Ask Belle: Wedding Edition

Apr 23, 2012

I promised a post on wedding attire, so here it is. There is always more to say on the subject, so if you have questions leave them in the comments.

As Driven Snow. You cannot wear white to someone else’s wedding.  I don’t care if it is her/his first wedding or if the person has been married more times than Elizabeth Taylor.  The simple answer is no white, no colors in the white family, no white prints, no white blazers…NO WHITE, EVER.  

The only exception to this rule is if the bride specifically asks you to wear white.  The bride gets what the bride wants.

Invitations Mean Something. If you’re planning to get married in the near future, please don’t make the dress code for your Big Day any more challenging than it needs to be.  Don’t ask me to decipher California Cocktail or Chic Semi-Formal.  There are only five categories of wedding attire: White Tie, Black Tie, Black Tie Optional/Cocktail, Semi-Formal and Casual.  The only exception to these categories is the Theme Wedding–beach, cowboy, all black, etc.  Do your guests a favor and make it simple.  

That being said, if the invite says Black Tie, men need to wear a tux and women need to wear a gown or a nice cocktail dress.  If the invite says all black, it’s all black, no exceptions.  If the invitation says casual, don’t show up in shiny satin or sky high stilettos.  The bride has made a request, and that request should be honored.  If you need further guidance on what to wear based on a invitation, try The’s handy guide.  

Dress to Impress.  Because I adore you, and because I know that sometimes visual aids are more helpful than a description, I created a few wedding looks in Polyvore for those of you who need additional guidance.

From the Left, Black Tie: Earrings ($40), Clutch ($63), Sandal ($125), Dress ($390).  Cocktail: Brooch ($155), Clutch ($27), Shoe ($325), Dress ($120).  Semi-Formal: Earrings ($48), Clutch ($170), Shoe ($50), Dress ($198).  Casual: Necklace ($118), Clutch ($98), Sandal ($198), Top ($180), Skirt ($330).

Polyvore Set Here.

Shoes.  If you are going to an outdoor wedding where you will be standing on grass at any point, you need wedges or flats.  I attended a wedding last year at country club and nearly laughed myself into a stupor as I watched dozens of women aerate the lawn with their stilettos.  Don’t ruin your shoes, don’t ruin the landscaping, plan accordingly.  

Also, at every wedding I have ever attended I see the same thing, 10:30PM rolls around and half the women are on the dance floor barefoot.  Ick.  Ouch.  And ick, again.  

If you need comfortable shoes, I own the B.P. Empire sandal in three colors (Nordstrom, $70).  They may not be the most gorgeous shoe on the planet, but they are wedding appropriate and unbelievably comfortable. I have worn them to weddings, cocktail parties and an Inaugural Ball and never had so much as a sore toe.

Should you decide that you still want to chance it with cute but uncomfortable footwear, invest in an emergency pair of Footzyrolls.  I do not condone the wearing of plastic, $12 flip-flops with wedding attire.  Flip-flops are for the pool and the beach and nowhere else.  If I have to wear big girl shoes, so do you. (Just ask Hillz.)

Hair and Makeup.  If you can’t spend a fortune on the dress and the shoes, you can compensate with phenomenal hair and makeup.  Several summers ago, I was a broke intern with a half-dozen weddings to attend.  I rotated two dresses (one navy, one pink) and just changed the accessories and the hair.  

So spend a little time on YouTube seeking out hot new makeup and hair styles.  You can look gorgeous without spending any extra money.  

One Final Thought. Whatever you decide to wear, there is one tip for wedding attire (and behavior) that is universal: Try not to be a distraction.  The bright red or neon yellow dress might not be the best idea.  You might rethink the skin tight bandage dress.  Maybe the feathered fascinator or six inch long chandelier earrings should be saved for another day.  Or you might decide not to overdo the smoky eye and teased hair.  

The best style of dress at a wedding is chic, feminine and undramatic (not sure that’s a word, but let’s go with it).  You don’t want to be the woman in the pictures who sticks out for the wrong reasons.  

Ask The Edit, Style

share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. CW says:

    I'm from as south as you get, outside of Florida, which isn't really the south now is it 😉 and I have NEVER heard that black is no-no for a wedding. Maybe it's the fact that weddings tend to be on the dressy side where I am from, and thus ALL the guys are in black tuxes…but it just does not seem weird at all to me for women to wear black dresses. Now granted…there is a huge difference between a black bandage dress and a cute and conservative a-line number…think Kate Spade. But seriously, no black? Please…

  2. Meg says:

    Excellent timing! I have a wedding to attend in two weeks and was going to go dress shopping after work today – thanks!

  3. A says:


    What are your feelings on Jack Rogers for a casual wedding? Just curious as to whether or not you find them appropriate.

  4. MaryCate says:

    I have a cocktail/semi-formal wedding to attend in July, but it's at 3:00pm…. if it were after 5:00pm I would know what to do, but I'm at a bit of a loss given the time. Does anyone have any suggestions? (it's a full mass, reception in family back yard)

  5. Shannon says:

    What's the consensus on red for a wedding? I've heard it's inappropriate, but I have a black tie optional wedding next month and the closest thing I have to an appropriate dress is a red strapless a-line cocktail dress.

  6. Kristen says:

    I have a larger clutch that I tend to bring to weddings for the sole purpose of fitting in a pair of flat sandals (not flip flops!) so that when i want to dance I can swap into them. I tend to make sure they are the flat counterpart to whatever I was wearing the rest of the day (black or metallic)… and if I am in the wedding I check with the bride to make sure she's okay with this. Nothing is worse than being covered in blisters or stuck walking barefoot through stick, spilled drinks.

  7. Wendy says:

    I'm not sure about red, it's not a flattering color on me so I don't have a strong opinion on it other than I avoid it, but do you have a nice silk pashmina in a more neutral color you could use to tone it down? Also, I'm recently engaged and I wanted to know if it's okay to ask that no women wear black – I want a colorful affair… thoughts?

  8. Shannon says:

    Wendy – red is my most flattering color. This is the dress, actually:

    With regard to colors, I think a bride can dictate a dress code, and tell the wedding party what to wear (within reason) and request no white. Beyond that, I think picking a color scheme for guests is iffy. For a lot of women, their most versatile, event-appropriate, flattering dress is going to be an LBD or dressy black suit. It's super annoying to have to run out and get a new outfit for a wedding, particularly if you are on a budget or it's hard to find nice, flattering clothes in your size. And honestly, loved ones are not part of the decor. They should wear what makes them happy.

    I would maybe spread the word among friends and family that you are hoping for colorful clothes, but definitely don't judge anyone or give them the stinkeye if they wear black.

  9. k-t says:

    FYI to readers: champagne and ivory are in the white family. Do not wear them to a wedding, the rehearsal dinner or any other wedding events.

    I would add that although a black dress is considered OK in the northeast, but really only as far south as DC. And not in the midwest, either. In more conservative circles, black is funerals, not for weddings. So unless you want to look like you are mourning the match, don't wear a solid black dress.

  10. BN says:

    My mother in law wore a color block dress with white on top and black on bottom to my wedding. I'm still not over it. DO NOT WEAR WHITE or ANY derivative thereof. It's rude and disrespectful.

  11. Belle says:

    MaryCate: A 3:00PM wedding semiformal, in my mind, means a nice dress in a lighter color. Since it's a full mass, you'll want a sleeve or a cardigan. And since it's a backyard reception, you'll want wedges.

    Re: Red: I think fire engine red might not be the best idea, but I have worn burgundy or a deeper ruby. It all depends on the time of year, IMO. Red is better in winter than summer. And as long as the bridesmaids dresses aren't red, you're fine.

    Wendy: It's totally fine to say, please no black. Just say something like, “The bride and groom would like to make their wedding a joyous and colorful celebration, they respectfully request that guests not wear black.” You'll end up with an outlier or two regardless, but don't be too upset with them, there's one in every family/friend group.

    k-t: 100%. I went to a wedding where women were wearing champagne dresses and pale platinum dresses, and since it was a formal wedding, they were gowns. It looked like we had 10 brides. Nothing in the white family, please.

  12. Liz says:

    Well this is disappointing, I just bought a peachy/cream colored knee-length shift dress (jcrew), which I was hoping would work for summer weddings. I was going to wear it with a bright coral bib necklace and fun bangles to ensure that it didn't look anything like a white dress…is this really a no-go under all circumstances?

  13. Belle says:

    Liz: The problem is photos. The flash will wash out the peachy hues and make it look ivory. Happens every time. Unless you're willing to wear a brightly colored cardigan and keep it on all night, then I'd shy away.

  14. Liz says:

    I didn't think about the photo problem, that's a good point. I may consider the cardigan option if it's cool…I'll need one anyway for mass. I just pulled it up on the website and the color is “apricot mist”…whatever that means.

  15. VA says:

    Hmm, I think it comes across as somewhat rude when the bride tries to micromanage what colors the guests are allowed to wear. It implies (even if it's not your intention) that you just see them as backdrops to your wedding photos.

  16. Lesley says:

    I was at a wedding last summer where a guest wore a ivory-ish colored Herve Legar (spelling?) body con dress… she is still being trash talked by other guests and the wedding party nearly a year later for it!

  17. Lesley says:

    oh, and I've been to a funeral where they asked not to wear black because they wanted to celebrate the life of the person and all were asked to where something with green in it (the deceased's favorite color), but I haven't heard the same being asked at a wedding.

  18. Wendy says:

    It's not that I want to micromanage colors – I'm not asking for any specific color. We're planning a spring wedding in a coastal town and it's going to be beachy casual hence why I just really don't want people to wear black. I want to look around and see happy bright colors on our happy day

  19. v says:

    Re requesting specific colors for your guests' attire: I think that many men, especially younger guys without a huge wardrobe and men that don't wear suits to work or church on a regular basis, have only a black interview suit. Do you really want to ask them all to buy a new, light colored suit for your wedding? Keep in mind that, beyond have a budget that they have to work within generally, people generally have a budget for what they are willing to spend on a wedding (gifts, travel, lodging, etc.); if you cause them to spend more in category, it will come out of another (ie.e. the gift) or may tip the scale such that they don't attend at all. What is more important, that everyone at the wedding is in the right color, or that everyone you want to be at the wedding is there? I'm all for letting people know that I'd love it if they wore colors instead of black, but I'd want to be careful to make sure it doesn't come across as a demand or even a strong request.

    • BritGal says:

      Who wears a black suit to job interviews!? A black suit is only appropriate for two purposes: funerals and cocktail receptions!

      • Belle says:

        In America, we wear them everywhere. That rule has pretty much died. It’s still a little iffy for men, but women it’s totally fine. One of those cultural differences.

  20. Helena says:

    If people are still talking about a dress a guest wore to a wedding a year before, they need better things to do with their life

  21. Wendy says:

    v: with our casual beachy theme we were assuming men would wear khakis so I wasn't thinking men would need to invest in a new/different color suit… I was just trying to come up with a polite way to let the women know I would prefer a sundress and not a black dress. I assume most women own a dress other than a black one.

  22. Ellie says:

    LIz– googling that dress, if anyone wore that to my wedding I'd be a little upset, and I'm not a micro-managing bride. That's really just off-white with a pink tint instead of a cream tint.

    Wendy– I think that's a bit much for a bride to ask, but whatever floats your boat. Sure it's your day, but the comfort of your guests should be really high on your list of priorities too.

  23. Abby says:

    I'm having trouble distinguishing the difference between the black tie and cocktail looks. Is it the legth of dress? The accessories? I thought shorter dresses were ok for black tie so long as the fabric/cut/style were appropriate, but I'm not 100% sure of that. I'm interested in your thought process on those two looks.

  24. Another thing to consider is whether certain colors are culturally unacceptable to the couple.

  25. EBC says:

    Wendy, making a specific request for no black is high-maintenance, and will not be well-received. The most generous reaction you could hope for is, “It's the bride, it's her day,” acommpanied by a smile and raised eyebrows. No need to risk annoyance when you can get the same result by telling people that the dress is beachy sundresses — a black dress would not fit in that category anyway, but you would not be seen as micro-managing.

  26. v says:

    Wendy: I 100% agree that most women will have non-black options for a beach wedding. I'd put the word of mouth network to work on that. Again, I think how it comes across makes all the difference; gentle suggestions a great but a demand (or a request that is misinterpreted as a demand) can get you labeled a bridezilla. Given that you want to have a casual, beachy, colorful wedding, I'm guessing you are in no way a bridezilla and would be bummed to get that moniker.

  27. e-liz says:

    wendy – i'm engaged also, and i'd sooner die than tell my guests what they can and cannot wear to an event i'm asking them to pay to attend (they'll likely have to travel to get there, pay for accommodations, find an outfit, possibly request off work and purchase a gift)

    just a few more thoughts: a wedding guest in black should not even come close to being a day ruiner for you. i'm just a big believer that the day is as much about the couple as it is about all of the people who went out of their way to celebrate for you. weddings happen every day. it should be an honor that they chose yours to attend.

  28. Belle says:

    Every bride tells their guests what to wear in one form or another. They also tell them what gifts to buy. Asking people to please not wear black to a beach wedding is not so extreme, esp. since black is not consider appropriate attire for an outdoor wedding anyway.

    If it's not for you to be so specific, fine. But it is her wedding and she does get to decide the guidelines for the dress code, and no black is certainly no more odd than saying please wear black, which is becoming much more common. Unless she's saying you MUST wear this one $350 dollar dress and only this dress, it's not such a weird request.

  29. Anna says:

    In May I'm attending an afternoon wedding (in a relatively conservative church) with an evening reception at a different venue. If they were totally separate events, I wouldn't wear the feminine floral dress and cardigan I planned for ceremony to the reception, but it seems ridiculous to change in between, especially since both are about an hour's drive from my apartment. Do I dress for the afternoon ceremony or the evening reception?

  30. e-liz says:

    nope. it's weird and borders on rude. agree to disagree on this one. but most brides have a larger sense of entitlement than they should have already so…not totally surprising. but if she's already questioning whether it's OK to ask people to do that, probably means you shouldn't do it. go with your gut, wendy! do what you like!

  31. Belle says:

    e-liz: Asking people to not turn your ceremony into a funeral is just not weird in my opinion. Like a previous commenter said, in many places, wearing black is considered completely out of bounds anyway. Esp. at an outdoor, beach wedding. Even The Knot says no black.

    If it were a 6PM wedding in December in a church, I would be more prone to say it wasn't allowed. But I see this as just a clarification of Beach attire.

  32. Belle says:

    Anna: It's weird to change, I think. Most people won't. What time is the wedding? If it's 3pm or later, I'd dress for the reception and bridge the gap by choosing a cocktail dress in a more daytime color and avoiding shiny fabrics. You could pair it with a cardigan to bring it down, and then add different jewelry to lift it up.

  33. M says:

    It's a beach wedding, requesting that someone not where black isn't weird, it's completely reasonable. Not wearing black to the beach is lower maintenance than most dress codes.

    But I do think word of mouth and “beach casual” should be enough to discourage guests from wearing black.

  34. VA says:

    I think it's one thing to put on the invitation, “As our wedding is on the beach, feel free to dress for the location and the weather – khakis and sundresses welcome!” and another thing entirely to say, “The bride requests no black outfits, please.” Because one is a helpful suggestion for the comfort of your guests and the other is a command with a “please” next to it.

    Having an engagement ring on your finger is not a license to be rude.

  35. SarahT says:

    Anna: I agree with Belle, but it also depends on the length of time between the ceremony and the reception and if guests are staying in a hotel/resort/etc or not. I've been to a number of weddings where there was a 2-3+ hour lag-time and guests went back to the hotel/resort, enjoyed some down-time/pool-time and then everyone went back to the reception in more formal attire. Also worth considering – while I'm not suggesting sequins and glitter, you don't want to be the one in the cotton day dress at the reception while everyone else has dressed for evening.

  36. Sam says:

    Alas! In terms of nice-enough-for-a-wedding dresses, I have three – one black, one red, one white. All “no-nos”.

    I've been hunting for an alternative FOR YEARS. To no avail. So I've worn the red or the black to weddings, depending on which I think will be least offensive for each occasion.

    (I have odd proportions, am on a strict budget, and strongly dislike showing my knees. This is what's made it difficult.)

    • BritGal says:

      One word: eBay!!! Know your body shape, your measurements, and what looks good on you, and I will bet you the family estate that you can find what’s eluded you for so long.

  37. Kathryn says:

    I have a wedding in two weeks where the bride has told us that her mother is superstitious and thinks it's bad luck to wear black. I don't think anyone would dream of going against their wishes and while it's not what I believe, I don't think it's weird. I have no problem being asked not to wear black.

  38. H says:

    I've been somewhat confused by the proliferation of the “Festive Attire” description. My understanding is that this is somewhere in between semi-formal and cocktail, encouraging (but not mandating, necessarily) fun colors or prints. Does that sound right? Or is it more in between casual and semi-formal? I have a friend's “Festive Attire” engagement party coming up.

    Also, Belle, what would you suggest for men's attire to correspond to cocktail, “festive,” semi-formal, and casual? Black tie is obvious, but I've seen the lines blurred on the others. Thanks!

  39. Belle says:

    H: See, this is what I am talking about. Some wedding planner created this category which has no specific guidelines and we're all supposed to just read between the lines. It's BS.

    I would say Festive Attire is Semi-Formal but no black.

    For a man, I would say a light colored suit with or without a tie.

  40. Monica says:

    Belle, I have a cousins wedding at Fisherman's Wharf/Fort Mason in San Francisco this June. I'm thinking this would be a nice dress but wondering how you would accessorize:

    Would you do a cardigan or a wrap? Flats or wedges?

    I'm hopeless when it comes to special occasion dress, and really don't want to cop-out like I usually do. Great post!

  41. E says:

    Wendy- what about “Attire: Beachy Chic- the brighter the better!” or something that nudges people in the right direction without explicitly asking for no black.

  42. Belle says:

    Monica: I'm assuming this is a casual wedding? Because a linen maxi is pretty cas. I'd add a coral cardigan and gold and coral jewels. You could also do green or aqua. I'd do a metallic sandal.

  43. Monica says:

    My family is about as casual as you get, maybe that's why I'm SO hopeless, and reading your blog to get better!

    Thanks for the tips!

  44. Sycamore says:

    Monica: June in San Francisco? You'll need to accessorize that dress with leggings, warm boots, and a parka. Seriously–it's cold in San Francisco in June, especially on the waterfront (think heavy fog, biting winds, temps in the 50s and 60s). We can always spot the tourists by their goosebumps.

  45. Monica says:

    Sycamore – I know it, I was there once in June as a kid and it was colder than it almost ever is here in Southern California! I also forgot to mention I'm taking the awesome public transport system to get to the ceremony site from Union Square area…haha, I just don't know how I can make the recommended outfit look wedding chic!

    I need some kind of insulated jumpsuit I can just pop out of once I get inside! ;c)

  46. Wendy says:

    I appreciate everyone's commentary, and given some of the backlash, I think I may have to tweak my phrasing on how to politely request the attire I'm seeking, but I am not going to change my mind about preferring people not wear black.

  47. VA says:

    Wendy, I really don't think anyone is trying to slam you for preferring that people not wear black, but insisting is where things get iffy. Like, I prefer that men not wear ugly clunky man-sandals, but it would be pretty witchy to put “No man sandals allowed!” on my wedding invitations. Sometimes even brides have to put up with our guests' questionable fashion choices 🙂

  48. Belle says:

    VA makes a good point. I think verbiage is critical here.

  49. Catherine says:


  50. Belle says:

    Catherine: And who should we listen to instead? The millions of women who have disparate opinions on what is right and wrong? Or The Knot, which is basically parroting Emily Post? You have reference sources for a reason, so you can reference them when you are wondering if black is appropriate for a beach wedding.

  51. Monica says:

    Follow up Question: could you mix aqua, coral AND purple, in different color saturation or is that just too much?

  52. MA says:

    I love E's suggestion for wording! Makes me wish that I were going to this fun, bright, beachy wedding. Well-done!

  53. Rie says:

    Wendy: I'd appreciate an invite that said “No black please” rather than trying to decipher what you really meant by Beachy Chic.

    I think it's important to remember that everyone ALWAYS has an opinion about weddings. People will say you are controlling if you put “no black”, say you are too vague by putting “beachy brights” and even get annoyed when you don't put a preference. At my wedding, I had a few complaints that I didn't dictate dress code – and I really didn't care what people wore.

    You get one (first) wedding. Do what makes you happy, within reason, and enjoy it. If you are really concerned about how the way you phrase the dress code will be interpreted, poll some family and friends for their opinion. They know you and your crowd best.

  54. Sycamore says:

    Monica: If you want to be safe and not draw a lot of attention to yourself, tone it down. San Francisco is more like New York than Southern California–we don't do a lot of color, tropical prints, white shoes, etc.

    And really, rethink that dress. I'm shivering just looking at it! Bare arms + San Francisco weather = unhappy guest. If it's your only option, wear layers underneath and on top.

  55. Monica says:

    Sycamore – That's actually reassuring to me, I am a color-phobe at heart (although I do like purple), but thought I'd try to get out of that rut. Maybe if I polish up my boots they will be wedding appropriate, the wedding is at a fort after all. 🙂

    San Francisco may be extending the season for my favorite sweater dress!

    (please ignore this fashion regression Belle, I really love your ideas too!)

  56. AW says:

    If what your guests wear to your wedding has the potential to ruin your wedding day, perhaps you need to consider whether you should be getting married in the first place. Aren't weddings supposed to be about celebrating two people making a commitment to each other, not about what everyone is wearing? Weddings have become so absurd and have lost sight of what they're supposed to be.

  57. Grace says:

    My sister in law is getting married on the beach in Maui in a few weeks. The wedding is at 4:30pm. I chose a black lace dress, knee length. It is an a-line. Now I am not sure its appropriate! However the bridesmaids dresses are navy, so I figured black would be ok. I also figure we'll only be on the beach for a couple of hours and then head in doors for the reception. I am very confused. I tried on some long, floral dresses, and I just didn't like them. I also think I would get more use of out the black dress. I am planning to wear it with flat sandals on the beach and change to wedges for the reception. I just don't want to look out of place, but since the bridesmaids dresses are dark, my black dress should be ok, right? HELP!

  58. Very true, try to avoid anything that'll take the attention off the bride. But it doesn't mean to say you can't look stylish!

  59. Belle says:

    Grace: Lace lightens it up some. Black isn't ideal, but if the bridesmaids dresses are dark you should be fine. Just pick up some lighter accessories with color to be on the safe side.

  60. L says:

    Just a comment on red: In traditional Chinese and Indian weddings, I'd recommend staying away from red as a guest, as usually the bride will wear red.

  61. eg says:

    Hey Belle, would you expounding a little on the difference between cocktail and semi-formal attire for women? Is there a general distinction between the two? I think I've generally thought of them as the same. Thanks for the post…so wonderful!

  62. BBB says:

    Wendy – I'm getting married on the beach in South Florida in late September this year. While our invite suite will say “beach chic,” I understand that it can be vague. Even thought I think they can be a bit tacky, I did in fact create a wedding website – and I've actually heard from guests how helpful & informative it is. I expanded on the dress code in the “What to Pack” section of our site. I said something like “Attire is Beach Chic. Ladies, think bright summer sundresses. Men, think light suits or khakis and linen shirts.” I felt like this helped give them an idea of what I was thinking, while not dictating. It may not be a perfect solution, but is this something you could do?

    Also, I see nothing wrong with black for a wedding, really. My wedding planner and her team told me that they will be dressed in all black. I guess it's a bit different, as they're part of the “crew” and not guests – but it really doesn't bother me.

  63. BB says:

    Wendy–I got married on a beach in Florida in September, sunset ceremony. I think I may have said “beach chic” on my wedding website, definitely no indication of attire on the invitation. My guests came from all around the country–the wild west, the upper midwest, the south, and the DC area. No one showed up in black. It might just work itself out on its own.

    And PSA: if you have a friend named Wendy who is getting married in a beachy coastal town DO NOT wear black to her wedding. 🙂

  64. meg says:

    A few things I still remember from my wedding 5 years ago:
    *a girl in a gold lame' metallic strapless dress – it barely covered her bottom also
    *a girl in a hot pink chiffon dress that had spaghetti straps and barely covered her bottom. she also had on black platform stilettos
    *a “girl” in a sleeveless shirt, jeans/pants, and tennis shoes – tattoos down both arms
    *my mother wore an all off white dress
    *half my bridesmaids barefoot on the dance floor after i told them NO bare feet and no flip flops
    *so many women in cotton skirts and versions of tshirts and tanks

    Let me point out that my invitations were specific to cocktail attire. It was a 7pm wedding held in a chapel with a reception in a ballroom. I'm still disappointed when I go back and look at the pictures. People seem to have no consideration for what is appropriate wedding attire anymore.

  65. Maharani says:

    Thank you AW. I NEVER attend weddings, western, Indian or anything else, because the level of micromanaging, absurdity, and sheer silliness, to say nothing of wasted money, has got so out of hand. I have many better things to do with my life than attend these silly and for the most part dull events. The last one I attended was Indian, but typically micromanaged in a Martha Stewart kind of way. I was told off afterwards for congratulating the bride on her “costume”. Well, dears, bridal wear IS costume. I am Indian too and the person who told me off is not. This is the kind of thing these events foster and I'm done with them.

  66. Belle says:

    eg: In my mind, cocktail is a short dress made of evening fabric (silk, satin, etc.). It should be worn with slightly bigger jewels and evening shoes. Semi-Formal is a dress made of a less shiny fabric worn with less formal jewels and less formal shoes.

  67. MominHeels says:

    Married 12 years. Cocktail attire wedding in Newport, Rhode Island. By the book wedding with wedding planner. I have no idea who wore what. I saw the love of my life. I saw my family and friends. And when I look at the pictures today, I get to see and feel all of that joy and love all over again.

    I really am thunderstruck by this conversation — specifically asking people to wear or not wear something. It may be your special day but I just cannot fathom looking back on pix of the amazing support network you and your spouse had gathered around you and being focused on the fact that someone wore something you did not like.

    Just wow.

  68. Lane says:

    Another tidbit of bridal etiquette, or at least one that I have been told by the bride in the last two weddings I have been a bridesmaid in, don't post pictures of the wedding before the bride or groom does. Obviously this depends on the particular couple, they may want you to put them on Facebook and tag them immediately, but this is their special day and they may want a say in what is splattered all over the internet of them.

  69. Cara says:

    A couple of summers ago, I was one of those unfortunate women at a wedding wearing heels to both the outdoor rehearsal dinner and the outdoor wedding reception. Two pairs of party shoes ruined. My husband was even in the wedding party yet no one warned us that the events would be outside. Please, brides, have mercy and get the word out about that sort of thing! The bridesmaids all wore heels. I guess they tiptoed down the aisle?

  70. Belle says:

    Lane: Def. depends on the couple, but I agree. And I doubly agree if it is a baby. A few months back a friend from home had a baby boy, her brother in law and sister in law posted photos of the baby on Facebook before she'd even had a chance to hold her son (there were complications). It was so tacky. She's in recovery and her relatives are posting photos of her new son to the Internet.

  71. Lane says:

    Cara – I don't know if these would have saved your shoes, but they were “gifts” to all the bridesmaids at the last wedding I was in (indoor service outdoor reception)

  72. meg says:

    Let me clarify about my post. It was not about what I did or didn't like. The original post is about what is appropriate for the various types of weddings. The examples I posted are of extreme disregard for social standards and etiquette. I believe it is very disrespectul to ignore such standards. The brides spend a lot of time and money to host this event and some sort of respect should be shown. Of course I remember two women dressed and dancing like strippers at my wedding. Not only were they dressed inappropriately, they acted inappropriately. As far as bridesmaids being barefoot – yes that is tacky as well. Who walks around barefoot on a ballroom dance floor??

  73. jmg says:

    would this be considered a “fancy frock”?

    attending a wedding in mid-may and am having a little difficulty deciphering the dress code…thanks!

  74. Erin says:

    I was going to wear this:, to a May wedding at the Ritz in Chicago. Not appropriate? How about a black/white/purple color block dress in satin? Now I have no idea what to wear!

  75. Erin says:

    (that was the Jcrew Petra dress in wicket red).

  76. Sarah says:

    Wow–people definitely get riled up about this stuff! I was just at a wedding at the Ritz in NYC this past weekend and saw one woman in a (gorgeous) off-white/silvery satin gown. She looked AMAZING…but was not the bride. I thought it was pretty weird/rude of her. Other than that I rarely notice or care about guests looks. When I got married this past fall, I wanted to put 'Black Tie Optional' on the invitation, but our invitation woman advised against it. She said the the look of the invitation is supposed to indicate the level of formality of dress. But we did put a section on our web site called “Attire” and gave some information there. To be honest, I was so swept up in the fun and love in the room that night, that i barely noticed what everyone was wearing! I wanted my pictures to show how fun the event was, and they did. So really, try not to stress out too much about this (brides AND guests) and confer with a few people you know going to the event, and then relax!

  77. Lexi says:

    Thanks for this post! I received an invitation last week to a 7pm black tie wedding at the Georgetown Westin this July, and I really don't know what to wear. I assume a long gown, but perhaps cocktail would be okay. I don't know anyone other than the bride and her family, so I can't really ask, and I don't want to bother the bride with such a thing!

    Also, totally agree about not posting pictures on facebook before the newlyweds/new parents do….

  78. Hattie says:

    Yikes. Guidelines for appropriate wedding dress are a good thing. Guests who try to dress appropriately are a good thing. Brides who are still lamenting what guests wore to their wedding 5 years ago, or who think a few guests in black will turn a beach wedding into a funeral, have their priorities seriously out of whack.

    I understand that most of this is directed at people in a certain socio-economic class, but really, there are a lot of people who don't often go to formal events, and who have a difficult time dressing up because of budgetary, health, shopping-aversion, or body image issues. It is probably a good idea not to invite someone to your wedding if you will be more upset about them dressing inappropriately than happy about them being there.

  79. Victoria says:

    Wendy & everyone: Please, please don't direct what people should wear to your wedding. I promise you that if I received any suggestion of what to wear (other than level of formality, which is something society has settled on expecting/tolerating) it would rub me so far the wrong way. Why on earth should the bride have any influence over what her guests wear? I agree that a colorful wedding sounds lovely, but if your guests prefer black (or gray, or hunter green, or whatever) that's their prerogative.

  80. Marta says:

    I'm just getting back from my honeymoon, so I'm just reading these comments. I read a lot on etiquette before my wedding, including Peggy Post's columns in the NYT. Recently, she responded to a question and said that wearing white to a wedding is actually ok nowaways – as long as your dress doesn't imply “Bride.”

    Now I'm of the mindset any shade of white implies bride so I don't really think it's ok. My guiding rule is if I even have to question what the bride would think, I wouldn't consider wearing it. I had a guest wear a short, ivory LACE v-neck dress to my wedding. Before the wedding, I'd joked with my mom and planner that they should bounce anyone in white, but day of, why would I let it affect me – she wasn't intentionally showing me up. For all I know, she just reads Peggy Post! That said, after the fact, I do view it as semi-rude or ignorant.

    I think the worst thing I ever saw at a wedding was the bride's stepsister, who was a reader in a church wedding, in a short, tight, low-cut (with short sleeves) gold sequined dress. I thought it was inappropriate for the wedding in the first place, but also seemed deliberately attention-grabbing.

  81. Rebecca says:

    I currently live in the south, uprooted over a decade ago from Capitol Hill. I’ve been to a ton of weddings where women where black cocktails dresses and nobody seems to mind. As for the white… my brothers now x girlfriend wore white to mine and she was the talk of the day. I was floored and have still not forgotten. Women should no better by now. Smh.

Join The List

Stay up to date on the latest from Capitol Hill Style!


The Range: Spring Blouses for Work (or Zoom)

Since Sloane was born, I’ve fallen hard into a black, white, and blue wardrobe. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as spring blooms, I need a little color in my wardrobe (and probably a little print too). Here are a few tops that caught my eye for work.



Recent Posts

Too Many Tabs: April 19, 2024

This week, I fell mindlessly into my phone more than I think I ever have. My screen time went from 3.5 hours per day to 5 hours per day. But the increased eye strain did lead to some good finds. Just going to leave this right here.  (I really need to work on “Didn’t make […]



The Find: My Best Workout Shorts

For eight years, I have worn the same workout shorts. Every year, an influencer tries to sell me new shorts. I order them. I try them on. They pale in comparison to the shorts I already own. I return them.




Features, The Range, Top Posts | April 23, 2024

The Range: Spring Blouses for Work (or Zoom)

Since Sloane was born, I’ve fallen hard into a black, white, and blue wardrobe. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as spring blooms, I need a little color in my wardrobe (and probably a little print too). Here are a few tops that caught my eye for work.



Features, Posts, Too Many Tabs | April 19, 2024

Too Many Tabs: April 19, 2024

This week, I fell mindlessly into my phone more than I think I ever have. My screen time went from 3.5 hours per day to 5 hours per day. But the increased eye strain did lead to some good finds. Just going to leave this right here.  (I really need to work on “Didn’t make […]



Fantastic Finds, Posts, Style | April 19, 2024

The Find: My Best Workout Shorts

For eight years, I have worn the same workout shorts. Every year, an influencer tries to sell me new shorts. I order them. I try them on. They pale in comparison to the shorts I already own. I return them.



Posts, Style, Work | April 18, 2024

My Secret Fashion Weapons, Pt. I

Have a big day ahead? Major hearing? Big trial? The presentation of your life? Gonna be at a conference with that ex? Whatever it happens to be, these are the fashion weapons that get me to the confidence level that I need to be at.