Saturday, July 2, 2011

What to Wear to a Wedding

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the bride is most often seen in a white dress on the day of her wedding. But what about the rest of us? Choosing what to wear to someone else’s wedding can sometimes be confusing, due to the fact that fashion choices are based on time of day, time of year, location, theme, and other potential factors. Hopefully this posting will help weed through your wardrobe and find something suitable for any sort of wedding.

If you’re the type of person who plans ahead (lucky you), then you can find out what to wear from the bride and groom, or close family and friends. The engaged couple, as well as the parents of the bride and groom and members of the wedding party, will most likely have some idea of the type of dress appropriate for the wedding.

When attending a wedding, there are five primary things to keep in mind in order to decide what to wear:
1.    What time of day does the wedding take place?
2.    What season of the year is it?
3.    How formal/casual is the wedding?
4.    Will the wedding be inside or outside, and will there be heating (in the winter) or air conditioning (in the summer)?
5.    Is the wedding on a beach? In a backyard? In a church?

The time of day can have an effect on the colors you wear, and the formality of your outfit. Daytime weddings usually call for sundresses or short dresses on women, and blazers or suits on men. Daytime weddings welcome all sorts of colors, and suggest that the color black be worn a minimum amount. Evening weddings (beginning after 6pm) call for (short for casual/warm weather & long for formal/cold weather) dresses on women and suits on men.  Black is more welcomed than day weddings, but colors are also a great option.

The season of the year should influence the material of your outfit and the colors you choose to wear. For a spring or summer wedding, both men and women should feel free to wear bright colors, such as yellow, pink, blue, etc., and lighter materials, including cotton and light-weight wool. For a fall or winter wedding, guests should gravitate towards darker colors, such as red, purple, royal blue, etc., and thicker fabrics, such as wool.

The formality of a wedding can usually be determined based on the invitation style (was it an elegant invitation complete with hand-written calligraphy, a hand-made invitation, or an e-vite). An informal wedding allows a wider variety of dress styles. For women, short dresses, sundresses, or even suits are welcome. For men, dress shirts and khakis, sport coats, and suits are appropriate. Formal weddings require a nicer dress code: this means cocktail dresses or long gowns on ladies, and suits or tuxedos on men. Some weddings are white tie, meaning formal dress on ladies with accessory additions (fine jewelry, fur [hopefully faux], gloves, hat) and white tie dress on men.

Some weddings will have weather conditions that will influence not the appropriateness of your outfit, but the practicality. Summer weddings in a church or reception hall will most likely have air conditioning, meaning that the weather will not have an influence on many outfits. However, outdoor ceremonies, garden receptions, and other outside events will make guests vulnerable to high temperatures. In that case, lightweight fabrics, like cotton, should be worn above wools or other thick fabrics. If men decide to wear a suit or sport coat, they should consider their look both with and without the jacket, so that they have the option of removing the coat if it’s too hot. For winter weddings held outside (think Phoebe’s wedding in Friends), guests should be sure dress warmly. Women can wear suits to informal weddings or long gowns to formal, and possibly carry a (faux) fur coat. Men should wear wool suits as they would to an indoor winter ceremony and reception.

The location of the ceremony or reception can also play a large role in what you should wear, again referring to the practicality of your outfit. A beach wedding is expected to be more casual (unless there’s an ironic theme involved), and so heels that may get stuck in the sand, dresses that will dirty around the hems, or thick, dark suits are all unwise. For a beach wedding, light fabrics, flats or sandals, and bright colors are all welcomed, and will keep you cooler in the sun. A garden or backyard wedding follows in the same vein: there will be dirt, grass, and mud that may dirty clothes that fall all the way to the ground.
         If the wedding takes place in a church, or another house of worship, remember to be respectful of the customs and dress codes appropriate for the location, even if you are not religious. If you’re unfamiliar with the appropriate garb for the place of worship, ask someone in the wedding party or even google “what to wear”. For a church wedding, be sure to wear respectable clothes – an outfit you could also wear to a club is probably inappropriate. For a Jewish wedding in a synagogue, men should wear yarmulke/kippah (a traditional cap customary to wear whenever inside a synagogue). For an Islamic wedding that takes place in a mosque, women should wear looser-fitting dresses and a headscarf, if necessary. Although guests who do not practice the religious customs in a place of worship may feel it constrictive to have to follow practices they do not support, it is not worth causing a scene or offending the bride and groom. Remember, it’s their day, and out of love and support you should follow their requests.

Bottom Line: Trust your judgment when it comes to picking out an outfit for a wedding. Common sense will tell you not to wear minx and stilettos to a beach wedding. When in doubt, ladies should refer to a brightly-colored short dress for daytime or LBD for evening, and men a light suit for day or a classic suit after 6pm.  Or, you could always ask the bride, groom, or a member of the wedding party for advice.

And, of course, when it comes to the primary color of your outfit: Do. Not. Wear. White. (unless otherwise told)

Guys: Need more help? Check out this video from Be Better Guys, found on MonkeySee:

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