check out the wedding website, take clues from the invitation, and ask around for information if you’re not sure. Most people will be quite happy to offer you suggestions and steer you in the right direction.

Should you wear white or black to a wedding?

In an effort to not upstage or upset the bride, it’s best to steer clear of white, or colours that may be mistaken for white. Nowadays wedding dresses come in all shades – from pure white to champagne, cream, tan and blush, so avoid this palette as best you can. With all other options available, save your ivory jumpsuit for another event.

As for wearing black to a wedding, the recommendation would be to save that for an evening formal black tie or cocktail wedding. A black outfit for an afternoon garden wedding can potentially be seen as gloomy or in poor taste.

What to wear to a black-tie wedding

Group of people in formalwear toasting with champagne and smiling while spending time on luxury party
A black-tie event is you chance to dress to the nines. (Getty Images)

If your invite has the words “black-tie,” it’s important to take note. These events are normally held after 6 p.m. and will be quite formal and elegant. The dress code will call for tuxedos with bowties, long gowns, or cocktail dresses.

Unless the word “optional” appears, which normally allows guests to opt out of a tux in exchange for a formal suit, the expectation is that you dust off (or rent) your tuxedo. The only dress code that ups a "black-tie" event is "white-tie" which has all the makings of a fairytale – a black tailcoat, white vests, white gloves and red-carpet glitzy gowns.

How to dress for a casual wedding

People attending a wedding on the beach
Dressing for a casual wedding doesn't mean you should reach for your jeans and sneakers. (Getty Images)

I always tell people that when it comes to weddings, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Jeans, crop tops, T-shirts, joggers and athleisure wear have no place at a wedding – period. Daytime weddings can be slightly more casual – calling for lighter colours and fabrics, whereas evening weddings are considered more formal.

You may also want to keep jewelry to a minimum in the afternoon and save the big necklace and cocktail rings as part of your evening wear. How you dress says so much about you, including that you took the time and thought into planning your outfits. It also set the tone for how you will be perceived by other guests.

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