Wedding guest dress code
James and I
James and I
Wedding guest dress code

What Do You Wear To A Wedding?

Author: Lauren Coleman

An elegant gold foiled wedding invitation recently landed on my door mat in a gorgeous calligraphied envelope. Inside the dress code detailed; Morning suits/ Formal. Oh my word. Morning suits? How exciting! I don’t think we’ve ever been invited to such a posh bash. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding that stipulated a dress code, and I tell you, I’ve been to a lot of weddings. Then after the wave of excitement the fear began to set in. What does one wear to such an occasion? What will James wear? A quick discussion with my mother-in-law reassured me the groomsmen will be in morning suits but guests won’t be expected to don the tails. Phew. Then I spoke to James’ friend who mentioned he was invited to a wedding several summers ago with the same dress code and it was just him and the page boy who didn’t turn up in tails. He said he felt a bit of a plonker.

James’ plonker status was diverted with a quick call to the groom who confirmed all male guests were invited to wear morning suits but a smart suit would also cut the mustard. So that’s James sorted but what the hell am I going to wear?!

Over on our other platforms we’re embracing wedding fashion today; Fern is talking Bridesmaid trends for 2016 on Rock My Wedding and Lottie is chatting about maternity formalwear over on Rock My Family. The uber stylish Lorna joins us next week to share her favourite frocks for the wedding season but for now we’re going to have a good old chat about wedding guest attire.

As you can see Mrs O’Shea (twirling around at our friend Lisa’s wedding three years ago) has no problemo sporting a dark colour for a wedding and I am with her 100%. For the same wedding I actually wore a black top and long leopard print skirt proving I’m also comfortable to wear a loud pattern when attending a friend’s nuptials. I wear black most of the time and as long as it’s elegant I personally don’t feel I look like I’m attending a funeral. I do however draw the line at the headwear and frock worn by Frances Shea’s mother at her daughter’s marriage ceremony to Reggie Kray. The widow’s cap spoke volumes.

White, I’m not so sure about. I did phone ahead when I bought a long heavily patterned cream maxi dress for my friend’s big day, just to make sure but usually I steer clear of the traditional bridal colour. My mum went to a low-key pub wedding in the seventies dressed in a white lace frock and floppy hat. On arriving at the reception the barman congratulated her and passed her a drink mistaking her for the bride. Slightly embarrassing.

In general I’d say I like to make an effort when I have the honour of being invited to a friend or family member’s nuptials. Several years ago I attended a very informal wedding where the bride and groom proposed guests could wear jeans. I opted for a more casual dress as it didn’t feel right to get the denim out at such a prestigious occasion despite the informality. I would have no qualms over wearing a jumpsuit and really considered it when I was asked to one of my best friend’s ‘something blue’ but the one I loved just didn’t fit. On the dress front I tend to avoid anything too short and usually cover my shoulders if I’m in church. That’s just my personal preference though. I don’t seem to have any photos of the frocks I mention above but thought you might welcome a few snaps of Mr C and I at various weddings over the last six years. James’ suit choices have definitely got sharper and I seem to have had a few hairstyles too. The bottom left pic is a reminder not to wear skyscaper heels if there’s an epic lawn involved or you may well fall over.

Where do you sit when it comes to wedding attire and etiquette? Do you embrace the black, white, short or long? Anyone wish their guests had worn something different on their own big day?


Image of Charlotte captured by Anna Clarke Photography

Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman
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60 thoughts on “What Do You Wear To A Wedding?

  1. I’ve never attended a wedding where the invitation has stated a dress code (& I’ve been to quite a few). Honestly, I’m not sure how I would feel about it either, as I’m very much of the opinion that if you want the members of your wedding party to look a certain way i.e. a particular dress/shoes/hair/makeup you should provide/pay for it yourself & I guess that view then extends to your guests. I think that it’s important to bear in mind that although it’s the bride & groom’s special day the same can’t be said for the guests, it’s a lovely day & most are delighted to share your day with you but stipulating what they wear is a bit much. Particularly if they are already spending money to attend & most likely buying a present.

    Personally, on my wedding day I was just so happy to get married that what our friends & family were wearing wasn’t even a thought. Ok, if someone had appeared in jeans I would have thought they were inappropriately dressed, but let’s be honest that’s a pretty unlikely scenario (although my sister-in-law did wear Toms trainers all day, but it didn’t cause me anguish/woe). I guess what my epic comment is trying to say – wedding dress codes are not for me!

  2. I’ve been to quite a few ‘morning suit’ weddings and more guests than I expected turned up wearing one. Luckily Edd was best man/usher so we didn’t have to worry. Some people wore suits but I’ll say that those who did wear morning suits obviously owned them already as they go to many of these occasions. Edd very much dislikes it though and in fact would rather not even wear a tie! I always struggle on what to wear. I’m ashamed to say I once wore white but in my defence I was younger and didn’t understand the etiquette! I’m never quite sure on black after seeing the mother of the groom appearing in a black dress and black hat with not a hint of colour. It looked a bit too sombre for me but I would find it so much easier I think. I also always worry about looking like a bridesmaid, especially now that so many people choose non traditional bridesmaid dresses! I’ve yet to see a guest turn up in a bridesmaid dress thankfully! x

  3. Wow Lauren! Gorgeous pics, stunning couple. I love getting dressed up for weddings and agree with you about covering shoulders in a church – although for my own church wedding I had a strapless gown! Haha. I didn’t stipulate a dress code but lots of friends asked if they could wear a hat, which I was delighted about! It was fab to look back across the church and see everyone in their finery.
    As I have many a fab girl friend I had just two adult bridesmaids, my sis and my longest serving girl. It was very clear from the invites and everything I’d mentioned about our big day that the colour scheme included a dark grey so there were lots of giggles when one of the girls rocked up in an almost identical dress to the bridesmaids – all good natured though!
    I have been known to put a spare dress in the boot if I am wearing something new from the high street and I always try to wear wedges if there’s a lawn. Another tip I have is if it’s going to be a long day and you need a few things – take a wedding gift bag which can house all of the objects that don’t fit in your lovely but oh so impractical clutch and it’s nice to chuck in some jelly babies for the bride (if you know her well), a bottle of water just in case there’s a wait for a drink on a hot day (been there and got v drunk as a consequence) & a cover up for later on. No wedding invites for me this year – I’ve entered the christening zone 🙂

    1. Thanks Mrs R- we do like the get our glad rags on for weddings.
      Love your tip for the wedding gift bag. Little clutch bags just don’t hold enough.

      We seemed to have bypassed Christenings and are on to second weddings now!

  4. Lauren, you look so pretty in all those pics! I love your pink dress on the bottom right. I always have problems picking a dress for weddings and am very envious of those stylish ladies who seem to be able to get it right with much less effort than me. I have to say I would never wear white to someone else’s wedding – I’d be too scared they’d be cross with me, though I wouldn’t have cared if someone had done it at my own wedding. Likewise, I think I’d stay away from solid black, though I have worn dark grey to a wedding before. I paired that frock with fuschia heels and wrap though. I’m attending a wedding in June and already worrying about what to wear so looking forward to Lorna’s post next week!

    1. Aww thanks Tracy, the pinky-coral number was from Monsoon last spring.
      I can’t wait for Lorna’s post next week too. I’ve got seven weddings this year….

  5. I love your hair in the first pic Lauren! You both look very glam. I once went to a wedding dressed in a short cream lace dress with a (smart) denim blazer over the top because the groom had told me the bride was wearing a non-traditional evening dress so I thought I’d be safe. The reception was in a yurt in a field so it was all shaping up to be fairly untraditional. Turns out he was wrong, the bride did wear a wedding dress, and I was dressed just like the bridesmaids who all wore mis-matching short cream lace dresses. Argh!

    1. Oh no Kate! These grooms they do tell us all conflicting messages!
      Your outfit sounds lush though x

  6. I love the pictures too Lauren – you’re such a photogenic couple!

    Personally, I wouldn’t wear white or black to a wedding, but I really wouldn’t mind if someone wore those colours to mine. My only issue is with guests who dress in revealing clothes to weddings. My gorgeous cousin got married last summer and there were a few ladies there who I thought were wearing frocks that were a little low cut or short to be acceptable for a wedding. When it looks like you’re trying to outdo the Bride, that’s a big faux pas!!!

    I think if I was wearing a dress from the high street that was quite Bridesmaidsy, I’d check with the Bride before hand just in case, and if I was attending the wedding of someone I didn’t know well (ie Matt’s extended family) I’d definitely dress in more conventional way, just to be on the safe side.

    It will be an awkward day if we ever get invited anywhere where Matt has to wear tails – he refuses point blank to wear a full suit and for all of the weddings/funerals/christenings we’ve attended he’s worn black skinny jeans! And people either didn’t care or notice, or were too polite to say! xxx

    1. I’ve noticed a lot of leg on show at weddings recently Fern. I think it’s best to leave that to a night out!

  7. I was recently at a ‘black tie’ wedding were a guest showed up in her own Jenny Packham wedding dress!!!!! I shit you not.

    1. This is brilliant! haha! It wasn’t actually the dress she wore for her own wedding, was it?! Maybe if you dyed it….?! I can see that Jenny Packham may be the least weddingy of the wedding dresses, however…

      1. Yes it was her actual wedding dress! She wore two wedding dresses on her big day and this was the second of the two. Apparently she asked the bride if she could wear it and was told no, but decided to go ahead anyway. She then did another change of outfit at this wedding, into a slinkier white silk number for the dancing, I think just to make sure everyone was talking about her! Almost comical!

            1. Me too! I’m ashamed to say I could actually feel my blood pressure rising lol!! She even carried the dress like a bride if you know what I mean, completely over the top.

      1. The dress was fabulous and I totally agree, indeed wear it to every Gala event, formal dance forevermore should you so desire, but not to someone else’s wedding! You get ONE chance to be the bride, that’s it!lol

      1. I was surprised at the mixed reaction, it made me really mad as I thought it was very disrespectful and I couldn’t understand why her Mum or Husband wouldn’t have intervened and said that it was totally inappropriate, especially since the bride had told her not to wear it. However, lots of others thought she was just right to get the wear out of it again, which I think is fair enough, but not to someone else’s big day!

  8. I went to a wedding where a guest wore a dress that revealed so much from the side (ahem) – and no bra – that when she moved little was left to the imagination. There are even photos with her inadvertent nipple exposure in the background. If anyone who also went to the same wedding reads this they will undoubtedly know who ‘side-boob’ is. It’s one way to make an impression – not the ideal one perhaps!

    1. Kate, I will say that this happened at my sister’s wedding. Except it was the bridesmaid!!!! Not a good look! x

  9. We had a black tie dress code and all our guests looked super smart/beautiful apart from one! She was the one guest we’d never met, (girlfriend of an old uni friend of ours) – she wore black trousers (which might have been skinny jeans) and a white shirt….looked like one of the waitresses! To be honest I enjoyed myself too much on the day to care but she stuck out like a sore thumb in pictures (and she looked miserable all day)!

  10. Getting dressed up for a wedding is one of my favourite things ever! I love the excitement of the special day and looking forward to seeing the wedding dress and what other people are wearing. I’m a big fan of florals and I have a bardot shoulder cream dress with large rose prints on it that has been perfect for the last couple of weddings I been to. I also have the same dress in plain black which I wore for my neighbour’s wedding – I did wonder whether to wear black but with it being off the shoulder it felt special.

    My ‘favourite’ guest attire at my wedding was courtesy of a friend of the family, an 80 year man, called Charlie. Unless its a blizzard Charlie always wears shorts – and on this occasion he did not disappoint. He turned up in a green t-shire with a train on it, with…. very short, black leather shorts!!! It was hilarious and the photos crack me up.

  11. My cousins wedding in Canada had a dress code of garden informal! Que lots of discussions between my Mum and Aunty (mother of the groom) over what the heck this meant. Sadly I didn’t make it to that wedding but I think they just went with you know nice dresses for a summer wedding…

    I have 2 weddings this year, for the first in May in the west coast of Scotland I am planning to dig out a fabulous strapless long red Donna Karan dress (an amazing hand me down from my Step Mum) and the most beautiful shoes in the world (trademarke) which are red satin LK Bennet wedges. I wore this outfit to a wedding a few years ago (a wedding which featured on RMW no less) but I’m starting to remember that when I did some ceilidh dancing a. my feet hurt in the heels and b. there was almost a wardrobe malfunction with the dress sliding down during a particularly fearsome reel.

    I wore a fab blue floral jumpsuit to a wedding a couple of years ago which was my fav outfit as it was super comfortable and I felt great…. there is a slight issue going to the ladies and getting the zipper down and I remember crouching down in the loo asking someones very tiny Granny to help me!

  12. In the past I’ve always taken direction from the invitation and avoided the colour scheme or a least a block colour dress in that shade for fear of matching the bridesmaids or offending the bride.
    I must confess I’m not sure how I’d feel if somebody turned up to my wedding in a white dress, but I did attend a wedding in a very pale blush number, talk about double standards – oops!
    I’ve have friends that are only comfortable in black, so would not take offence to this, especially as most of the time it has been accessoried with a bright shade. xxx

  13. Last year my cousin got married, it was a low key humanist ceremony in a pub and boys were told you could wear jeans which caused an outcry amongst some of the more traditional members of the family!
    Anyhoo, the embarrassing thing was, that I ended up wearing the same colour as the bride!!! (cringe!)
    She’s a fairly close cousin & I was styling the venue for her, so when I found my lush new red dress I sent her the picture of it and asked what she thought & whether I should get it. She told me she loved it and said I definitely needed to get it.
    I get to the venue, her step-niece arrives in another gorgeous red dress & then out walks the bride….in a floor length red lace number!!!
    Her niece & I just looked at each other in embarrassment!!
    Needless to say we told her off straight after the ceremony! haha!
    She just thought it was funny and didn’t care that we were in the same colour! xx

    1. Seems your cousin was super laid-back about the whole thing Rebecca. Loving the sound of yours and your cousins frocks too x

  14. I find shopping for wedding guest outfits very stressful so very much looking forward to next week’s post! I haven’t got any weddings this year (the only one was in January and I was bridesmaid so no outfit stress…!) but have done for the last three – one of them being my own (we started a trend amongst our friends it seems!) I opted for a blue knee length prom style dress for the one and although I didn’t match with the bridesmaids, there seemed to have been some sort of unspoken memo between a group of friends and we all turned up in various shades of blue!

    Last summer, my husband’s best friend got married and one of the guests wore a lovely blue and white polka dot dress. All well and good until the bride changed her own outfit for dancing in and it was the exact same as this guest! Both took in good humour as there was no deliberate malice (but the guest said she felt awful about it – but how could she have known about the dress change?!)

    I know people say go by the invites for colours but for the January wedding my friend kept every single detail about her wedding in a complete secret, including the colour scheme. At her hen party one of the girls asked about it because she didn’t want to clash and she still wouldn’t tell her! Luckily it was a very non-wintery colour but still a bit risky if she was worried about people wearing the same colour. Luckily no-one did!

    1. Oh bless your friend and her polka dot dress. I reckon I’d have been tempted to stay in my original outfit if I was the bride.

  15. One of our guests wore a white dress, although she did team it with a yellow cardigan. I can’t say I was at all bothered, but it’s not a colour I would wear to someone else’s wedding.

    It wasn’t until looking at our photographs that I noticed one of our guests had worn blue jeans. I can’t have minded as I didn’t even notice on the day! I do think as a day guest this is a bit of a no-no unless it’s part of a dress code. Seeing everyone all dressed up is half the fun and I do like a man in a 3 piece suite. Jeans can be worn any old day! x

  16. I’m going to get my wedding album out later to look over it after this post. I just remembered that my cousin, who was 11 at the time, wore a shirt, tie and waistcoat with jeans and bright hitop trainers and I thought he looked really cool.

  17. I haven’t been to any weddings with strict dress codes but I tend to go for more classic shapes of dresses and have more fun with colour or pattern. I just think if you go for something bang on trend your outfit will look so dated in the pics in six months, let alone 25 years!

    When my friend’s mum remarried a guest turned up in her wedding dress and a tiara – she’d been jilted at the altar and wanted to get a chance to wear it! As it was a second marriage the bride wasn’t even in white! Can’t believe the cheek of some people!

    1. No way! That really is cheeky.
      When a friend of my family remarried she wore a beautiful ivory two-piece from Monsoon. Her sister-in-law turned up in the same get-up but in green knowing what outfit the bride had gone for. Seemed a bit underhand if you ask me! x

  18. Lauren, this is a brilliant thread… And looking fab as always! I’m currently doing my wedding invites and the dress code is definitely cause for thought. For me, when I’m dressing for a wedding, white hues are def off limits. The blunt (to be short) in my personal opinion is that ladies, you’ve either had your turn or it’s coming…. This is has grown over the years with a particular aquaintance always opting for a block of near white and it’s looked rather odd in some of the photos. I’m not too keen on black for weddings, but paired with colourful accessories, such as a coral hat and handbag, it can doesn’t have to look funeralistic…absolutely stunning in fact. Jump suits possibly encouraged, glam a definite thumbs up, and it’s one of the few occasions you can really go mad with hats… Or if you have a pip for a head like me, fascinators!

    I would like write something along the lines of ‘ladies think colourful, hats positively encouraged’ and wondered what people think of that? I’m by no means a dictatorial bride, I’d just quite like a day that reflects our colourful personalities… And no one wearing such extreme white they look odd in our photos ;o)

    1. Hi lovely,
      I think your ‘ladies, think colourful’ is a fab way to get a bold and bright wedding.
      Your comment about people having their time already made me laugh out loud. So glad it’s your turn now 🙂 x

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