How to Be a Well-Dressed Wedding Guest

You’ve received the invitation in the mail, RSVP’d yes, selected a gift from the registry, and now it’s time to decide what to wear to the wedding. And while dressing for a celebration can—and should—be fun, choosing wedding-appropriate attire can be challenging for a variety of reasons. With wedding season just around the corner, we reached out to three scouted style experts for advice on how to be a well-dressed guest. Here, they offer tips for everything from finding the right footwear for an outdoor ceremony to selecting a chic layer for over-air conditioned reception spaces to picking a dress with personality that isn’t too over-the-top. Find a scouted boutique near you in The Scout Guide Directory.

Keep the focus on the bride and groom. “The biggest thing to remember when attending someone’s big day is that this event is not about you,” Nicole Shelton, co-owner of Carriage House in Decatur, Alabama, says. While that doesn’t mean you have to be a sartorial wallflower, you certainly don’t want your dress to be over the top. Shelton also reaffirms what many consider to be the golden rule of wedding attire: “Don’t wear white, or anything that can be mistaken for white. That is the one color that is already reserved, unless guests were told otherwise.”

Feel free to go long. The old assumption that you can only don a long dress if you’re attending a black-tie event no longer applies. Katherine Buxton, owner of Gretta Sloane in Oklahoma City, asserts that long dresses—or midi length—are on point these days. A floor-grazing gown is still appropriate for black tie, but you can also wear a long number for a day wedding, or the lilac Veronica Beard Dress featured above available from Gretta Sloane would be perfect for an evening event.

Ann Mashburn Buckle Shoe from Carriage House in Decatur, Alabama. 

Plan your footwear wisely. The invitation will usually guide a guest as to whether the venue is indoors or outdoors. Shelton advises that you take note before you plan your attire. Not a fan of wedges for formal occasions (she favors stilettos), she notes that block heels, like the Ann Mashburn Buckle Shoe, work well on just about any surface, making them a safe and stylish choice.

Wrap it up. While donning your date’s jacket can work in a pinch, planning ahead for a breezy evening with an intentionally chosen wrap or topper will lead to a more cohesive look. Buxton always advises adding a stylish layer to your ensemble to ward off an evening chill or cold reception venue. And while some might consider it old fashioned, Shelton asserts if you’re wearing a strappy dress in a church, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders.

Jocelyn Dress from Gretta Sloane in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Consider your fabric choice. If you’re attending an outdoor wedding during the summer, Buxton recommends factoring in the breathability and sheerness of a dress’s fabric when making your selection, especially if the ceremony isn’t held in a shaded or air conditioned area. For a fabric that stands up to perspiration, she recommends a lightweight cotton; if you need something dressier in silk, she suggests selecting a printed dress like the Baum un Pferdgarten Jocelyn Dress featured above that will be less likely to show spots.

Likha Sarsuela Clutch from Carriage House in Decatur, Alabama. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-chosen handbag. Far from an afterthought, a chic—and functional—purse can make an outfit. Shelton recommends carrying a small clutch that holds the essentials (phone, lipstick, tissues) and complements your dress, rather than detracting or distracting from it. Right now, accessories made with natural materials are having a moment, making the Likha Sarsuela Clutch on trend and perfectly appropriate for summer.

Karlie Cutout One-Shoulder Dress from The Mill in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Embrace color and pattern. Weddings are celebratory occasions, making them excellent opportunities to wear something vibrant, say Lauren Miller and Allie Farrell, the co-owners and sisters behind The Mill in Nashville, Tennessee. Color and bold patterns are currently on-trend (the Karlie Cutout One-Shoulder Dress shown above showcases both), and perfect for a summer soiree.

Have fun accessorizing. If you tend to be pattern-averse, Miller and Farrell recommend bringing in bold and colorful accessories to add a pop of color. “Think of accessories as the ‘cherry on top.’ Find a piece that you like and build around it,” they say. Statement earrings are one of most accessible ways to mix in both color and textures, with trends like feathers, seed beads, and sequins currently making a splash. Just be sure to opt for an earring that’s lightweight so it won’t bother you while you dance the night away, they caution.

TSG Tip 421 from Nicole Shelton, co-owner of Carriage House in Decatur, Alabama; Katherine Buxton, owner of Gretta Sloane in Oklahoma City; and Lauren Miller and Allie Farrell, co-owners of The Mill in Nashville, Tennessee. Carriage House appears in The Scout Guide Huntsville. Gretta Sloane appears in The Scout Guide Oklahoma City. The Mill appears in The Scout Guide Nashville.