WEDDING GUEST OUTFITS: ETIQUETTE, TRADITIONS AND WHAT TO WEAR?
Do you ever receive an invite to a wedding and wonder what to wear for the event? Each celebration tends to have a dress code and can sometimes send people into a slight panic, so I thought I would round up a quick guide to make things easier for you.
Let's start with the hardest shall we?! This is a relatively informal and relaxed wedding dress code. You would still be expected to dress neatly and fairly conservatively, but there would not be a specific type of suit or length of dress to find.
Ladies- a pretty sun dress, or neatly tailored outfit would be best. A bright colour for trousers and blazer, or a silk shirt and skirt could work beautifully too. No flip flops or trainers!
Gentlemen - I would recommend chinos or suit trousers with a long-sleeved shirt. A blazer, sports coat or jacket should be worn, but a tie would be optional however. No denim, no shorts and no trainers! Loafers, boat shoes or brogues all the way.
This is one step up and would be more semi-formal. It's slightly more dressy and so you can expect the wedding setting to match. There really isn't an English tradition for this as it's largely an American import of style.
Ladies - cocktail dresses below the knee are generally advisable, and a tailored outfit is fine as long as it's more dressy for an evening. A short mini dress or ball gown should be avoided however!
Gentlemen - time to get the smart suit out! It should generally be navy or black with a light/white shirt and tie or cravat, and a pocket square if you like to accessorise. Skip trying to wear too many colours/patterns unless it's more of a day time event with a bit more personality (see lounge suit below).
Getting confused yet? This is more formal than "smart casual" above but less so than "morning dress" below.
Ladies - more of a day time dress would be best. Something in a brighter colour, floral or softer than a cocktail dress, but absolutely not super short and something suitable for daytime.
Gentlemen - think classic suit, waistcoat, shirt and tie. No chinos, but more likely a day time event so you could opt for softer colours and more personality than you would for a "Cocktail" dress code.
This dress code is more traditionally worn at formal day time weddings in England, typically a church ceremony. You'll almost always see it being worn at a Royal wedding. You would only expect to see this dress code apply in weddings that start before 6pm.
Ladies - you should wear a very formal daytime dress which isn't too revealing, ideally with a hat. No fascinators ideally, they are actually not permitted at Royal Ascot!
Gentlemen - you should wear a cutaway or morning coat with tails in black, waistcoat in grey or pale pastel colour with co-ordinating (but not matching) light coloured tie, and dark grey with black striped trousers. A turndown shirt collar in white is preferred. A black silk or grey wool top hat can also be worn. Absolutely always wear black oxford shoes (highly polished but not patent) with this dress code, and a tie pin is traditional alongside a silk or linen pocket square.
This dress code is typically and traditionally reserved for evening weddings after 6pm. It is a less formal attire than "evening dress" sometimes known as a dinner suit or jacket.
Ladies - think red carpet ankle length gowns all the way, but there absolutely no restrictions on colour here. You can wear a slightly shorter length above the ankle or below the knee, or even a smart trouser style with silk shirt. Don't go over the top with jewellery, as that is typically reserved for White Tie only.
Gentlemen - you should be looking to wear a dinner jacket in black or midnight blue with black silk facings, and a peak lapel is most traditional. Trousers should also be black or midnight blue, with a single braided or satin stripe on the outside leg. Your shirt should be white with a turn-down collar, with black shirt studs and a black bow tie (although increasingly we are seeing variations in colour here). Patent leather dress shoes should be worn too. A cummerbund can be worn, but not together with a waistcoat,
The most formal evening dress code of all, and again reserved for after 6pm traditionally. It is usually only reserved for official state functions, ceremonial occasions, and some formal balls - but increasingly being seen at weddings too.
Ladies - traditionally, white tie attire for women dictates that you wear a ball gown which exposes some decolletage (yes really). Evening length gloves are also traditionally required (taken off only for dinner), and tiaras may be worn by married women only! In a more modern context for weddings, white tie for women usually only requires a ball gown.
Gentlemen - you should wear a black barathea tailcoat and trousers with fishtail back, braces buttons, and two braided stripes down the outside leg. With this you will wear a white shirt, pearl shirt studs, a white bow tie and waistcoat. Patent leather shoes are expected, and you can also have some fun with a top hat, white evening gloves and a walking stick (though much less commonly seen today). Never, ever, wear a white jacket - this is sometimes seen on men with a black tie setting, but rarely in Britain, and usually in warmer climates.
Hopefully that summary will help if you are a guest looking to decide what to wear at a wedding you are invited to attend, or perhaps if you are organising your own wedding and unsure on dress codes and traditions.
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