The once-strict code around what to wear to weddings is a lot more relaxed than it used to be. These days, couples are choosing to get hitched in all sorts of different locations and venues. And whereas the ceremony used to be a pretty standard church or registry office, now there is every variation from the traditionally formal to the laid-back and quirky.
Whatever the occasion, if you want to be the best-dressed guest at the next wedding you attend, we’ve got you covered with our essential guide to this season’s best wedding guest dresses.
Wedding guest dresses: the dos and don’ts
The rules on dressing for a wedding are certainly much more flexible than they were, but there are still a few things to bear in mind when selecting your outfit.
- If the couple has specified a dress code or theme for the wedding, follow it; their wishes trump all the other rules of wedding clothing etiquette. If the invitation specifies 1920s style clothing or “pink” as a theme, then that’s what you wear.
- It’s usually acceptable to wear black. These days the taboo around wearing black wedding guest dresses has largely disappeared and most brides are pretty relaxed if you choose this colour for your outfit. However, if you are going to a very traditional event, it’s probably better to avoid it.
- If in doubt about your choice, ask the bride. But make sure you do this well in advance of the date, she will not thank you if you phone her as she is getting herself ready on the morning of the wedding.
- It’s never acceptable to wear white. Turning up as a wedding guest in a white dress looks as if you are trying to upstage the bride and is considered very bad form. You want your outfit to be memorable for the right reasons.
- Don’t flash the flesh. The rule of thumb is that modest dressing is respectful of the occasion and the couple, so avoid ultra-high hemlines, spaghetti straps and plunging necklines. If you have a favourite party dress, you can always throw over a jacket or shawl if the day is starting with a religious ceremony.
The country wedding
The fashion for country and vintage weddings has been a hot favourite for many years and shows no signs of declining in popularity any time soon. With so many gorgeous venues and locations to choose from, a country wedding is one of the things that the UK does best. For such occasions, traditional wedding guest dresses inspired by long, sunny days of yester-year are a go-to look.
Beautiful and classically elegant, floral, floaty tea dresses are just perfect for a summer country wedding. Because they are usually midi-length or just a little longer, they also have the ideal clearance to avoid the hem trailing through any wet grass. Team them with pretty wedges or lower, chunkier heels and avoid anything too high and spiky, as you may end up stuck in any soft ground.
For a vintage-inspired but on-trend look, polka dot dresses are a favourite theme in 2020. Choose from cinched-in 1950s inspired styles to ultra-flattering wrap dresses. Accessorise your polka dot wedding guest dress with simple jewellery to avoid a cluttered look.
The city wedding
A wedding in the city gives you a wider range of options for your outfit than traditional country nuptials. If you’ve been invited to a city-based wedding, there’s no need to shy away from fashion-forward, statement wedding guest dresses with sharp tailoring and eye-catching details. These are great choices for an urban marriage and look so much more at home in a city setting.
If your style is sleek and elegant, go for clean lines for a classic, classy silhouette. A little black dress, for example, is a chic choice that usually works better in the town than at a country wedding. Or for a softer, more feminine look, show off this year’s key trends by opting for a wedding guest dress in a pretty pastel colour with puff sleeves or pleats.
Team your choice with some stunning shoes for the full city slicker look. If you are a fan of heels, by all means go for it, but consider whether you are going to be dancing the night away later on. You can always take your shoes off or bring along a pair of foldaway flats to wear home.
The destination wedding
Watching two of your favourite people tying the knot on at a ceremony on an idyllic, white-sanded beach or some other glamorous foreign location is a wonderful experience. If you are dressing for a seaside wedding the key is to go for something stylish and comfortable. You also need to make sure that the dress you choose is easy to pack into your suitcase and will travel well. Soft, flowing fabrics are generally your best bet and avoid anything too fussy and structured that is more like to crease or suffer in transit.
Many of the wedding guest dresses that are obvious choices for the UK may be too hot and restrictive for warmer climates. Go for a smart sundress in a longer length, as sea breezes may blow up shorter, fuller skirts. Pair your dress with a light cardigan or pashmina and accessorise with dressy wedge heels or sandals that will make it easier walk in the sand. And don’t forget the sunscreen to protect your skin.
Whatever the wedding you are invited to, look your best with our essential guide to wedding guest dresses and stand out in the crowd for all the right reasons.
For more ideas on dressing for special occasions, check out these blog posts: