If you’re anything like us, the first reaction when a wedding invitation drops through the letterbox is ‘ah, how lovely’, quickly followed by ‘but what am I going to wear?!’ Dressing for a wedding can be a minefield so we’ve enlisted the expert help of style guru Ceril Campbell to talk you through it.
Can I wear white to a wedding?
The key thing to remember when choosing your outfit is that you never want to compete with the bride. So if you’re going to head into the tricky territory of wearing white, don’t go head-to-toe. Go for something black, or break up blocks of white with colourful accessories. Essentially you should avoid anything that could mean you’re mistaken for the bride!
[Related article: Celeb brides in Vera Wang]
Is there anything else I should avoid?
Yes - drawing serious attention to yourself! That means not showing too much cleavage or leg. You need to dress appropriately for the occasion, especially if it’s a religious ceremony. Wear shoes you can walk in; check your clothes aren’t too tight to sit down, and that they don’t ride up to reveal too much when you do.
Another good tip is to ask a friend to take a photo of you in your outfit, then you can make sure it doesn’t go see-through under the flash of a camera: the wedding photos will be around forever, so don’t forget that there will be a lasting reminder of what you wore…
What should I wear if the invitation says black tie?
This really depends on the type of ceremony. Black tie is often chosen for a late afternoon or evening ceremony, so for women a cocktail dress with a shawl or stole for the ceremony is usually appropriate. At a Jewish wedding you may be expected to wear a long dress, though.
So if the invitation isn’t clear, or if you’re in any doubt, call the bride and ask what she’d like you to wear, just to be on the safe side!
We’re going to a destination wedding, how can we look smart without overheating?
If the ceremony is a beach affair where the bride will be wearing a floaty dress and going barefoot on the sand, you’ll want to follow her lead. Maxi dresses are perfect as they’re everywhere on the high street right now and you can dress them up with chunky turquoise jewellery and beads. Cheap jewellery looks great in volume, so stack bangles and bracelets.
Go for natural fabrics like cotton, linen or silk, as they’re cooler than man-made ones. Men should avoid t-shirts and branded sportswear – they don’t want to look like they’re heading to the beach bar! Tailored shorts and a linen shirt are ideal.
I’ve got several weddings to go to this year, how can I look different on a budget?
Buy separates which you can mix and match with other clothes in your wardrobe – buying accessories is always cheaper than a whole new outfit, so use these to make it look different. Even if the clothes won’t work for another wedding, will you get wear out of them at another event like a christening or birthday party, or a trip to the races? If you’re any good with a sewing machine, look at ways you could alter an outfit too.
Everyone seems to be wearing fascinators, are hats still in fashion this year?
The hats versus fascinators debate is more about what suits you and less about what is fashionable this season: there’s nothing worse than swamping a small face in a huge hat! Lots of mothers-of-the-bride in particular seem to pick shallow-crowned hats which aren’t very flattering and look quite old-fashioned, so try a range of different styles on to see what suits you. If you’re short, a hat which adds height is a good idea; if you have a square face, you want a brim that balances it out. And older women can get an ‘instant facelift’ effect with a brim that turns up!
I would say not if you don’t feel comfortable with it. A compromise could be to wear a normal dress but accessorise with something in the theme, such as a hat, which you can remove later, rather than going for a full on fancy dress costume. Ask other guests what they’re wearing, as you may find that no one else you know will be following the code either, so you could turn up as the only one in your group!
I’m going to a wedding in December, how can I dress up and stay warm?
In the autumn, the shops will be full of Christmas dresses so you’ll have plenty of choice. You could even wear a summer dress and just accessorise with a heavier bag and boots and a winter hat. Then dress up your winter coat with a fake fur collar, or take a tip from the Duchess of Cambridge and look for coat that matches your outfit. Cream is a great colour for a dressy coat, as you’re unlikely to wear it on the tube every day, so it’ll feel glamorous.
One final piece of advice? Think about dressing to be ‘your best you’. Don’t go outside of your comfort zone: a wedding is not the time for a major fashion experiment - and that rule applies whether you’re the bride, the groom, or a guest!
Find your wedding outfit
Ceril Campbell is author of Discover the New You - celebrity stylist secrets to transform your life and style, available from Amazon. For more information and style advice from Ceril, visit Red Carpet Undies or follow her on twitter @cerilcampbell.