How to Find the Perfect Wedding Guest Dress
Watching your friends or relatives tie the knot is one of the most special occasions many of us will ever attend. You know how much the day means to them, and it makes you happy to see how excited they are. And once the ceremony is over, you get to let loose and party with all your loved ones. But while most of us love getting glammed up in a pretty dress and shoes, there is one thing that can potentially put a damper on such a special day, and that’s figuring out what to wear to a wedding as a guest.
If you’re a bridesmaid, your job is easy. But if you’re attending as a guest, there’s a whole world of questions you suddenly need to ask yourself. How formal is the dress code? Is the wedding indoors or out? What are the bride’s colors? And isn’t there some rule about not wearing white to a wedding as well? You want to look and feel your best, but you also want to be dressed appropriately for the occasion and sometimes, striking the right balance between the two can be tricky.
Wondering what dress to wear to a wedding in your near future? We want to help you navigate this choice by providing you with this guide to finding the perfect wedding guest dress.
Questions to Ask Yourself
So you’ve finally received that wedding invitation in the mail, and you couldn’t be happier. But once you’re finished jumping for joy, your next feeling is concern — what in the world are you going to wear? If this sounds like you, don’t panic. Instead, work your way through this list of simple questions. The answers you give will help narrow down your choices considerably and set out on the right track towards finding that perfect dress.
1. What Is the Dress Code?
Start by checking your invitation. Does it say anywhere on the card what the dress code is? Plenty of couples know people will be stressing out about what to wear to their big day, so they make it easy by specifying a dress code. If they don’t mention a dress code and if the happy couple are close friends, close enough that you feel comfortable doing so, there’s nothing wrong with sending them a quick text and asking. If you’d rather not pester them directly, track down the maid of honor, perhaps, or other family members who might be in the know.
Does the card list a term like semi-formal or perhaps black-tie? That’s the dress code. In case you aren’t sure what these terms mean, check out this quick explanatory list of some of the common dress code options you might encounter.
- Casual: This one’s easy. Throw on a light casual dress, one that makes you feel great and that isn’t too fancy. For summer, think a light sundress or something like this Kinsley Flare Dress in blush pink.
- Beach formal: This calls for a formal summer dress, meaning something that’s dressier than a sundress, but still short of a ball gown.
- Semi-formal or dressy casual: These two terms are usually interchangeable, and call for something a little dressier than that sundress. Go for a cocktail dress or something of a similar level of formality.
- Formal attire: It’s time to break out that full-length dress you’ve been dying to wear. If you’re feeling a bit daring, an evening pantsuit can also be a winning choice.
- Black tie: Floor-length gowns are the order of the day. This is the time to dress to impress.
- White tie: White tie events call for the fanciest of the fancy. Ladies should wear ball gowns, and any male plus-ones will want to wear tuxedos.
2. What Time Is the Ceremony?
If there is no dress code listed on the invitation and you don’t have any other means of finding out, don’t worry. Your best bet is to check the time of the ceremony. While not an official rule, most people agree that typically afternoon weddings are more casual, while evening weddings are more likely to ask you to dress to the nines.
3. What Season Is the Wedding?
Take another look at your invitation to checking the date of the wedding. This will help you narrow down your options to something that’s appropriate for the season the wedding will be taking place in. Some dresses can cross over and look great in all seasons, but not every dress has this capability. Some dresses are unmistakably summer dresses while others are best suited for the winter. For example, if it’s a winter or even a fall wedding, you know you can eliminate frilly sundresses from the list of possibilities. And if it’s a July wedding, you might want to steer clear of anything heavy and excessively dark.
4. Is the Wedding Indoors or Outdoors?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the question of what season the wedding is in. If the wedding is outdoors during the summer, you’ll want to wear something that keeps you cool. Think straps, short sleeves and sandal-appropriate. If the wedding is outdoors during the winter, however, you’ll have the opposite problem. Wear something you can layer a coat over and that covers your legs, otherwise you’ll be too cold to enjoy the ceremony. This burgundy Vienna Wrap Dress, for instance, might make a perfect winter option.
Indoors weddings give you more options, as no matter the outdoor temperature, the building will likely be heated or cooled appropriately for the weather.
What to Avoid Wearing
It’s easy to get so caught up in asking ourselves what a guest should wear to a wedding that we can forget to ask the opposite question — what should a guest avoid wearing to a wedding? This question won’t choose your dress for you, but it can easily help you narrow down your options to better steer you towards that perfect dress.
1. Leave the White to the Bride
Most people agree that it’s poor form to wear white to a wedding unless you’re the bride, or unless you’ve specifically been asked to by the bride herself. The idea here is that the bride should stand out of the crowd, almost glowing in her white dress. If other people are in white as well, you risk overshadowing her and even stepping on her moment. Today is her day to stand apart, and it’s gracious and polite to let her enjoy it.
You may be able to get away with white if it’s part of a pattern and combined with other colors. Even this is taking a slight risk, however, and it’ll be up to you to decide just how risky you want to be.
2. Steer Clear of the Official Color Scheme
White is off-limits for a boutique dress as a wedding guest, and so is the bride’s official color scheme. Just as the bride is supposed to stand out from the crowd, so are her bridesmaids. If they’re all wearing royal blue, for instance, make a note of this and avoid selecting a royal blue dress for yourself. Other than white, this is the most important color to avoid at a wedding. If you aren’t sure about this color, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of the bridesmaids or family members and ask. It’s always better to be sure than to accidentally show up dressed like a bridesmaid.
3. Don't Draw Attention to Yourself
When you attend a wedding, a good rule of thumb is that you don’t want to be the center of attention. You want to have fun, celebrate and enjoy your time, but you don’t want to overshadow the bride. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating — this is her day. This means that a wedding isn’t a great day to choose a dress that shows off too much leg or cleavage. If people are going to be staring at you instead of the bride, it may be the wrong dress choice. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a dress that you love wearing, but you’ll want to avoid drawing too much attention. If you’re having doubts about whether or not that skirt is too short, it probably is.
4. Skip the Uncomfortable Dresses
Attending a wedding is often a day-long commitment, and you’ll want to be comfortable for the whole event. Pick something that lets you move comfortably, and that gives you confidence that you can dance and enjoy yourself without worrying about your straps slipping or your skirt riding up.
Don’t believe us that this is important? Consider the facts. You’ll be sitting to watch the ceremony for up to an hour, depending on how long it runs. You’ll be mingling with guests, sitting down again to eat dinner and don’t forget that there’s usually dancing afterward. It’s a long time to spend in one dress, with lots of standing around, sitting down and dancing to take into consideration. For an occasion such as this, you’ll want something comfortable.
Tips for Dressing for a Wedding as a Guest
All right, so you know when the wedding is and what the dress code is. You know what potential pitfalls to avoid. But there are still plenty of options out there, and it’s a lot to narrow down. The good news is that as long as your outfit falls within the guidelines we’ve looked at so far, you can’t go wrong. For a little more guidance, however, here are our best tips.
1. Opt for a Sundress
For casual weddings, particularly those held outside during the summertime, a sundress is a great go-to option. Many of us already have one or two of these hanging in our closet, making this a perfect choice if you’re looking to save a little money, but they’re also available in many different stores at affordable prices if you’re looking to treat yourself to a new one. These boutique dresses are ideal for wedding guests because they’re light and comfortable, making them easy to wear for hours on end as you dance and celebrate with your loved ones.
2. Try a Little Black Dress
The little black dress is a staple every girl should have in her closet since it’s a timeless classic that’s perfect for a semi-formal wedding. These dresses will usually be mid-thigh to knee-length, black and simple. Their classic appeal comes not from any over-the-top embellishments but from the simple elegance they create and the fact that they can go with anything. Add a pair of matching heels, and you’ll be instantly wedding-ready.
3. Go Gown Shopping
Does this wedding call for formal or black-tie wear? If so, you might need to hit the mall or do some online shopping as you browse for a floor-length gown to wear. Some factors to keep in mind are the color — remember not to step on the wedding party’s toes — and the length. If possible, try your gown on with the shoes you plan to wear to make sure the dress is an appropriate length. There’s nothing worse than getting a gown home and realizing your heels make the skirt too short.
4. Sparkle and Shine All Winter Long
It’s easy to grab a light and breezy dress for a summer wedding, but many of us aren’t sure what to wear to winter weddings. We feel compelled to choose darker shades, but we also want to avoid looking like we’re attending a funeral. The right solution? Go for something metallic. Metallic shades work perfectly in the winter, whether you’re going with gold, silver, or any other shade that’s been doused in a liberal helping of sparkles. Any of these would be a gorgeous option that will keep you radiant and dazzling all night long.
5. Coordinate With Your Date
Are you heading to the wedding by yourself, or perhaps with a large group of friends or family members? If so, then there’s no need to worry about this. If you’re bringing a date with you as a plus-one, however, many couples choose to coordinate their outfits with each other. For example, let’s say you’re wearing a yellow dress. He might add a yellow tie to his outfit. And if you’re going in a little black dress, he can coordinate with a dashingly tailored black suit.
6. Skip the Dress Altogether
Whoever said you had to wear dresses to all formal events? These days, many women are choosing to mix things up across a variety of casual, semi-formal and formal events by searching out non-dress based options. If you’re headed to a casual summer wedding, why not try a cute romper? If it’s an evening wedding with a bit more formality to it, try a jumpsuit or a pantsuit. These come in almost as many styles, colors and designs as dresses, and if this option appeals to you, you’ll surely be able to find something that’s perfect for your upcoming event.
Shop Boutique Dresses to Wear to a Wedding Today
Ready to head out there and find that perfect boutique wedding guest dress? Then visit our online boutique here at My Sister’s Closet to shop a wide variety of wedding-appropriate designs. Choose from styles such as wrap dresses, maxi-dresses and A-line dresses as you hunt down the dress that’s perfect for your upcoming event. Not only are our dresses available in many different styles, but we also have an expansive array of colors to choose from, meaning that no matter which colors you need to avoid at a wedding, you’ll be able to find something that works for you.
Got a question about who we are or how our customer service team can help you? Don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know.