Weddings evoke countless emotions, and not just among the wedding party! Even as invited guests are filled with joy and optimism for the couple, they are also likely stricken with panic as they wonder, “What do I wear?”

I have seen many of my Style Coaching clients go through this exact range of emotions, as wedding attire can be quite baffling. With the wide variety of wedding venues and locations, navigating the proper wedding dress code can be a feat in itself. But not to worry! In this article, I’m going to ease every concern around proper wedding attire.

There are three main factors to consider when deciding how to dress for a wedding.

Question 1: What is the style of the couple getting married?

Are they more laid back, low-key and perhaps bohemian? Or are they traditional, classic and conservative? Perhaps somewhere in between with a dash of artsy flair? Use this overall vibe to help you then begin to determine what you should wear as a guest.

For example, if you know the couple getting married has a casual vibe, and they’re having a 6 p.m. wedding on a farm, you wouldn’t want to wear a conservative cocktail dress (even though that same dress may be appropriate for the 6 p.m. wedding of a more classic couple that’s getting married at a country club). Instead, opt for a more relaxed dress that isn’t over the top, decked in sequins or too fussy. And don’t forget to wear a block heel sandal if the wedding is outdoors, to make walking on the terrain a non-issue.

how to dress for wedding

This gold heel will elevate any wedding style, and the thick heel will support you through a night of dancing. Image: Anthropologie

how to dress for wedding

You’ll wear a versatile floral number like this long after the wedding is over. Image: Anthropologie

Question 2: What time is the wedding taking place?

I’ve already discussed this a bit in the previous question, but the time of the nuptials is important to remember when deciding how to dress for a wedding. Let’s break down the various times and what they traditionally mean, attire-wise. (Naturally, this doesn’t apply if the attire is mentioned on the invitation or on the couple’s wedding website, as people may want the attire to be black tie despite the wedding taking place at 5:30 p.m.)

If the wedding is scheduled for the afternoon, select a dress worthy of a church service or a luncheon. This is a notch up from a casual, around-town dress, and it should be more fun than a work dress. A lovely sundress in the summer or a knit dress in the winter is appropriate. Avoid wearing flats or a chunky wedge if you can, and choose a pump, block heel sandal or sleek wedge instead. And don’t forget to switch out your everyday tote or handbag for a small shoulder bag or clutch that merges dressy and casual styles.

The time of the day of the wedding is your first clue about how to dress appropriately. Image: Shine Wedding Invitations

how to dress for weddings

Cute ruffled and asymmetrical floral options appropriate for a spring wedding in the afternoon. Image: Adrianna Papell

how to dress for weddings

Here is a fun example of a chic sleeved floral option perfect for an afternoon wedding. Image: Adrianna Papell

how to dress for weddings

Weddings call for a slim, minimal clutch over a clunky tote or cross-body bag. Image: Anthropologie

Now on to evening weddings! If the wedding is at 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., you typically want to wear cocktail (semi-formal) attire. Again, you want to consider the style of the couple getting married, as well as the venue, but unless otherwise noted, this time period calls for a cocktail dress, jumpsuit or pantsuit. Don’t forget to double check the invitation, as sometimes this time frame will go black tie/formal. And always complete your look with a nice clutch or small shoulder bag, dressier jewelry and heels.

how to dress for weddings

The slate and blush tones of this longer option make it a more conservative choice for an evening wedding. Image: Adrianna Papell

how to dress for weddings

A sleek jumpsuit in a bold color is a funky but still appropriate option for a formal wedding. Image: Adrianna Papell

how to dress for weddings

A classic tea-length cut is a great way to show a little skin at a fancy reception. Image: Anthropologie

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Last but not least, formal attire typically occurs when the wedding takes place at 7 p.m. Formal attire is sometimes referred to as black tie, and this means tuxedos for men and long gowns for women. In today’s world — where everything has become less and less formal — you can often get away with a tea-length or very dressy cocktail-length dress for a black tie wedding. But, again, so much of dressing for a wedding hinges on the couple getting married and the venue.

how to dress for weddings

This tie-waist collared option is a fabulous elevated look for a later wedding. Image: Anthropologie

how to dress for weddings

Spice up your formal look with a fun sleeveless gown like this one. Image: Anthropologie

how to dress for weddings

This beaded gown is perfect for a black-tie affair. Image: Adrianna Papell

Question 3: Where is the Couple Getting Married?

The third factor to consider when deciding how to dress for a wedding is the venue. It’s incredible how many different wedding venues there are these days — and from country clubs and farms, to breweries and museums, the location really does dictate what you should wear. If the wedding venue is traditional, such as a country club, then stick to a more classic look. For the less traditional locales, like art galleries and farms, feel free to wear something that fits that venue. A more relaxed dress for a farm wedding, and a colorful, artsy dress for an art gallery wedding are both appropriate and fun choices. Don’t forget the time of the wedding, but do let the venue help guide you.

how to dress for weddings

A fun and versatile textured dress could be dressed up or down. Image: Anthropologie

how to dress for weddings

This delicate floral midi is a perfect option for a rustic venue and a church ceremony alike. Image: Anthropologie

RELATED: 7 New Wedding Trends to Watch

how to dress for weddings

A unique wedding venue often calls for a funky outfit. Image: Anthrolopogie

After I ask my Style Coaching clients these three questions related to wedding attire, they feel prepared and ready to attend their next wedding in style!

Wishing you a stylish time at your next wedding!


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