One of my readers emailed me the other morning to tell me she has approximately 35 weddings to attend in the next few months (exaggeration mine). She was feeling a little weird about trying to figure out her wardrobe choices and asked for my help. I am extremely excited to provide said help, since I plan weddings for a living and also because I fancy myself a contemporary Amy Vanderbilt.
At approximately age 22, all your friends will start to get married. It’ll start with one or two, and you’ll be able to explain it away. Then, at around age 24, people will begin to get married without explanation. At age 26, you are suddenly awash in wedding invitations. Please feel free to +1.5 years to these numbers if you’re from north of Maryland or west of Dallas, but really, the point remains thus: once that tide starts, there is not one damn thing you can do to stop it except buy a bunch of things from Crate and Barrel. You’re an adult. Adults do stuff like get married. Calm down, okay? Weddings are super fun! You get to buy a new outfit, drink other people’s drinks, and try to make out with a cute gal/guy you may never see again. It’s like fraternity parties for older people. BUT WHAT DO YOU WEAR?
So, as with all things, there is a sliding scale. You don’t want to be the person who everyone remembers as the out-of-place one. Below, there are a couple of pictures (courtesy of Pinterest) that give an example of what is and isn’t okay, one for people who choose to wear lady clothes, and one for people who choose to wear man clothes. I also included a quick summary of some pretty common dress codes in case you have questions. Three things to remember, before we even start:
- Err on the conservative side, regardless of what the couple in question is like. I’m not here to shame anyone at all, but I AM here to tell you that you can and will be turned away from a church/temple/court/mosque/etc. and you definitely will be seeing the groom’s elderly great aunt, so wear underwear, cover up any tattoos that might offend someone (your Calvin peeing on something one, for example, but not necessarily the cute one on your ankle of a flower), and remember that this is an occasion that isn’t really about you, so don’t get all “FREE TO BE YOU AND ME IMMA WEAR MY ASK ME ABOUT THE CHURCH OF SATAN PIN!” Unless, of course, you are attending a Church of Satan wedding, but even then, maybe a nice black suit/red tie combo would be much chicer.
- Don’t wear white unless you’re specifically asked to (as in, you’re going to an all-white wedding). Do black with caution. Winter weddings in Connecticut? Probably fine. 1 June in Abrose, Georgia? Reconsider that.
- If you’re in doubt AT ALL but don’t want to trouble the bride or groom, ask a member of the wedding party what the official garb is like. That should be a pretty good indicator of what’s going down. Everyone in a tux and evening gown? You should fall in line with that.
You know you can also email me if you want to run something specific by someone, or just ask away in the comments. You DID know this, right? Okay, so press on, friend! Here are some outfits for spring and summer weddings!
Dress Code Decoder
Casual: This does not mean that you should wear, for example, basketball shorts and flip flops (this is a real-life example). It does mean nice jeans are okay, but chinos or a sundress might be better. As with all of these, I’ll show you an example of a good outfit in the slideshow. Weddings where this is okay: backyard BBQs, camping weddings (definitely a thing), a wedding where the couple has specifically said “this is a very casual affair and no one is wearing shoes”, weddings on beaches (though not always)
Dressy/Business Casual: Step it up a little from the one before. Maybe shoot for a blazer with an oxford and jeans or a skirt and top with heels. Be festive, right? Don’t go for the Captain of the Debate Team look. Weddings where this is okay: low-key weddings, courthouse affairs, weddings in the morning, weddings where they’re doing a little tea and punch reception in the church rec area after and aren’t making a big fuss over it
Cocktail/Semiformal/Festive: Lord knows I hate it when folks say festive, but this falls all in the same category. A suit and tie or cocktail dress is how this is going down. If it’s “festive”, that just means get wild with colors, fabrics, shapes, sequins, whatever. I also default to this if nothing else is specified. You’ll at worst look a little bit fancier than everyone in jeans or a little unfancy in a sea of ballgowns. If it’s a religious affair and you’re in a cocktail dress, toss a blazer or sweater over it for the ceremony and lose it later. Weddings where this is appropriate: almost all of them I’ve been to recently, weddings with a nighttime reception, nearly all weddings with multiple locations involved, many weddings with “themes”
Black tie: Evening gown or tuxedo. There is no substitute, and yes, you have to. It’s fun! By the way, if you wear a tux more than twice, you should buy your own. Not to get all gendered on you, but a real man owns his own tux and does not wear a clip on bowtie. Got a lot of these coming up? Consignment store evening gowns are the way to go. Weddings where this is appropriate: ones in ballrooms, weddings where you know the bride or groom to be exceptionally fancy, a great many hotel weddings, most military weddings, any time the invitation even HINTS at formality
White Tie: You are either the kind of person who goes to these CONSTANTLY or you will probably go to one or fewer in your lifetime. I’m talking tailcoats with the attendant white bowtie and gloves and really exceptional Met Gala/Cannes Red Carpet dresses. Yeah, I never get invited to these, either. ONE DAY. Weddings where this is appropriate: REAL FANCY ONES, head-of-state’s daughter’s wedding, Beyonce’s wedding, I’m serious, we’re never going to these weddings so CALM DOWN THIS IS PROBABLY NOT APPLICABLE
Any questions? How many weddings do you have this summer? And what are you wearing?