Wedding etiquette 101: What not to wear to a wedding 

IHow wonderful! You were selected to be a guest at someone else’s wedding. This is a joyous occasion about the couple and a very special day they spent a lot of time, effort, and money putting together. It is time for you to show up as your best self and support them on their special day. One simple way we can do that is by celebrating with them in the highest manner of respect: dressing appropriately.

I am Gia, an etiquette consultant based in Los Angeles. Sign up to my newsletter for etiquette techniques straight to your inbox. Here is a quick and easy guide on what to avoid donning on the bride and groom’s big day.

Reminder: Today is not about you.

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Don’t wear white.

This is definitely the most obvious wedding dress code violation and, honestly, the absolutely easiest one to follow. It doesn’t matter if your dress is short or casual or a pantsuit, just don’t wear white. And for the love of cauliflower do not wear a white gown or even a white floor-length dress. It’s also best to avoid colors that are white adjacent like light gray or super pale pastels. You never know what those shades will look like in the lighting of the venue so it’s better to play it safe and pick a more saturated hue.

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Don’t wear anything too sexy.

Remember when Kendall Jenner posted photos of herself in a barely-there dress at a friend’s wedding and the internet collectively came together to rage against her? Yeah, don’t be the Kendall of your cousin’s wedding. The model later explained that she’d asked permission from the bride, who said yes, which is an option if you feel comfortable doing so, but really the best thing is to just save that sexy little frock for another time and opt for something with more coverage instead. (A good rule of thumb for deciding if a dress is too much is to pick just one sexy feature—form-fitting, low-cut or short.)

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Don’t ignore the dress code.

There is a reason the couple included that information on the invitation, so don’t ignore the words “black tie” just because you have a cute new cocktail dress you’re dying to wear. This goes both ways, actually—don’t go too casual if the dress code specifically requests formal attire, and don’t go too over-the-top if the couple opts for cocktail or dressy casual. Generally we’d say it’s better to err on the side of overdressed rather than underdressed, but if you’re unsure what to wear just do a quick Google search. 

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Don’t wear jeans or leggings.

Maybe the wedding is at a dude ranch or maybe the dress code is “dressy casual” or even just “casual.” None of those things make it OK to wear denim, leggings or anything resembling athleisure to the nuptials. If you really love pants, opt for a true pair of trousers or a suit instead. We promise there are tons of chic pants out there that are just as comfy as your beloved skinny jeans, but dressy enough for a wedding.

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Don’t wear a ballgown or tiara.

On the flip side, wearing pieces that resemble something a bride might wear, even in a different color, are also a no. You don’t want to accidentally upstage the bride with a voluminous ballgown or glittering diamonds. Instead try a slimmer silhouette or a fancy headband that still fits within the formal dress code.

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Don’t ignore cultural traditions.

White is the most traditional color for brides in Western cultures, but that’s not true everywhere else. In China brides tend to wear red and in Morocco they opt for yellow or green. And while most American couples probably won’t mind a guest wearing an LBD, in some European countries it’s considered insulting to wear black to a wedding, as that color is reserved for mourning. If you know the couple plan to incorporate non-Western traditions into their ceremony or it’s taking place somewhere outside the U.S., do some research ahead of time to make sure you’re not accidentally wearing something offensive.

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No need to match the bridal party. 

Don’t get mistaken for a bridesmaid. Do not stress yourself out trying to wear the bride’s colours. Just dress appropriately to what suits you and what the attire says on the invitation. 

I hope these guidelines help. If you have anything to add, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below. For more socializing post, click here. Sign up to my newsletter for etiquette techniques here, and visit dixonetiquette.com for etiquette classes with me.