What to Wear To A Wedding

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What to Wear to A Wedding

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There are few things more nerve-wracking than deciding what to wear to a wedding. Wedding guest attire can be complicated—especially if the invitation is vague. If you have been invited to a wedding and aren't quite sure what to wear, keep in mind there are certain guidelines to follow based on the time of day for the ceremony as well as the formality.

As a very general rule, women wear dresses and men should wear a suit. Your suit should not be black, and your dress should not be white. However, as soon as you add in dress code requirements like "black tie optional," or "cocktail attire," you have a much more specific look to achieve.

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Wedding Guest Style For Her

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These days, women have a lot of freedom and almost innumerable options available to them for wedding guest attire. The most important guideline for women is not to wear white, off-white or ivory. This an old-school rule but it still applies, as you don't want to show up the bride on her special day. (The only exception here is when the invite specifically states that it is a "white wedding," in which case guests are encouraged to wear all-white as well.)

For daytime weddings, remember not to wear black or sequins, as those are colors and details best reserved for evening occasions. (The sparkle will make you look overdressed.)

Even if you're attending the wedding of a young friend, remember how many wedding guests are older, including the families of the bride and groom—especially those who paid for it. Out of respect for the occasion and those closest to the couple, overly sexy, low-cut, revealing or high-hemmed outfits should be avoided. That's not to say you can't look feminine and attractive—just be reasonable. If you have any doubts, consult other guests, friends or your mom for advice. (Most likely, if you have to ask, there's your answer.)

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More Wedding Guest Style for Her

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If the invite does not give a dress code, use your best judgement. A cocktail dress, little black dress or even a full-length jumpsuit will work just about anywhere. High heeled pumps or sandals are always a good bet as well. Your shoes have the ability to dress your look way up or way down, so choose a pair of shoes based on the formality of your dress and you'll achieve the right balance.

Do not bring a large purse to a wedding. Carry a small clutch or a small cross-body bag. Mini bags are on-trend right now, but a classic metallic or satin clutch will never do you wrong. All you need to bring is keys, a credit card and ID, your phone and lipstick—no tote bag required.

No matter what time of day or the vagueness of an invitation, it's safe to say that jeans or shorts are never appropriate. This is a special occasion and often a religious ceremony, so show respect for the couple by putting in some effort. The venue, time of day and character of the hosts should give you all the clues you need to show up looking fantastic and appropriate.

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Wedding Guest Style for Him

Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling. Getty Images / Michael Kovac

Lucky for you, men, dressing for weddings isn't particularly difficult. You will always look appropriate in a suit and tie, no matter what. How easy is that?

If you want to get into specifics though, there are some guidelines that men should follow in order to look their best at a wedding. For example, a summer or spring wedding means you can wear a suit (or shirt and chinos for informal daytime) in lighter fabrics and colors. (Think linen and cotton blends.) For fall or winter weddings, you may want to wear a wool or wool-blend suit in a dark color like grey or charcoal.

If the wedding is strictly black tie, stick to a traditional tuxedo and avoid "getting cute" with it. A black bowtie and polished black dress shoes are a must. You may get an invite that suggests "creative black tie" or even something like "Texas Formal," in which case switch out your dress shoes for black cowboy boots or wear a playful vest under your jacket.

Unless it is a black tie or formal wedding, a navy blue suit is the most tasteful and appropriate option there is. (Do not wear a black suit, as they are reserved for very formal occasions and funerals.) Just make sure it is tailored, and your accessories fit the occasion.

A white shirt and tastefully patterned tie (think subtle stripes or swiss dots) will work for any occasion. Don't be afraid to add a pocket square or unique cufflinks to add some personality to your look.

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Informal Weddings, Daytime and Evening

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Informal, Daytime: For her, an informal daytime or morning wedding means a sundress, skirt and top or even pants (but no jeans), and no high heels required. For men, slacks or chinos and a shirt (tucked in) works great. Avoid sneakers and opt for oxfords or loafers.

Informal, Evening: For her, an informal evening wedding suggests a dress, and allows for a lot of flexibility. You could wear a maxi dress and flat shoes, or a little black dress and heels. For men, the dress requirements are the same as informal daytime, but you may want to add a jacket; no tie needed.

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Semi-Formal Weddings, Daytime and Evening

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Semi-Formal, Daytime: For women, a semi-formal daytime wedding suggests a cocktail dress and heels or dressy separates. For men, a suit and dress shoes; tie is optional but always looks smart. In the summer months, a light-color or linen suit will work, but go with a heavier fabric for a fall or winter wedding.

Semi-Formal, Evening: For women, a semi-formal daytime wedding suggests a cocktail dress and heels or dressy separates; an LBD is an excellent option. For men, a suit and dress shoes; tie is optional but always looks smart. (If the wedding begins after 6 p.m., definitely wear a tie.)

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Formal Weddings: Black Tie and White Tie

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Black Tie Optional: For women, black tie optional weddings mean you can wear either a cocktail dress and heels or a formal dress. (Trendier dressers may opt for a jumpsuit as well.) For men, you have the option of a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, with black dress shoes.

Black Tie: A black tie wedding requires a formal dress for women, or your dressiest cocktail attire. For men, a tuxedo (or black suit with a black tie) is required.

White Tie: A white tie occasion is the dressiest of them all, and women will want to wear a long, floor-length gown and their best jewelry. White tie attire for men means a  tuxedo worn with a white bow tie and vest, the jacket may have tails. Dress shoes should be black patent leather. (Don't worry, this formal dress is usually reserved for royal ceremonies and debutante balls.)

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More Wedding Style Advice...

Getty Images / Rachel Murray

Need More Wedding Attire Tips?

What to Wear To A Daytime Wedding
What to Wear To A Spring Wedding
What To Wear To A Wedding—For Men
What To Wear To A Summer Wedding
When To Wear a Tuxedo