What to wear to a wedding (and what to leave at home)

Groom and wedding guests laughing during party as we reveal what to wear to a wedding
What to wear to a wedding can sometimes be the hardest part about attending. (Getty Images)

Working out what to wear to a wedding is a question that comes up year after year. From questions like “What does ‘White Tie’ mean? to “Can you wear black to a wedding?”, wedding guest dressing can be one of the biggest minefields in personal style.

So whether you're heading to a boho beach wedding or a city slicker ceremony this season, we've got all the expert tips for what to wear to every type of nuptials.

Tips for what to wear to a wedding

There are a number of things to consider before diving in and picking your wedding guest outfit.

  1. Cover up for religious ceremonies - shoulders should be covered and hemlines should be below the knee out of respect.

  2. Speak to other guests, especially if you have friends or family in the wedding party.

  3. Consider the weather and think about the length of the event. Will you need a second layer in the evening, for example?

  4. Think twice about a short hemline and lean on the side of modesty if unsure. A mini length could be seen as disrespectful in a religious setting and can become uncomfortable throughout the day.

How to interpret a wedding guest dress code

A dress code on the invitation is the biggest clue the couple can give you about what to wear, and how formal to go on their big day, and should always be the first thing to consider when deciding what to wear to a wedding.

Dress codes can vary from casual to formal and everything in between, and of course, sometimes couples choose their own dress code for their special day.

Typically, the more formal the dress code, the more strict in terms of what you can wear, and the more casual, often the more flexibility.

Wedding guest dress codes, explained:

What to wear to a wedding when there isn’t a dress code?

If there isn’t a specific dress code, it is usually a sign that the wedding will be a little more casual, and you can have a bit more flexibility with your wedding guest outfit.

That being said, take clues from what you do know about the wedding to hone in on what you should wear. What are the invitations like? Where is the venue? Is it a religious ceremony?

All of which will help guide what to wear to the wedding. When in doubt, a midi-length cocktail dress or a two-piece suit will usually do the trick.

Wedding party having appetizers and drinks beside banquet table in field under tree
The location will give you some clues about what to wear to a wedding. (Getty Images)

What not to wear to a wedding as a guest?

First things first, unless specifically asked, do not wear white to a wedding. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to question if an item is ‘too white’, it probably is.

Try to avoid the colours of the wedding party, too, if you can. If you aren’t sure what these are, wedding invitations and communications can be a good clue, or reach out to one of the bridesmaids if you can.

Beautiful young woman bride with friends. A wedding celebration, ladies in splendid dresses
Try to steer clear of colours worn by the wedding party. (Getty Images)

If you know the bride is planning on swerving the traditional white wedding dress, avoiding the colour of their dress is also recommended. The same goes for other cultures in which the bride might wear another colour. For example, in Chinese traditions, the bride will often wear a red dress as one of her outfits for the day, so it's best to avoid red altogether.

In fact, it's advisable to avoid red as a wedding guest altogether. It's not as well known a rule as not wearing white to a wedding (and it's not always a hard and fast rule) but simply put: don’t wear anything that could potentially detract from the happy newlywed couple, or could be seen as trying to out-do the bride.

It's also best to avoid wearing anything too informal to a wedding too, such as trainers or jeans.

Woman in a red suit sits on a chair among the guests on the lawn. Back view. High quality photo
Wearing red to a wedding can sometimes be considered a faux pas as it detracts from the happy couple. (Getty Images)

Where to find wedding guest dresses

Whilst there are a wealth of wedding guest dresses under £200 available online and in stores, shoppers are leaning more and more towards fashion rental sites for their wedding guest dresses.

What to wear to a wedding: Read more