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What to Wear to a Wedding: A Woman's Guide

Maina Ndung'u is a fashion enthusiast and has been a fashion consultant and blogger since February 2015.

Beautiful dusty-rose dress that would be perfect attire for a wedding guest.

Beautiful dusty-rose dress that would be perfect attire for a wedding guest.

Wedding Outfits for Women

If you have received a wedding invite and you’re wondering what to wear, here are the best style tips. Selecting the best wedding attire as a guest can be difficult. Some wedding invitations will specify a dress code. But if the invitation doesn't mention a dress code, knowing the basic rules will help you feel confident while also not standing out in the crowd.

Wedding guest attire should be formal but also appropriate. Any clothing that might attract too much attention is not a good idea. This is not your day to shine. It belongs to somebody else. The idea is to be elegant and charming and not detract from the bride.

Gorgeous peach organza dress perfect for a wedding.

Gorgeous peach organza dress perfect for a wedding.

Types of Dresses to Wear to a Wedding

There is a wide range of dresses to wear to weddings. Your selection depends on the type of invitation, the time of day, venue and season. At most weddings, a dress that is knee-length or longer is perfect.

Floral Dresses

These are ideal for summer and spring weddings. Many women pair them with flower adornments or accessories. For daytime weddings, this is the ultimate dress. Soft floral colors are also stylish for the bridal party.

Pastel Dresses

Pastel dresses are elegant and ultra-feminine. They are especially appropriate for daytime weddings. Pastel dresses are cute and versatile for many occasions.

Maxi Dresses

The maxi dress is a good preference for an outdoor wedding. A maxi dress made with chiffon or silk in brilliant colors will make you feel confident no matter how formal or casual the event is. These dresses are perfect for summer as well as winter weddings. In case it’s very cold, you can layer a sophisticated coat or jacket over the dress. You’ll keep warm and still look amazing.

Modern little black dress.

Modern little black dress.

This could fall under the little black dress category, even though it's long.

This could fall under the little black dress category, even though it's long.

Little Black Dresses

A little black dress is perfectly acceptable for the majority of weddings. It is especially appropriate to wear for evening weddings. If you feel like black is too dark for the occasion, you can accessorize it with lighter colored shoes, jackets or jewelry.

Sheath Dresses

The sheath dress is one dress that never goes out of fashion. It is suitable for all women and enhances the feminine figure. For a day wedding, choose cotton or linen floral print. You can also opt for a bright color with matching shoes. For evening weddings, satin or chiffon fabrics look chic and polished.

Skater Dresses

A skater dress is flexible for a wedding occasion. You can choose from a wide range of colors, materials and lengths, depending on the type of wedding. For an evening wedding, you may choose one in chiffon and your favorite color. For a day wedding, choose cotton in a bright color or print.

Evening Gowns

Long gowns are ideal for black-tie weddings. Choose appropriate accessories and jewelry to create a fabulous and feminine appearance.

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Cocktail Dresses

This is ideal for black tie and semi-formal weddings, which are usually held in the evenings. You can wear a cocktail dress that is either sleeveless or short-sleeved.

A skater skirt can be dressed up for a more casual wedding with a feminine chiffon top.

A skater skirt can be dressed up for a more casual wedding with a feminine chiffon top.

How to Wear a Skirt to a Wedding

Wearing a skirt to a wedding is appropriate as long as it isn't too casual. A skirt can be a good option for semi-formal weddings. If you want to wear a skirt, choose one that is an appropriate length and go for something that is stylish and graceful. As a rule of thumb, if you can't wear it for an evening event, you should not wear it to a wedding. Try avoiding skirts that are:

  • Too revealing
  • Too casual
  • Too business-like

Pencil Skirts

A pencil midi-skirt is simple, cute and fashionable if styled the correct way. The wrong choices can make this outfit look office-like. If you choose a black or neutral skirt, go for a top with simple decorations like ruffles. Avoid pairing a skirt with a button shirt, especially if it is white.

Pencil skirts can make walking difficult, so they usually have slits to help with movement. When buying a skirt with slits, make sure the slits aren't too high.

A midi-skirt and top can be paired with a blazer for a winter wedding.

A midi-skirt and top can be paired with a blazer for a winter wedding.

Maxi and Midi-Skirts

Maxi and midi-skirts can easily be paired with more formal tops. For instance, a neutral maxi skirt will go well with a lace blouse.

Best Tops for Skirts

The best tops to pair with skirts for a wedding are feminine blouses. These include lace blouses, peplum tops and ruffled tops. Masculine tops like men’s shirts or blazers pair well with ultra-feminine outfits like floral printed satin or chiffon skirts. If you must add layers for warmth, something like a tweed or velvet jacket will look sophisticated.

Shoes and Accessories

If your skirt is neutral, choose brightly colored shoes to add zing to the look. Neutral and dark shoes go with bright and printed skirts. Try to match or closely blend your shoes with the blouse.

If your skirt is medium length, you can wear closed shoes. For long skirts, opt for strappy or open footwear. Accessorize with a statement necklace to make the outfit look more formal.

Acceptable Colors to Wear to a Wedding

While almost all colors are acceptable for weddings, some might make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Your attire should make you blend in with the other guests. You should feel confident without demanding attention. Some outfits may be fine for a guest but be inappropriate because of the color.

Can You Wear White to a Wedding?

The colors white and ivory are frowned upon by many wedding guests. Wearing these colors makes you look like you are trying to compete with the bride. If you wear white to a wedding, some people might get the impression that you are jealous. If you really want to wear white, wear accessories in other colors. Prints with white as the background are also welcome. Also, be careful with the design of your white dress. If it looks like a bridal gown, it is not appropriate for a wedding guest. Better yet, just choose a different color.

Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?

Many people argue about whether it is appropriate to wear black to a wedding. Some parties argue that you should wear black only if it is an evening wedding. But a little black dress is appropriate for almost any occasion, including weddings.

Can You Wear Black and White to a Wedding?

Black and white when worn alone can be considered inappropriate by some people at weddings. But wearing them together is not inappropriate. They can be mixed in any form including checked, stripped or other patterns and combinations.

What Not to Wear to a Wedding

Though some weddings have a specific dress code, many don't, and there are outfits that you should not wear. As you ponder on what to wear, always remember that the impression you make is important. Below are some outfits that you should not wear to a wedding.

  • Top with an extra-low neckline, especially if you have no bra. This may be particularly improper if it shows too much of your bust.
  • A white dress that can be confused with the bride’s gown.
  • Micro-mini skirt.
  • Transparent dresses or skirts, especially if it shows your underwear.
  • Office or business wear, although an elegant pantsuit with heels works if you don't like dresses.
  • T-shirts.
  • Jeans.
  • Backless dresses that show your bra band. If you want to wear a backless dress, make sure it has a built-in bra.
  • A dress or skirt that shows your bike shorts underneath.
  • Flip-flops, unless it’s a casual, flip-flop wedding.
  • Plastic footwear.
  • Sportswear like a jogging suit.
  • Sneakers or tennis shoes.

If you avoid these types of clothing, you will have a clearer picture of what you can wear to the occasion. Avoid clothing that screams, “Look at me!” This can be seen as desperate and disrespectful to the bride.

Whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident will be perfect.

Whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident will be perfect.

Feel Confident and Look Radiant

With these styling tips, you will feel confident as you leave for the wedding celebration. Always make sure to check yourself in the mirror before venturing out. If you’re unsure of your clothes, opt for another style.

If the wedding is at night, you can select richer and bolder shades. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the norms of your locale. When the event is over, you’ll be glad that your wedding attire paid off.

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