The Wedding Guest

I’ve rambled at length about what’s going on on the inside when I go to a wedding. But what about on the outside? How do you dress well as a wedding guest?

Rule 1: Blend in. This is really the main thing, and covers almost every choice you have to make. Your job as a wedding guest is disappear into the crowd. You should strive not to be underdressed, but not overdressed either. By default, no one is going to be looking at you anyway. Your job is to keep it that way.

Although this kind of thing gives Miss Manners fits (because strictly speaking, a single event can only exist at one level of formality at a time), the rule of thumb these days seems to be that the wedding party dresses one level above the rest of the guests. For example, in tuxes and floor-length gowns, while the rest of the guests are in suits and short dresses. Unless the invitation says black (or white! gasp!) tie, and the wedding is at the Plaza, you will probably draw undue attention to yourself in a long gown. This goes double if it is shiny. And obviously no white, unless you are Pippa.

Wrong

Right. Your job as a wedding guest is to follow the example of the knee-length skirts and solid British legs in the background. These women know something about blending in.

Miss Manners would also say that black is for funerals, not for weddings, but I say screw that. We’re living in a post-Coco Chanel world, and while lord knows I love bright colors, I think in this day and age you’ll always be safe with a LBD:

John & Jill's wedding, Skokie, October 2009. Ann Taylor Loft dress, purchased in Black Friday sale, 2007. Black tights, and luckily you can't see that I'm wearing my mom's Velcro Mary Jane style Crocs, because I had forgotten to pack appropriate shoes. So embarrassing. Earrings from Ann Arbor art fair.

Jon & Jill’s wedding, Skokie, October 2009. I’m in an Ann Taylor Loft dress, purchased in a Black Friday sale, 2008(?). Giant earrings from Target or something. Liz & Ami are both looking classy in black.

You can always use a shawl or something to brighten it up or give a nod to the season or the specific wedding.

Black dresses brightened up for a summer daytime wedding. OK, fine, this is my wedding and I'm biased. But I loved it.

Black dresses brightened up for a summer daytime wedding. OK, fine, this is my wedding and I’m biased. But I loved it.

At every wedding I’ve ever been to, there is one woman in a completely inappropriate, super-short dress. Don’t be that girl:

On the other hand, it is also possible to be too conservative. If you, like me, wear dresses on a daily basis, you’ve got to watch your use of cardigans, lest you look like you’re just going to work:

Anna & Anthony, Chicago, September 2012. Dress from Old Navy, cardigan from T.J. Maxx. Sigh. I couldn't stay for the reception--had to go basically from the ceremony to the airport to fly to Oxford for a conference. So while everyone else looked super snazzy, I looked like I was going to work. Oh well.

Anna & Anthony, Chicago, September 2012. Dress from Old Navy, cardigan from T.J. Maxx. Sigh. I couldn’t stay for the reception–had to go basically from the ceremony to the airport to fly to Oxford for a conference. So while everyone else looked super snazzy, I looked like I was going to work. Because I kind of was. Oh well.

Got a bridesmaid dress you can wear again? Win, and kudos to your friend, the former bride, for her excellent taste. Just make sure you re-mix your shoes and accessories and whatnot enough so you don’t look like a lost/crashing bridesmaid at the next wedding. Of course, the fact that you’re not carrying flowers might just do the trick:

The only exception to the “don’t draw attention to yourself” rule is if no one is on the dance floor and you have to get that s*** started:

Jenn & Scott's wedding, June 2011. Busting a move, and busting out my favorite the brown silk scoopneck dress from the Wild Rose boutique in Arlington Heights, 2007. Freshwater pearl choker from The Garlic Press in Normal was a college graduation present from Sam, 2007.

Jenn & Scott’s wedding, June 2011. Busting a move, and busting out my favorite brown silk scoopneck dress from the Wild Rose boutique in Arlington Heights, 2007. Freshwater pearl choker from The Garlic Press in Normal was a college graduation present from Sam, 2007.

Rule #2: Double- and triple- check to be sure you packed appropriate shoes. Otherwise, like me, you will find yourself borrowing your mother’s Crocs.

clodhoppers

Just, no.

Also, for the record, “appropriate” means, “can be worn for several hours without discarding in a corner.” It’s not cute and fancy-free to wind up barefoot on the dancefloor. It’s disgusting and also dangerous. I don’t know about you, but glasses break at just about every wedding I’ve been to, and I’m not talking about the ones safely contained in a velvet stomping bag. At one recent occasion the bartender wound up delicately brushing off the groom’s mother’s foot. Wear shoes that you can actually wear, or bring an appropriate alternative. There are so many adorable flats and sandals out there today, there is no excuse for bare feet at a wedding. Or flip flops, for that matter. I’m not kidding. </rant>

Rule #3: Have fun. Dance, drink, be merry.

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