Invited to a Wedding and You Have Nothing to Wear?
Everyone that wasn’t married before the pandemic is now married or has decided to get married, which means you and I, as well as everyone we know is now invited to at least one wedding.
If the initial euphoria of being invited to a wedding is suddenly surpassed by the feeling of panic because you’ve got nothing to wear, don’t fret, you’re not alone.
The bride has an easier task of finding her wedding gown than an amateur wedding guest looking for the right outfit. With so much fashion territory to cover, other wedding guests to consider and no proper wedding guest dress manifesto it can seem like a daunting task.
The bride will look fantastic whatever she wears, but this may not be as easy of a task for the rest of us mere mortals.
“The bride has an easier task of finding her wedding gown than an amateur wedding guest looking for the right outfit.“
And that’s where I come in. I’m going to help you navigate the world of wedding guest attire. I’ve complied an easy reference of do’s and don’t that will help calm your nerves and set you straight so that you’ll know what to look for, what not to do, and how to find the “one.”
Do Read Your Wedding Invitation
This might sound rudimentary but I promise you there are a lot of clues and actual facts on the wedding invitation—which directly pertains to your attire. It’s also the first indication of what kind of wedding you’re invited to. The general tone of the wedding is apparent in the wedding invitation as well as vital information such as the location.
It was a British real estate tycoon that coined the term “location, location, location” and I’d go as far to say that it’s also the golden rule of wedding guest attire.
The location of the wedding is the biggest factor in deciding your kind of outfit and in most cases it will be spelled out for you: ie: “Black Tie Requested.” And for women that usually translates to formal evening wear.
Pay attention to the wishes of the bride and groom on their big day, if they have a particular request in terms of your attire and request it on the invitation. If you’re on their guest list, the least you can do is accommodate their request, or as close to their request as you can.
Do Consider Your Unique Personal Style and Body Shape
It doesn’t matter if Leila or Lydia looked fabulous in a slinky red dress. What you need to consider is what works for you.
You need to turn the volume down on external voices and stop looking at what works for other people or what’s trending on social media and be true to your individual sense of style and what works for your body shape. And just like finding Prince Charming, the only way you’re going to find the “one” is by trying on a lot of froggy dresses.
And just like finding Prince Charming, the only way you’re going to find the “one” is by trying on a lot of froggy dresses.
The beauty of the world is that we come in all shapes and sizes, and thankfully being a wedding guest is not akin to an audition for a modeling contract, so relax and focus on your best assets. We all have them. Yes, we all do, so look for clothing that focuses on your assets (things you like about yourself) and forget about your less desirable ones, we all have those too—yes even Leila and Lydia.
Do Consider Wearing Something You Already Own
Before you go and and buy a new outfit consider what you already own. If you’re invited to two different weddings without much overlap between your family and friends, and if you love a dress you already own, then you should consider wearing, or re-wearing your dress.
Sometimes just changing the accessories is enough of a boost to make you feel like you’re wearing a completely different outfit. And if The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton can re-wear a wedding guest outfit then so can we.
Do Begin Your Search ASAP
Walk into a store and chances are that even if you find the wedding guest dress of your dreams it won’t be available in the size or the color you need. This means you’re likely to end up ordering it online, and ordering a few other dresses as a back up. Order early.
Evening dresses (like Tinder profiles) are particularly susceptible to looking great online but disappointing in person.
If you’re having something shipped to you from a department store, sometimes the item(s) won’t be shipped from another store but from a warehouse or worse still directly from the designer’s warehouse which may delay things.
Also if you’re ordering dresses online then you might be familiar with the disappointment of finding out the dress you had envisioned dancing the night away in, has no resemblance to what’s arrived. Evening dresses (like Tinder profiles) are particularly susceptible to looking great online but disappointing in person.
If you’ve ordered a few outfits, they may all arrive at different times which means you might have to wait a while for the last one to arrive to decide.
It gets complicated when you’ve ordered from different stores. Keep track of what you’ve ordered so you can return the ones you don’t want! Your bank statement will thank you for it. Also factor in the possibility that you might need alterations which take time and thus brings me to our next “do.”
(As a side note, not all wedding guest outfits need to be dresses. If you’re a trouser kind of person, then an elegant pant-suit or glam jumpsuit will work if that fits in with your sense of style.)
… nothing will put a dent in your pocket like a desperate wedding guest in a rush for a dress alteration.
Do Alter It
You’ll rarely find an evening dress that fits you without any adjustment. If there’s a dress that you love that doesn’t fit right, there’s something you can do about it! However, nothing will put a dent in your pocket like a desperate wedding guest in a rush for a dress alteration.
Planning ahead guarantees that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (or the price of two dresses) and all because you didn’t leave your alterations to the last minute.
Do Buy A Dress In the Wrong Size
You read that correctly. If you’ve found a dress you love or a great deal on a dress in the wrong size, then buy it anyway. This only applies if the dress is bigger than your size and rarely works the other way around. So go ahead and buy the dress and get it altered to fit you!
Shop off season and you’ll always be prepared.
Side note: I rarely buy dresses intended for a particular occasion. I often buy clothing based on what I like not where I’m invited which means I will always have something to wear. I intentionally shop off season which means the possibility of someone else wearing the same dress is minute.
This is not the case when everyone you know is shopping at the same time, from the same stores as you! So, shop off season and not only will you always be prepared but you’ll have less of a chance of bumping into someone wearing the same dress as you.
If you do happen to bump into someone wearing the same dress as you, go ahead and tell them they have great taste, take a photo of the two of you and enjoy the rest of the wedding!
Do Consider Your Relationship to the Bride or Groom
If you’re a cousin three times removed from the bride you will probably play a different role in a wedding compared to a sister or close family member or close friend.
The closer you are to the bride and groom the more effort you’re expected to make, and your choice of attire should reflect that.
There’s an element of etiquette and a show of respect when we make an extra effort for someone’s special day.
This also works the other way around which means if you’re not as central or close you don’t have to go all out! But that doesn’t mean you should look like you’ve rolled out of bed either.
There’s an element of etiquette and a show of respect when we make an extra effort for someone’s special day. Regardless of the relationship you have with the happy couple, don’t go broke over it.
Do remember to have a good time
It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing if you don’t have the right attitude!
Don’t Wear Head to Toe White
Don’t wear all white. If you’re wearing something with a white or cream background or white with other colors, I think that’s perfectly fine, but an all white ensemble is usually only worn by the bride as it’s her special day. And if you’re getting married you can reserve that right too.
Don’t Neglect Your Handbag
This is one of my pet peeves. Nothing ruins a perfectly elegant look and a fabulous dress, then when it’s worn with the wrong shoes or when it’s carried with a big clunky handbag.
A simple non-designer evening bag or clutch looks far better than a big (insert designer name) handbag!
Even if you’re going to a casual wedding and you’re wearing a day dress, you shouldn’t be carrying the same tote that you carry when you’re headed to the supermarket. A simple non-designer evening bag or clutch looks far better than a big (insert designer name) handbag!
Don’t Wear New Shoes
After spending time and money on your dress, hair, make-up and nails etc., don’t neglect the most important thing that will make or break your evening: your shoes.
Not only should your shoes have some cohesion with your look but most importantly they should be comfortable. Limping across the dance floor is not a good look.
My advice is to wear a pair of shoes that you’ve worn before and know you’ll be comfortable in. If you’ve bought new shoes, it’s best to wear them before the event (something I advise brides to do too, as I did this as a bride) so that you can make sure you’ll be able to walk and dance the night away in them.
Don’t Forget the Bling
I’m a huge jewelry lover and vintage jewelry collector. I love costume, vintage and fine jewelry. I make no distinction between costume and fine jewelry because if it’s beautiful, then I can’t care less if it’s real or not. However, weddings are one of the few times where my personal preference is to wear fine jewelry, if at all possible.
Choose elegant over trendy and make it work with your whole ensemble.
However, not all of us have a dazzling jewelry collection that is appropriate to wear to a wedding, and so costume jewelry is just as good if not better to complete your look. Choose elegant over trendy and make it work with your whole ensemble.
If you’re wearing a high neckline you won’t have to wear a necklace or if you’ve got an updo then a striking pair of earrings may suffice. Again the occasion, location and kind of wedding will dictate what kind of clothing and jewelry is appropriate so there are no hard rules, as long as it works with the style of your dress as a whole.
Don’t Forget Why You’re There
Not matter how much time, effort and money you’ve spent being a wedding guest, remember this day is not about you!
Even if you’re running into an “ex or a frenemy” or both, you’re not there to outshine anyone. Weddings evoke all sorts of emotions in friends and families. It’s a day of heightened nerves and emotions. My own wedding was not without drama (that thankfully I was unaware of until the following day) but whatever happens remember to try and have a good time.
You’re there to show your love, support and celebrate the union of two people. So smile, and raise you glass and say Mobarak Bad, Mazel Tov or Congratulations!