What to wear to a wedding: Everything you need to be the best dressed guest

Everything you need to know about what to wear to a wedding, from style etiquette to outfit ideas

Women showcasing what to wear to a wedding as they attend a royal wedding
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering what to wear to a wedding this season? As the invites start to mount up, so too does the sartorial pressure. 

When it comes to the best wedding guest outfit, the chances are you'll have something in your capsule wardrobe that can work for the occasion. Much like what to wear to a christening, the most appropriate look will depend on the type of wedding you're attending, however, the best dresses, a flattering jumpsuit, or a great trouser suit are a good place to start. 

The first thing to do is assess the feel of the wedding. What you'll wear to an intimate garden ceremony will be different from the outfit requirements of a black-tie affair, an abroad beach wedding, or church nuptials. And while you're looking for exactly what to wear, it's also important to establish what are the big no-nos too. Can you wear white? Can you wear black? Are your best jeans appropriate? These are just some of the common questions when it comes to wedding guest outfits. To help you navigate this tricky terrain, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to wedding guest outfit etiquette - covering the key do's and don'ts, plus our pick of the best buys to shop now. So, from the best shapewear to the prettiest dresses, prepare to be the best-dressed wedding guest.

What to wear to a wedding - outfit ideas as chosen by a fashion editor

1. Printed Midi or Maxi dress

Street style influencers wearing printed dresses for what to wear to a wedding

(Image credit: Getty)

We could wax lyrical for hours about the many virtues of a printed dress, but they really do come into their own during wedding season. Whether you opt for one of the best midi dresses or go for a floor-sweeping maxi length, the longer hemline makes them far more reliable on windy days than thigh-skimming minis, lowering the risk of a wardrobe malfunction, check out the Duchess of Cambridge's underwear tricks for more ideas. Not only that, a printed dress makes enough of an impact on its own, so minimal styling is needed. Just add barely-there sandals.

A styling tip…

These dresses are easy to dress down too, so once the nuptials are done you can get more cost per wear and team with the best white trainers or flat sandals at weekends.

Our fashion editor recommends…

2. Co-ords

street style influencers wearing co-ords

(Image credit: Getty)

While a dress might be the fail-safe option for weddings and christening, it’s certainly not the only acceptable outfit you can wear. If you want to be more adventurous, why not try a cool co-ord instead? From a statement suit to a chic two-piece, co-ords are incredibly versatile and something you can reach for long after the wedding. To keep it playful, look for bold prints, eye-catching colors, and relaxed silhouettes. 

A styling tip…

You’re likely to spend most of the day on your feet so great fitting footwear is a must. Luckily this look works just as well with comfortable flats as it does with the best designer heels. Try a low-block heel or a wedge to keep you steady on your feet.

Our fashion editor recommends…

3. A Chic Jumpsuit

street style influencers wearing jumpsuits for what to wear to a wedding

(Image credit: Getty)

Much like what to wear to a bridal shower, a jumpsuit is a great sartorial choice for the big day. Cool, comfortable, and less likely to cause a wardrobe malfunction, they come in an array of different silhouettes so you’re bound to find one to suit your body type. Look for wide-leg styles if you want to lengthen legs and belted detailing to cinch you in at the waist and create an hourglass body shape. Summer and destination weddings will benefit from lightweight and elegant fabrics such as linen.

A styling tip…

For extra coverage, layer a well-cut blazer over a sleeveless jumpsuit. Churches can get chilly so it’s worth considering a light cover-up and the best blazer will add warmth and keep your look polished.

Our fashion editor recommends…

4. Midi Skirt and Blouse

Street style influencers wearing midi skirts and blouses for what to wear to a wedding

(Image credit: Getty)

A skirt and top combo can take a little more styling work but it’ll pay off in the long run as it will give you outfit options aplenty. Stick to a midi length to keep it practical and stylish and look for silky fabrics and lace details to give it a high-end finish. You can try teaming a printed skirt with a plain top or mix two block shades for a vibrant color-blocking look. Don’t be afraid to try two contrasting colors such as pink and green or purple and orange.

A styling tip…

If you go for a voluminous skirt, keep your top half more fitted and vice versa to help balance proportions.

Our fashion editor recommends…

5. Colorful frock

Street Style influencers wearing colorful frocks for what to wear to a wedding

(Image credit: Getty)

While the jury is still out on whether you can wear black to a wedding, a punchy color is always acceptable. Weddings are joyous occasions so you might as well spark some joy with mood-boosting bright color clothes. This look is very much on-trend right now too, 'Dopamine dressing' is one of the big fashion color trends 2022 has to offer and it's a particularly stylish choice for an evening wedding or fancy hotel reception. If you can, try and find out what color the bridesmaids are wearing to avoid any awkward clashes.

A styling tip…

With this bold look, it’s best to keep accessories minimal and let the frock take center stage, black courts, simple gold hoops and a beaded clutch will work like a charm.

Our fashion editor recommends…

What to wear to a wedding - FAQs

Now that we've covered the dos, it's time to investigate the big style don'ts when it comes to wedding guest outfits. 

What is the best color to wear to a wedding?

We’d recommend steering clear of black and white when it comes to weddings, opting for bold brights or pretty pastels instead (although avoid very pale iterations).

Why is black a no-go? It’s a color traditionally associated with mourning. “Remember it's a happy event so try to avoid outfits that you could double up at a funeral,” says Style Editor Joely Chilcott. “Printed black outfits can work if you try to pull out one of the colors for your lipstick, shoes, or bag to brighten it up a little, but top-to-toe dark hues can be draining.” 

Wearing white to a wedding is considered bad manners, as you don’t want to look like you’re trying to upstage the bride. "Although the bride might not mind, other guests will notice and sparking this kind of debate at a wedding is not what the day is about," says Deputy Fashion Editor Charlie Bell. "With so many great colors out there (literally any other color on the spectrum!), there's really no excuse. Plus, do you really want to risk spilling a glass of champagne on that bright white outfit?" By association, ivory, cream, and even pale pastels are off the cards too (unless you're a bridesmaid and this is the nominated hue). However, similarly to black, if your dress is heavily patterned, then wearing white shouldn’t be a problem.

What should the Mother of the Bride wear?

We know, that deciding what to wear to a wedding when you're the Mother of the Bride can almost be as stressful as choosing a wedding dress. When it comes to color, there are no strict rules to abide by, other than steering clear of black and white. You might want to avoid wearing the same color as the bridesmaids too, to avoid looking too matchy-matchy.

Not sure where to start? Think about 'what color suits me', which you feel most comfortable in, and which you get the most compliments when wearing. Selecting an outfit in a similar hue or tone to the color scheme of the wedding will ensure color-coordinated photographs too. 

In terms of silhouettes, really consider your body type before shopping. You'll want to begin the search for the right outfit at least six months before, to give yourself plenty of time to find the right one, get the correct accessories and have any necessary alterations. Dresses and dresses with matching jackets are always a strong option, but much like all wedding guests, you'll want to think about the theme and location of the wedding first. 

What should the Mother of the Groom wear?

Similar to the Mother of the Bride, when it comes to selecting the best Mother of the Groom dresses, you'll want to avoid black and white. The ideal situation is to wait for the bride to decide if there is any color scheme for the wedding party and what the bridesmaids are wearing, so you can coordinate appropriately. Finally, give the Mother of the Bride a call so you can ensure your outfits work together, as you won't want to color clash in the photos. 

Consider where the wedding is taking place as the first port of call. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time to find something to wear, but it is polite and traditional to take lead from the bridal party. Make sure to chat to the Mother of the Bride to coordinate. Opt for something comfortable as well as stylish as you'll have to wear it for at least eight hours, so a well-fitted outfit is key. But from a floaty co-ord to the best dress or a tuxedo, the world is your oyster. 

What should you not wear to a wedding

We know what to wear to a wedding, but what about what not to wear? Dress codes vary from wedding to wedding, so consider the type of celebration you’re attending before you choose your outfit. Being underdressed is one thing, but being overdressed can be equally embarrassing. If no dress code has been specified, or you’re in any doubt as to whether your outfit is appropriate, get a second opinion from a trusted friend. If you’re close, you could always ask the bride herself.

Unless the invite specifically says so, denim isn’t welcome. “Jeans are an absolute no-no,” says Joely. “While denim bottoms and a nice top might be your go-to outfit for what to wear on a first date, the everyday feel of your favorite skinny jeans are just too casual to be classed as acceptable occasionwear. Embrace the event and see it as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and feel chic.” We’d recommend plumping for a statement jumpsuit, tailored two-piece or floral dress.

Speaking of dresses, you’ll need to ensure your hemline is ceremony-appropriate. A good wedding will normally involve dancing, and anything with too-short a hemline will only work to increase your risk of a wardrobe malfunction. The same applies to plunging necklines too. If you’re really sold on a shorter dress, maybe consider layering a duster coat over the top to save any potential blushes during any kneeling parts of the ceremony. If it’s a winter wedding, opaque tights are a good option.

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.

With contributions from