Wedding Attire: What to Wear as a Guest

Marta BlockContributor

Wedding season officially kicked off this weekend and a lot of wedding guests are scrambling to figure out the answer to one of modern life's most troubling questions: What are you supposed to wear to a wedding these days? There's no definitive answer, but here are some common questions.

My friend says she's having a 1920s theme wedding, do I need a flapper dress?

No. Wedding themes can be great organizing tools for couples trying to make sure their wedding has a unified feel, but that doesn't mean that the guests are characters in a play and expected to dress accordingly. Unless the invitation gives specific instructions or suggestions such as "bring out your best rock and roll wear" follow other clues on the invitation to decide what to wear.

What clues?

Nighttime weddings are generally fancier than day time. If the wedding is at night, and doesn't specify "black tie" than suits and dresses are appropriate. Weddings in a church or house of worship mean you should keep your shoulders covered.

What about outdoor weddings?

Outdoor weddings are generally less formal than indoor weddings. But, still, remember this is a special occasion. Unless you know for a fact that this is a totally casual, jeans wearing affair, wear something nice. Also, if the wedding is outdoors you probably want to avoid high heels, go for a wedge or flat to avoid getting stuck in the grass, dirt, or sand.

The bride and groom are from a different culture, should I try to dress like that culture?

No, unless you've been specifically asked to do so by the bride or groom, wear your regular dressy clothes. If you are worried that your dressy clothes might not be modest enough for a different culture, consider buying something new.

I'm from a different culture, can I wear what we consider fancy to a "regular" wedding?

Yes, your friends invited you to their wedding because they like you, so dress like yourself, only nicer.

Can I wear white to a wedding?

No. It's generally considered bad form to wear white (or off-white) to someone else's wedding. It makes it seem as though you're trying to compete with the bride for attention. I know, you have the perfect dress, which just happens to be white, but still, don't do it unless you want to spend the evening getting nasty looks from other guests.

What if I know that the bride isn't wearing white? Or there isn't a bride, there are two grooms?

You still shouldn't do it. Look, the fashion police doesn't really exist, so no one is going to arrest you, but wearing white to a wedding may cause trouble, so unless you want to cause trouble, why do it? Do you really not have any other dresses?

I've heard you can't wear red or black either, what's that about?

Traditionally, it is also bad form to wear red or black to a wedding. Red is seen as an attention getting color. Black is seen as a color of mourning. Remember also that these "rules" came about when most weddings were during the day, and red and black were not seen as acceptable day time colors either. (In fact, it used to be seen as highly inappropriate for women under 30 to ever wear black or diamonds). Today, both colors are pretty widely worn at all times of the day. In my opinion, you can safely wear red or black to a daytime or nighttime wedding without attracting stares. There are exceptions though, if the wedding is in the South, don't risk it. Also, if you are an ex or relative of the groom who may not approve of the bride (or who others think doesn't approve of the bride), don't wear black.

What other wedding attire questions do you have? Leave them in the comments and we'll give you answers! What wedding clothing "rules" have you heard?