Wedding guest dresses: Appropriate outfits for every type of wedding

By on May 11, 2017

No guest likes to look out-of-place in a wedding setting. Hence, it is necessary that your outfit is suitable for the wedding style, is stylish and flatters you when you have to attend a wedding. Unfortunately, there is no standard dress code that works for every type of wedding. It is often necessary to change your choice according to the wedding style, location and time of year. This can make your dress selection confusing, and at times, even difficult.

However, you can quickly ascertain whether a certain style of dressing is appropriate for a wedding or not with some attention to details. Use the cues in the wedding invitation to find out more about the wedding. Also consider the weather at the time as a guide to choose your outfit for the occasion.

Let us quickly look at what the phrases on the invitation imply, in terms of what is appropriate to wear to a wedding.

Black Tie: This term denotes a formal event. Black-tie weddings are usually held in the evening. Ideal dress choices would be formal gowns, dressy suits or cocktail length dresses.

White Tie: Usually an extravagant affair with a formal vibe. A full-length dress is a must and your outfit should be stylish and chic.

Semi-formal: This can be anywhere between formal and casual. It is better to choose formal dresses just in case the wedding is more formal than casual.

Dressy casual: Another term that is often used to replace semi-formal. The same dress choices as above are suitable for such an event.

Casual: Simple affair with an informal vibe. Outdoor weddings and the like fit this style. Short and smart dress styles are ideal. You have plenty of options. Nonetheless, jeans, flip flops, T-shirts and casual attire elements are never a good choice, even if it is a casual wedding.

We now have a clear idea of what style of dressing to choose based on the invitation. Here are some do’s and don’ts that apply to all weddings, irrespective of this dress code. Keep these in mind to ensure that you will not be breaking any etiquette norms.

  • Avoid wearing white or black to weddings, unless it is absolutely necessary. Let the bride shine in her white gown, without your dress being a distraction. Although black isn’t often associated with happy events, it is fine to wear it to a wedding if you have limited options otherwise.
  • Choose your attire so it is suitable for the venue. This is very important especially if the wedding is held in a house of worship. For church weddings, avoid strapless and revealing styles. Cover up with an accessory like a stole or jacket for the ceremony.
  • When in doubt, play it safe by dressing in formal attire than sporting an informal dress choice.
  • Avoid any outfit that is vulgar, revealing or overly flashy. Also avoid cheap, artificial jewelry and accessories even if they are fashionable.
  • Never wear distressed clothing to a wedding. Although it may be trendy in mainstream fashion, torn and ripped clothing is never suitable for a wedding.

Let us now explore the different outfit options that are ideal for different wedding styles

Formal wedding 

If the event mentions black-tie or white tie, the wedding is a formal one.

Likely Venues: Formal weddings are usually held in banquet halls, country clubs and similar locations. It can also be held at historical and heritage sites like castles or museums. The wedding setting will be lavish. The wedding ceremony may be held at a house of worship, like a church.

Dress ideas: Aim to dress elegantly. Choose simple, but smart silhouettes in bold or dark colors for best effect. Formal floors-length gowns are appropriate. You can also choose cocktail or tea length dresses. Always try to choose dresses that flatter your body type. Dresses with crisp, clean lines look smart and flatter most body types. Pay attention to the neckline and sleeves to find one that enhances your best assets. All sleeve lengths are suitable for formal weddings. So, make a suitable choice based on the time of year. For contemporary wedding styles, modern dress styles with a color block feature or trendy prints are good.

Accessories, makeup and style: Statement accessories will amp up your style. Pair your outfit with metallic colors like gold, silver or gemstone jewelry. While wearing accessories, make sure that you balance your look with just the right number of pieces. Avoid wearing one of each piece as this can clutter up your overall look. Choose one or two statement pieces that complement your dress style. If your dress is relatively simple, add a belt or scarf. For more ideas on how to accessorize for a formal look, visit this article on the Leaf.  Dress up in red-carpet style with elaborate hairdos and bright shades of makeup that flatter your complexion and face shape for a dressy look.

Casual Wedding type

Although almost any outfit is deemed fit for a casual wedding, it is best to plan your dress based on the actual location where it is held. Let us look at the popular choices and what goes for each of them.

Venue: Beach

Dress Ideas: Dress in a bright summer frock or tea-length dress that looks like it belongs in the setting. Don’t hesitate to experiment with bold tropical prints and fluttering dress styles. Choose light, breathable fabrics like chiffon and cotton for comfort. It isn’t advisable to wear silk or satin in this environment, since they show sweat and can ruin your look. Avoid floor-length dresses that will pick up sand and be difficult to walk in. Off-the-shoulder necklines, strapless dresses and spaghetti strap tops are all good. Separates and mix and match skirts and tops are also good choices for beach weddings.

Accessories, hair and makeup: Choose simple accessories that work well with the outfit you choose. Avoid metallic and flashy jewelry. Opt for flats or wedges for footwear that is practical in the sand. Avoid flip-flops and sneakers since they look too casual. Embellished sandals look good and work great in the sandy beach. Keep the makeup simple and opt for neutral shades for a natural look. Avoid heavy eye makeup as it may spread in the humid environment. Pick a hairstyle that keeps hair off your face. When at the beach, your hair can fly a lot and obscure your face in photos. So, pick a bun or hairdo that keeps the hair tucked away and this won’t be a problem.

Venue: Farm or garden

Dress Ideas: Being outdoor venues, consider comfort when choosing your outfit. As with a beach venue, pick breathable fabrics like cotton or chiffon. The dress hemline shouldn’t extend beyond floor length. Shorter hemlines will make navigation on the uneven terrain easy. Match your outfit to the setting with the choice of colors, accessories and dressing style. Both printed and plain dress styles are suitable. Dresses with floral prints or in lace look good in farm and garden venues. For outdoor venues, sleeveless and strapless necklines are comfortable. You can also pair the dress with a removable accessory like a jacket or stole, for when the evening gets chilly.

Accessories, hair and makeup: Keep your look simple and uncluttered. Avoid accessories that are too heavy. Instead choose small pieces that complement your dress style and colors. A casual wedding is the right occasion to wear bright and big accessories. Flats or kitten heels are suitable footwear. If you wish to truly stand out, consider pairing your dress with boots. Choose waterproof makeup and aim for a simple, natural look that will look good in the natural ambiance of the setting. Simple, fun hairstyles and hair accessories like flowers will add a beautiful finishing touch to your overall look.

Venue: Indoor venue like loft or restaurant

Dress Ideas: It is a good idea to choose a fancy dress if you are unsure of the venue, or if it is more likely to be held indoors. Wear a smart dress or separates that you would wear to a restaurant or to a dinner with your colleagues. Short, flirty dresses, cocktail dresses or tea-length gowns are also fine, as don’t look formal. Keep the look interesting by choosing colors that flatter your complexion.

Accessories, hair and makeup: Aim to look as though you have put in an effort to look good. For an indoor venue and an event in the evening, pick makeup colors that will look bright in the pictures. If you use nude or natural makeup, you may have a washed-out look. Choose colors that not only complement your complexion, but also go well with your dress colors. Balance the details in your dress with the suitable choice of accessories. If your dress has intricate and statement details, avoid too many accessories that clash with it. Alternately, wear bold, bright jewelry if your dress is relatively simple. Pick a hairstyle that will hold throughout the length of the event.

Venue: Country-style or vintage

Dress Ideas: The relaxed ambiance and natural setting of a country-style wedding or a vintage wedding is best complemented by relaxed silhouettes. Simple, but pretty dress details look good too. A-line dresses, sheath silhouettes and fit and flare gowns look and feel comfortable. Lace is a classic favorite for weddings at such venues. You can choose between all-over lace dresses or dresses with lace trims on the neckline, sleeves or hemline. Go for embroidery, sequins or retro-elements and style details that match the setting. Also mix and match tops and skirts for a unique effect. There are plenty of vintage-inspired wedding dress styles in the market today. Find one that flatters your body type and looks perfect in such a setting, if you choose. For ideas on what would work, take a look at this article on the Bustle. 

Accessories, hair and makeup: Simple hairstyles like buns, ponytails or braided hairstyles complement the dress types mentioned above. Keep the accessories simple. A string of pearls or a pendant looks good. Pair it with a bracelet or dangling earrings. Studs are also appropriate. For a vintage wedding, consider silver or gold colored accessories. Oversize bracelets or watches, elegant necklaces and earrings are good choices. For vintage theme weddings, try to wear a hairstyle with braids or use a hair accessory that is from that timeline. If the venue is indoors, pair your outfit with colorful footwear that complements your outfit choice.

Finally, let us take a look at three important rules to keep in mind when choosing your outfit. Remember that this applies to any type of wedding, and can also be extended to any other occasion that you have to dress up for.

1.Always choose the right fit: However expensive or beautiful a dress is, all is lost unless it fits you well. Dresses that flatter your figure and are altered to your exact measurements will help you look smart. So, always make sure that the dress you buy is the right size. Further, have it altered to fit you exactly. A good seamstress can alter a dress to your exact measurements in just one fitting session. Do this and you will look much better when you wear the dress.

2.Elegant and classy is always in: If you are unsure of what to wear to a wedding, always go for an elegant and classy choice. Elegant, simple dress silhouettes and details fit into almost any setting. Choose the color, fabric and design so it is suitable for the weather at the time, the venue and what flatters you.

3.Stick to your style and taste: Irrespective of the style of the wedding, always make sure that you pick a dress that reflects your personality and style. Make sure your dress choice matches your age and is an extension of your everyday style.

To take a closer look at all the dresses featured here and also to see more of our collection of evening dresses and dresses for special occasions, head over to the Best for Bride website by clicking here. This is your one-stop destination for everything related to wedding fashion.

About Olga Pomeransky

Olga is manager at Best for Bride since 2005. Currently Best for Bride operates 4 bridal stores in Canada (Toronto, Etobicoke, Hamilton and Barrie). Best for Bride sells wedding, bridesmaids, mob dresses and more. http://www.BestForBride.com

2 Comments

  1. sobby14@yahoo.com'

    Brenda Dougherty

    June 21, 2017 at 10:04 AM

    Dressing the guests has to be a hard task. Is this something that I should be worried about? I mean, if they are coming to my wedding, they know what they should be wearing and if there is nothing in the closet for the event, they should head to the store. Right?

  2. sobby14@yahoo.com'

    Margarita Rivers

    June 21, 2017 at 10:31 AM

    I love all of these dress ideas. There is a problem now. I cannot decide 🙂

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