A guide to wedding etiquette: women's clothing

Tips and advice on the proper wedding attire for women.

While there are as many types of weddings as there are couples, traditional etiquette is still used to guide the behavior of brides, grooms, their families and wedding guests. There are some general rules to follow regardless of the time of day the wedding is held or the dress code that is specified on the invitation. Other rules are more specific to certain types of wedding occasions. The following guidelines will help female wedding guests make sure their attire is always appropriate.

The first rule of dressing for a wedding is to look nice. Dressing in something attractive, clean and well-maintained is mandatory. Dressing up is a way of honoring the special day. Looking sloppy or wearing something dirty or torn is disrespectful to the happy couple and their families and should be avoided at all cost.

Traditionally, it is considered inappropriate for anyone except the bride to wear white on the wedding day.This is a way of setting her apart as well as making her stand out in photographs. This does not mean that you cannot wear anything white; rather, it should just not be solid white. So, a print dress with a floral on a white background is fine, as is a dress with a white collar and trim. While some people consider this rule old-fashioned, remember that if the wedding is very formal or traditional it is probably best to avoid wearing all white. A white suit is acceptable if it is worn with a bright blouse and accessories.


Another color that many people avoid at weddings is black. Since black is commonly associated with mourning, many people considered it inappropriate for wedding days. This rule is still followed for most daytime weddings, but evening events can be more flexible. For evenings, try to avoid solid black and ensure it is not a somber looking outfit. For example, a black skirt with a silky pastel top would be not only acceptable but stylish. It is also perfectly fine to wear a black and white print or black accessories. Just remember that your outfit should help you look ready to celebrate.

While most women wear skirts or dresses to weddings, pantsuits are perfectly acceptable for most weddings. If the wedding invitation does not specify a dress code and it is held in the morning or afternoon, it is almost always okay to wear a pantsuit as long as it does not look too business-like. A pantsuit worn to a wedding should have some detailing or stylistic flair to make it more interesting than the typical Monday morning attire.

For an evening wedding with no dress code specified, wear the same type of outfit you would wear to a nice dinner or evening party. A semi-formal or formal dress is fine; anything with pants should be of a formal cut and fabric. For example, a flowing pantsuit in velvet or satin is probably fine, while a business-like navy wool gabardine would not be. The length of a dress for an evening wedding can range from above the knee to floor length.

If an invitation specifies black tie, a cocktail gown is appropriate; it may be any length from above the knee to floor length.

While they are never mandatory, in some areas women commonly wear hats at weddings. Hats add a special something to an outfit, making it a little more finished and formal. Traditionally, wedding guests in Great Britain wear hats to mark the day.

Of course if the wedding specifies a casual, specialty or outdoor event, you will want to adjust your dress accordingly.

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