How to Dress For a Wedding

Three Methods:Matching the Theme or SettingMeeting ExpectationsDressing for the Season

You’ve received an invitation to a wedding and now you need to start planning what you are going to wear. You want to look good, but not overdressed. You want to match their theme without mocking it. You want to be comfortable both physically and in your level of formality. Look for directions and clues in the invitation, avoid the big wedding attire faux pas and dress appropriately for the venue and the season.

Method 1
Matching the Theme or Setting

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    Read the invitation carefully. Often times the invitation will give you direct information regarding what to wear and the level of formality. The style or decoration of the invitation is also a clue. Is it colorful and fun or formal and sleek?[1]
    • They may mention hints about comfortable footwear by telling you if the ceremony will be on a beach or a lawn.
    • Many people are also using websites to give more information about the ceremony. Look for a website on the invitation, then visit the site for directives.
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    Commit to the theme. Whatever the theme is, if you decide to attend the wedding, you are also agreeing to playing along with the theme. This is their day and you are a part of it. Follow any specific directions given by the bride and groom, whether that is dressing up like a Star Trek character, or sporting a Hawaiian shirt.[2]
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    Respect cultural and religious dress codes. If a cultural element is involved in the wedding theme, you can wear something in homage to the culture, but be sure that it does not come off as mocking the culture by going too far.[3]
    • Indian formal attire is a sari. You may not have one and don’t usually wear them, but you can match the brilliant colors of saris by wearing jewel tones. You could also accessorize with Indian jewelry.
    • Scottish wedding parties may be wearing kilts. You could choose a plaid tie to show your support without going all the way with your own kilt.
    • Keep it conservative and respect any religious traditions. If you are going to a Catholic mass, also consider the fact that you will be expected to stand for a good portion of the ceremony as well as possibly kneel. Wear conservative clothes and shoes comfortable to move and stand in.
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    Consider the venue. If you are not given any instructions on what to wear, you can still dress to the expectations of the venue. If you are not familiar with the venue, look it up online and find pictures. Dress to match the style of the people in the photos.[4]
    • If the ceremony is in a traditional church setting, you should dress more conservatively. Its a good idea to wear something that covers bare arms and isn’t too risqué.[5]
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    Ask questions of the wedding party. The bride and groom are likely busy planning, prepping and stressing over the wedding. It is best to avoid asking them questions about attire for the wedding. Instead, reach out to people in the wedding party, who will have more information about the wedding.[6]

Method 2
Meeting Expectations

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    Don’t wear white. One of the first rules of weddings, especially in America, is that the only person wearing white should be the bride. This goes for the wedding and any other festivities surrounding it like bridal showers and rehearsal dinners. Even if your white outfit is your favorite one, leave it in the closet for these occasions.[7]
    • This goes for off-white as well. It is safest to avoid it altogether.
    • It is okay to have white accents or elements, but you should avoid solid white.[8]
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    Don’t wear all black. While you don’t want to look like the bride in a white lace dress, you also don’t want to look like you are attending a funeral, or mourning the death of your friend’s single life. Don't dress in all black.[9]
    • A little black is fine, or even a black dress or suit paired with colored accessories or shoes. Just don’t cover yourself in black from head to toe.
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    Tone down your style. You want to look great and stylish, but you should not outshine the bride and groom. This is their day and you don’t want to take attention away from them by drawing attention to yourself with your outfit.[10]
    • Avoid too much bling. Clothes that have too much glitz and glamour can outshine the couple. This includes sequined dresses or lots of lace.
    • You can have a little glitz in your accessories, like a bold necklace, but avoid it in your clothes.
    • While you may be able to afford a more expensive suit or gown than the happy couple, you don’t want to flaunt it on their wedding day.
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    Step your outfit up to formal. Show respect for the occasion with your outfit. No matter how casual the wedding is, it’s better to avoid really casual clothing choices. This includes denim, t-shirts, sweats, tight leggings, and cargo shorts.[11]
    • It is better to overdress than underdress for the occasion.
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    Roll up your sleeves. Short sleeve dress shirts are frowned upon for men. It may be hot, but men, if you are going to wear a dress shirt, make it a long-sleeved dress shirt. If you get too hot, rolling the sleeves up is perfectly acceptable.[12]
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    Take off your hat. This is especially important for men. Definitely don’t wear caps or beanies, and other hats should be avoided as well. Wearing hats indoors is generally poor etiquette, and even outdoor weddings should be hat-free zones.[13]
    • On the other hand, there are exemptions to this rule for headwear relevant to religious traditions like the Jewish kippah, or Indian scarves.
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    Choose the right shoes. Wear nice dress shoes which match your outfit. A low heel for women or nice leather dress shoes for men are ideal. Nice sandals for women or loafers for men can pass at a summer wedding. Flip-flops and tennis shoes should be avoided.[14]
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    Dress your children in formal attire that is still comfortable. While you want your kids to look good, you also don't want them to get fussy. Many of these same rules apply to children, but you also need to keep their comfort in mind.[15]
    • It’s okay to put them in shorts when it’s hot. You can class up the outfit with some suspenders.
    • Choose sandals over heels for a young girl.
    • Bring play clothes for them to change into after the ceremony.

Method 3
Dressing for the Season

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    Choose deep colors and heavy materials for winter weddings. This is your chance to wear deep jewel tones and dark suits. Go for a heavy material like velvet, tweed or wool that will keep you warm in the cold weather.[16]
    • A pant suit is acceptable for women at a winter wedding who want to stay warm. Longer dresses can also keep you covered and cozy.
    • Women can wear tights with a shorter dress, but pair them with close-toed heels. Don’t wear boots to a wedding.
    • Men can layer a sweater or cardigan between their jacket and their shirt and tie.
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    Prepare for unpredictable fall weather. It can be difficult to plan for a fall wedding, since the weather is changing. You may need to wait until you get close to the date of the wedding to decide what to wear. Have a couple of options planned out and choose one the week of the wedding. Muted colors, layers and mixing and matching are a good plan for fall.[17]
    • Women may or may not want to wear tights depending on the temperature. Choose a dress which can be worn either way.
    • Plan on carrying a nice sweater that you can throw on if there is a chill.
    • Men can mix up textures and patterns, like a tweed jacket and a silk tie.
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    Keep cool at a summer wedding with breathable fabric and bright colors. You want to focus on staying cool while still meeting the formal expectations of the ceremony. The trick here is choosing a fabric which lets the air in. Go for chiffon, silk, cotton and linen. Also match the sunshine with lighter and brighter colors.[18]
    • Women often wear a nice sundress, you can still wear long gowns as long as they are made of light, flowing fabrics.
    • Men may not need to wear a tie, but you should still wear a light jacket. You can take it off later and roll up your sleeves, but you should wear a jacket for the ceremony.
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    Prepare for damp springs, while embracing the colors of the blooms. Spring showers can make dressing formally a little challenging. You don’t want to ruin your best clothes or shoes in water and mud, so wear clothes and shoes that can survive the element. Keep your fancy suede at home. Focus the color of your outfit on the flowers blooming. Go bold with colors.[19]
    • Women should avoid long gowns which will drag in the mud.
    • Men and women can experiment with bold colors and pastels as opposed to black and white.
    • Men can wear colored shirts under their suit coats and even play around with fun patterned socks.


  • If you plan on dancing the night away, bring a comfortable pair of flats or slippers for dancing in comfort.
  • Dresses can be "dressed up" or "dressed down" depending on how you accessorize. Beaded jewelry, shoes, and clutches can all make your outfit more formal. Consider bringing extra accessories in your bag that can dress your outfit up or down once you arrive and see the way other guests have dressed.

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Categories: Weddings