Weddings – what to wear as a guest – Part 1

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Black at a wedding

Everyone has pet hates. I have several – mostly fashion related. Tights are not pants. Jeggings should be banned. Shoes should match your belt and your bag. Don’t wear black to a wedding.

Just in case you missed it. Don’t wear black to a wedding. There is no excuse. You are not going clubbing, you are not attending a funeral, a LBD is not the answer to ‘black tie’, ‘smart casual’, or ‘cocktail’ when its also a wedding.

The Bride puts a lot of thought into the day and into what she wears (anyone who knows me will know that I’m not married – but I have two sisters who are and I helped them with their wedding preparations). The least that the guests can do in exchange for a meal, drinks and a band is put some effort into their outfits.

The things I consider when i’m planning a wedding outfit are the same things I always consider:

  • what will the weather be like?
  • where am I going to be today?
  • what am I doing today?
  • what impression do I want to make?

For a wedding the weather question is important – will you be in a big draughty church? is it outside? are you going to be on the beach with the sea breeze? all of these will require some sort of garment to keep you warm if it’s not the golden sunny windless day that all Brides believe they will be blessed with.

The ‘where am I going to be’ question is also important. There are two things I consider:

  • what time of day am I dressing for?
  • what types of venues?

Weddings are often tricky in this respect. When the ceremony is between 2pm and 5pm you should be dressing for a formal day event. However you then go from the ceremony (often via the pub for a few hours while the bridal party are off having photos done) to dinner, dancing and generally a late night. Getting the mix of not looking out-of-place in the middle of the afternoon, whilst being sufficiently dressy for the reception in the evening is a tricky balance. On top of that you have to balance the ‘dress code’ the Bride has specified. 

I personally feel that sparkly and glittery garments should be reserved for after dark (or at least after 5). I think they’re out-of-place in a church – too gaudy. They’re odd in a park, on the beach, pretty much everywhere that’s not a ballroom, nightclub or cocktail bar. So I generally steer clear of anything sparkly for weddings. You also probably want to avoid wearing a floor length evening gown to church in the middle of the afternoon. Floor length during the day is pushing it – and so is satin.

On the other hand if you go for a floral which works really well during the day, and looks great in church it doesn’t really translate to the evening.  If you’re going to do floral go for one in darker colours – avoid pastels – and combine it with jewellery and a jacket or shawl that translates to the more formal evening event.

So I can hear you thinking (and myself) – no sparkles, no satin, not floor length, no floral, no pastel – what the hell is left to wear! Lots is the answer – but you need to think outside the box.

A wedding I went to years ago was ‘cocktail’, had a full catholic church ceremony and a ballroom style sit down dinner 4 hours late. I wanted to wear a dark colour, without wearing black as I was a ‘plus 1’, didn’t know the groom and the bride and didn’t want to stand out. I chose a textured dark brown fabric – it looked like a chocolate cake – and so is now known as the layer cake dress. I combined the dress with a chocolate satin bolero for the reception in the evening, and a cream trench coat for warmth. The dress was great – it was a simple pattern – an elegant V neck at the back with a modest round neckline at the front. The pattern combined with colour meant that it was easily dressed up for the nighttime reception but was daytime enough for church. It was so successful I chose it again for my dad’s retirement party and it turns out it is also great for bit of a dance.

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