Tina, here.

Last week's post, June Weddings: Rules For Mother of the Bride/Mother of The Groom, created a lot of great conversation around what's appropriate and what's not, due primarily to the problem that so many people think ANYTHING GOES at a wedding these days. And they are wrong. As we all agreed 🙂

The bigger problem, even bigger than what a MOB or MOG wears, is what wedding guests should wear. Oh the labyrinth of choices offered up to unwitting would-be guests. One of my favorite things to say applies well here: the error of margin is wide. And I'm here to narrow it for you.

Pull up a chair. We're getting nitty-gritty.

What Guests Should And Should Not Wear To A Wedding

1. One thing and one thing only determines the dress code: time of ceremony.

An outdoor wedding can feel inherently less formal, but not so fast. There is one thing that dictates the dress code for a wedding? And it's not the venue. Unless the invitation clearly states Beach Casual (dress pants and a button down for him; sundress and sandals for her) or Dressy Casual (summer suit for him and nice knee-length dress for her) then the time of the ceremony dictates the wedding guest dress code. I'll break it down hour by hour after we get through the other rules I mean points.

2. Don't overdo it.

Much like Mothers of the Bride or Mothers of the Groom, a guest should never overdo it and draw attention away from the bride. It's in poor taste, and it's tacky. Overdoing it usually involves lots of sequins or anything with a va-va-voom feel to it. Capiche?


For a quick guide for what to wear to a back tie wedding vs. a 4:30 wedding that says black tie optional and all the other confusing invitation directives, find answers in this Members-Only Party Dress Codes Guide. If you're not a member, you can try our free 15 day trial!

3. Mind the skin quotient.

Cleavage and thighs are best left at minimal exposure for weddings. It's a respect thing. I'm not asking you to lose your sense of identity and dress like someone you're not; I'm asking you to have good manners and respect the hostess, as her guest, and not turn her family celebration into a partybus.

So, what kind of attire is never appropriate for a wedding?

Dresses that are white lace, immodest, or too casual. ALWAYS err on the side of being overdressed rather than being underdressed. Better to flatter your hosts than offend them.

Summer Wedding Dress Codes: By Time of Day

 4:00 PM and Earlier - Informal-ish.

This wedding is likely going to be informal, unless the invitation clearly states otherwise. Think garden, beach, small home wedding. Just because it's informal does not mean you can wear informal clothes. You still need to be wearing what honors the occasion and the bride and groom, like a pretty skirt and blouse or dress. You don't want to be the stain on their perfect day that will be memorialized for generations to comes by comments over the years that will go something like this, "Oh yeah, that's the lady Granny and Pops said showed up in her work clothes."


"Casual" by wedding dress code standards is not the same as "casual" for other summer outings. The bride and groom (and their parents) will be super happy if you put a little effort into your outfit.

5:00 PM - Smart Casual.

This wedding is also going to be informal, but not quite as casual as a 4:00 PM wedding. Which is why it's tricky to dress for...so take the middle road. You may actually see "Smart Casual" on this invitation. Men should be in dress slacks and a dress shirt, a tie and sports coat is optional, but reeeaaally encouraged.

So a great compromise for an informal wedding/yet still respectful of the occasion is a nice church dress. Like something you would wear to a confirmation or even a luncheon. Your shoes can dress it up or down, depending on the type of venue.

6:00 PM - Dressy-casual.

Now things start to get interesting. Time to dry-clean your lounge suit. Whatever that is. A 6:00 wedding is almost always dressy casual, that oxymoron of a dress code. You'll see some people in run-around sundresses and others in embellished dresses. What to wear? Take into account the venue, the bride and groom's style and, of course, what the invitation says. If it says nothing, wear something on the dressier side. Men should be in a suit and a tie.

A modest going-out dress, re: not a work dress, and nice shoes are in order for a 6:00 PM wedding. Pay attention to details like your clutch and jewelry. Your everyday handbag you shlep on your shoulder is not cutting it.

7:00 PM - Semi-formal.

This timeframe means one thing: semi-formal, which means a cocktail dress for women and a dark suit for men, unless otherwise specified. You're probably noticing I'm not much for spending a lot of money on these dresses. If you can think of 5 times you'll wear it over the next year, then, yes, make an investment in a dress you'll still love after wearing it 5 times. But if not, don't invest. I'd rather see you spend your money on a good handbag you'll use every single day.

You also may have noticed that I found a lot of these on Amazon. Isn't that the best!


Can you wear black to a wedding?

I would say only if it's a black tie (i.e. formal) wedding because you can brighten it up with sparkly jewelry and accessories that would be inappropriate for a casual wedding.

8:00 PM - Formal.

An 8:00 wedding is by definition formal. It wasn't the only time the church was available. It's on purpose and so you want to dress for it.  If the invitation says white tie, whoa, this is fancy. White tie is always white tails for men and a very fancy, formal, floor-length dress for women. Black tie is always a tuxedo for men and a formal dress for women. Women can opt for a short dress or long in the summer, but for a fall, winter or spring wedding, floor length it is.

Black tie optional?

That means men can wear either a tuxedo or a nice, dark suit; women need to stick with a formal dress, either short or long.

I don't have the appropriate dress so no one ask me to their 8:00 wedding yet please. KThanks.

My final thoughts for you, dolls. Respect the importance of the event by dressing up a little. You're witnessing these folks make a MAJOR commitment. And don't forget your presence there signifies your involvement to support that commitment for a lifetime. This is serious stuff. Not just a party. No pressure. Oh and one more thing. You don't have to wear hose in the summer.

Don't fret over all this; you got it! If you do need one-on-one help, I am happy to help you via Facetime, or in Nashville.

Happy shopping! And happy weddings!





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