10 Things to Consider When Getting Dressed for a Wedding

Brides and grooms have it easy when it comes to wedding dressing. They set the tone. They set the code. It is understood, going in, that the hems of their clothes will get ruined and that, seeing as they’re getting hitched, there’s no one…shall we say, from their pasts to whom they must send a clear and direct “fuck you I’m hot” message. For everyone else, especially all the single laypeople, selecting a wedding outfit is a stressful endeavor.

Since I’m one wedding away from being the guest version of Katherine Heigl in that Academy Award-winning movie where she’s a formal dress hoarder and am therefore an expert, I have taken it upon myself to bestow some knowledge. Below, a list of variables to consider when selecting what to wear to a wedding.

1. Do you want to wear a dress or pants?

I’m of a wild west mentality when it comes to fashion rules but shorts are basically never a wedding option. Wear shorts whenever, just not today. Besides, for your own sake, it’s easier to narrow your choices so pick one and stay dedicated. Sure, pants can include a jumpsuit situation.

2. How formal is the wedding?

Dress codes make no sense these days because people make dress codes because of Pinterest. “Tangerine Sporty Formal!” is not a helpful outfit guideline. In fact, it means nothing. “Summer black tie” also means nothing, so play it safe and ask a mom. I’m not sure why but they just know these things.

3. Will grass be involved?

Sinking heels ruin everything. Consider this now and plan your outfit around your footwear. In the words of Matt Little’s bachelorette itinerary that he designed for his sister and her friends, “Now is not the time to be a hero.”

4. Do you need to make any important first impressions?

Will your ex’s new significant other also be attending? What about your date’s sister? What about a potential future parent-in-law? What about someone’s famous and cool aunt who you’ve been dying to meet? Dress for yourself, but let this guide you in your general aesthetic.

5. Who’s your audience?

As with number four, “dress for yourself” is always key. You will never be comfortable if you spend the whole time hating a weird mask you’ve chosen for the evening. That said, what I’d wear to a college friend’s wedding is different from what I’d wear to a fashion industry friend’s wedding is different from what I’d wear to a parental-packed wedding.

6. What’s the venue?

I always like for my outfit to make sense among the decor. Makes for excellent Instagram opportunities.

7. How hard do you plan to party?

If the answer is “hard” then I wouldn’t wear anything delicate, expensive or that your breast could pop out of (if you care about that sort of thing, which you may not).

8. Will someone with whom you used to have a thing and wouldn’t mind rekindling said thing be there?

Hmm? What? Oh I thought you said something.

9. Has this group seen your outfit before?

If yes (either because they are prolific Instagram engagers or because you’ve been on the wedding circuit together), and only if you give a damn, consider buying/borrowing/finding a new dress for this occasion and doing the re-wear next time you have a more anonymous party to attend.

10. Two unrelated questions with the same answer: Will the ceremony be conservative, and at night, will you be cold?

No one wants to, I know, but even in the dead heat of summer, just bring the fucking pashmina, okay?

And with that, I swear, you’ll be golden.

Collages by Edith Young; Photos by Edith Young and Horst P. Horst via Getty Images.

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  • Hilary

    “Just bring the fucking pashmina, okay?” — truer words were never spoken. Too many times I’ve decided last-second to leave the pashmina/wrap/light-blazer-coat at home, only to be shivering a few hours into the wedding. Damnit!!!

  • lillian c.

    MR- next article needs to be alternatives to the fucking pashmina. sincerely- v desperate

    • spicyearlgrey

      solange’s 2017 MET look ur welcome

    • Kat

      I have tried so many… current winner is a neoprene biker jacket in dusty pink – comfy enough to wear as a cardigan but smart enough to look like a jacket.
      Or I also have a weird circular thing with armholes I got from asos, looks good with most things. See here (sold out but gives you an idea): http://m.asos.com/asos/asos-chuck-on-cardigan-in-blocking/prd/7186914?iid=7186914

    • Amelia Diamond

      this is actually a hilarious and great idea

    • Basil

      Yes please. Pashminas can be a pain because they’re constantly slipping down and having to be readjusted.
      I’ve tried – white blazer (but with colourful dress, so I’m not competing with the bride). Ok, but super hot. Gold sequinned jacket – awesome, but begs the question of how much / little jewellery you add. Cardigan – doesn’t feel smart enough (though this depends on how smart the wedding is)

      • What about a lace jacket? If you like lace it’s a good alternative to the white blazer

  • EP

    Can I wear black to a wedding?

    • Abby

      I’ve done it, but know your audience. If it’s an older crowd or particularly easily scandalized people, then maybe skip it.

      • Amelia Diamond

        I’ve done it too and actually didn’t know it was a thing NOT to do?! until later and i was like, o. whoops.

    • Pterodactyl111


    • DA

      Funny thing, Indian custom is the exact opposite. We wear white to funerals and black to anything else. Never understood all these rules!

    • AbiTX

      As long as you don’t look like you’re in mourning, I’ve never had a problem with it. It seems to be an old rule most don’t care about anymore

    • Caroline Grace Fisher

      YES I do it all the time. As long as your lipstick and general life-of-the-party attitude is bright enough then you get away with it.

  • magicalhat

    What flat shoes can I wear to a wedding that won’t make someone with a very youthful face and body type look like a toddler?? Would love if anyone had any ideas. It’s very dull to have a bunch of people asking you about school and stuff and having to spend the whole night listening to sort-of-relatives say in a scandalized voice ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE 25’.

  • Kay Nguyen

    Hmmm but I have never been to a weeding before! You guys should make a post about how to get invited to a wedding <3


  • Alison

    I would get married in that Delpozo dress! $1500, wow. But it is beautiful.

    I was at a wedding in San Francisco last weekend. By the time we left, it was below 50 and misty. I brought a full on blazer (way beyond the pashmina) and bought tights at CVS on the way; my boyfriend brought two jackets and a scarf. We were ready!

  • Kiks

    Wedding next month at a country estate: floor-length floral silk gown with a low, strappy back and tiered skirt.
    (I originally planned on something more fitted, but then remembered I don’t want to starve myself for the next month.)

    Thoughts on styling?

    I was planning to wear black velvet Charlotte Olympia flats because the dress
    grazes the floor barefoot and I am tall as fuck.

    Giant chandelier earrings, deep red summer-goth lipstick, and call it a day? (I am also lazy as fuck.)


    • Amelia Diamond

      this is gorgeous and i LOVE your whole summer goth aesthetic. i’d go open toe flat sandal (Satin slide??)

      • Kiks

        OMG Amelia I am honoured. That is a great shoe idea. I mostly avoid sandals because of a traumatic experience in high school when someone made fun of my giant big toe. (It is pretty big!)

    • That dress is sooo beautiful!! And your styling sounds spot on!

      • Kiks

        Aw thank you! It’s Needle & Thread — I am obsessed.

  • Margaret

    Listen if anyone wants to answer my highly specific wedding question I’ll send you all the good vibes I have & owe you a drink: what do I wear to officiate a wedding in August in the Midwest?
    (I’m not a woman of the cloth, I am officiating as a friend. Bride said “wear whatever.”) (*Next* August.)

  • THIS article! It’s actually absolutely fucking relevant now. My boyfriend’s high school friend invited us to his wedding in September. I’ve never met the guy, or the bride, and have no idea what to wear for the occasion. I don’t own any dresses, or a single pair of heels (my go-to ones became a victim of my cat’s pee) to wear to the occasion. I seriously need your help guys! Don’t know the theme, the place, the amount of guests there. Blank. And no one to ask, too. So, please, if you have any advice for me whatsoever, do tell.

  • Abby

    I’ll never forget the time when I worked retail and a customer asked me if jeans were appropriate for a wedding and I said “NO” way too emphatically and got in trouble

  • jackie

    i need help guys!
    I’ve been dating a guy for a little under two months- originally thought it was going to be a summer fling but we just agreed to be exclusive SLASH he just invited me to be a plus one to a wedding across the country in Colorado NEXT WEEKEND. where i will be meeting his sister/friends for the first time.

    WHAT DO I WEAR????

    I want something that isn’t too loud (since I know NO one) slash doesn’t make me look like a slut to his sis slash doesn’t make it look like i’m wearing a mumu since, ya know, we are young and the relationship is new and i still want to look a little sexy!