What to Wear to a Wedding

Winter brides traditionally choose velvet, satin, brocade, or other heavy formal fabric. Spring brides favor taffeta and lace, and summer suggests chiffon, organdy, or cotton.

Tradition dictates that the bride's wedding dress be white or off-white. The number of nontraditional brides is growing at the moment, however, and brides are opting more and more for colored dresses and prints. Basically, a bride should feel comfortable and at ease in whatever she wears, because she is the star of the show.

If the wedding is formal, the bride may wear a long veil reaching to her waist, or a short face veil. Many brides opt to disregard the veil entirely in favor of a hat or simple flowers in the hair. When a groom wears a dark suit for his wedding, the bride sometimes opts for wearing a long white dress without train and veil.

The Expectant Bride

The pregnant bride can get away with wearing a simple, loose-fitting, long white dress if she's up to four months pregnant. However, if her condition is obvious, a long wedding dress with a train will seem ludicrous to many. A better choice might be a dressy white maternity dress, either long or short.

Mind Your P's and Q's

One easy and risk-free fashion alternative for male members of an informal wedding is to wear navy blue blazers with gray trousers. Another attractive feature of this outfit is that it is already a part of many men's wardrobes.

The bride chooses her attendants' dresses. However, because each attendant pays for her own dress, the bride must take cost into consideration.

Traditionally, all bridesmaids wear identical dresses. The maid/matron of honor wears either the same dress as the bridesmaids or a dress that complements those dresses but made in a slightly different style and/or color. To succeed in keeping the wedding party color-coordinated, many people choose to have the shoes dyed to match the dresses.

A small wedding may have only one attendant. The bride and her attendant should agree on the style and fabric of the attendant's dress. Although the bride might make some initial suggestions and give final approval (without being autocratic), the attendant should be able to choose her own dress.

The Groom

For traditional, formal daytime weddings, the men in the wedding party wear cutaway jackets, gray waistcoats, and dark striped trousers. For a more informal wedding, men wear gray sack coats, gray waistcoats, and dark striped trousers. Evening weddings (after 6 P.M.) are the most formal occasions. Traditionally, men wear white ties and tails. However, grooms are becoming somewhat more flamboyant and creative in their attire and now often stand out from their attendants just as the bride does from hers.

The Mothers

The mothers of the bride and groom do not have to dress similarly, particularly if they do not have the same tastes. No law, for example, says that both have to wear short or long dresses. They should consult with one another and the bride to be sure they don't clash, but they each should be comfortable in what they wear. Of course, they should not outshine the bride.


The time of day dictates the sort of attire guests wear.

For formal daytime weddings, women guests wear cocktail dresses or long skirts and festive blouses or sweaters. Men wear suits for formal daytime weddings, as well as for evening weddings. If an evening wedding is very formal, men wear dinner jackets and women wear dressy cocktail suits or dresses or long dresses.

Black is a fine color to wear at a wedding, although with so many other color choices, it seems pointless to court criticism. It is also fine to wear white or off-white to a wedding if you are a guest. Pants of any color are inappropriate for female guests.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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