‘Tis the season to get married…which means you’ve got a pile of engraved wedding invitations sitting on your desk, and no clue what to wear. Follow these guidelines for looking smart and chic on the big day—without upstaging the bride.
Read Between the Lines: Many invites specify a dress code, such as “black tie,” or “semi-formal.” In some cases, the couple may ask that guests stick to a particular color palette. You should always defer to the couple’s wishes in these cases—in other words, don’t show up to a wedding in a bright red dress if the couple has requested that all guests wear white. If no dress code is specified, you should look to the invitation’s details to determine the appropriate dress. Is the wedding at night, or during the day? Is the service at a church, or is it on the beach? Dress accordingly.
Look Your Best: It’s better to be too dressed up than too dressed down. Always aim to look tasteful and elegant—it’s a way of showing respect for the couple. That means no jeans, denim skirts, t-shirts, loungewear, sneakers, or anything that doesn’t exude class. You should also avoid revealing too much skin. Keep it tasteful!
Ask Around: For women, it can be quite an embarrassing scenario to show up for a wedding wearing a dress that looks exactly like the one the bridesmaids are wearing. In this rough economy, more and more brides are giving their attendants the option to purchase off-the-rack dresses from main-street retailers, rather than pricey specialty boutiques. As such, it pays to do a little research. If the wedding invite lists the wedding colors as buttercream yellow and sky blue, you could assume that the bridesmaids will be wearing one of those hues. You can also ask someone close to the wedding—though, unless you’re a close friend or relative of the bride, you may want to avoid asking her directly. She has too much to handle before the wedding to respond to everyone’s dress queries. Try asking her mother or bridesmaids instead.
Steer Clear of White: If you’re a woman, wearing white is best left to the bride. This is her day, and you don’t want to steal attention away from her dress by showing up in a cream or white frock. A floral print on a white background is fine, but avoid anything that looks too bridal. The color black used to have a negative connotation for weddings (thanks to its ties to mourning), but is quite common these days. You may, however, want to avoid bold reds, anything neon, or wild animal prints.
Best Bets: A figure-flattering sheath in a pastel hue is a great choice for a summer wedding; just throw a pashmina or shawl over your shoulders if you get chilly. Younger women can get away with strapless or halter-top numbers, but again, avoid showing too much skin. And older women look fantastic in tasteful skirt suits, or perhaps a pretty frock with sleeves and a V or sweetheart neckline. Nordstrom.com has a fab selection of dresses for wedding guests and mothers of the bride if you need further inspiration.
Mind Your Accessories: You’ve found the perfect dress, but is the rest of your ensemble up to snuff? Unless your legs look flawless and blemish-free, you should be wearing pantyhose. Your handbag should also complement your dress, so swap your day-to-day black or brown tote for a little clutch in a hue that suits your dress. As far as shoes go, a one- or two-inch heel will look glamorous but still offer some comfort as you hit the dance floor. A pashmina or light jacket is a good accessory to have, should the air conditioning kick in or the evening air get a little chilly. Keep jewelry to a minimum—gold hoops here, a pearl necklace there—and treat yourself to a mani/pedi so that you look polished.