20 Apr 2018

The ‘Wedding Guest’ Dress

The 'Wedding Guest' Dress on vickiarcher.com

What to wear to a wedding?

It is a minefield of decision-making.

It’s not our day, we are not the main attraction but still, a day of celebration requires some thought.  Circa now what we wear to a wedding means pretty much anything goes. Even in the case of black tie formal wear. Once upon a day, a black tie meant exactly that for the men and a long evening gown for the women, with no exceptions. Now a formal affair can see everything worn from shorts to cat-suits, from minis to long and uneven hemlines. Worn with flair, anything goes.

Remember when black was a no, no and white the major crime?

Now oftentimes the bridesmaids wear dark and there is absolutely no taboo about black outfits being worn. I’m old fashioned and would never wear white or cream as a guest unless requested – In Europe it doesn’t seem to be a problem and cream can be a firm favourite, especially for the mother of the bride.

The rules have moved on and now if you feel right, wear it. So much easier, or is it?

These last few weeks I have thought about the “what to wear” question when it comes to weddings as I have a couple to attend and both are formal affairs. I’m not interested in a dress to wear once and never again. I want to look my best but there are also practicalities involved. Unless you are the mother of the bride or groom, there are ways to get around, “what to wear”. We not only want to be our best selves but also we must consider this as an opportunity to enhance our wardrobes.

Tips and Tricks To Help You Choose

Be You.

Don’t dress how you think you should; dress in what you love and what suits you. Wearing the frou frou if that’s not you or the tailored if that’s your idea of waiter apparel will only make you squirm. A wedding is a major celebration and our attention wants to be focused on what’s around not discomfort within. Follow your own style and stay individual. No need to panic, remember these days pretty much anything goes.

The Power of an Accessory.

An accessory, a new pair of shoes or a change in jewels can take the simple into the dressier with very little effort. On an upcoming trip, I will be wearing the same dress to three totally different events and style them differently each time. The shoes will change and the earrings will be on and off just as the bracelets will be. The long dingle dangles and heels will dress me up – the flats and an armful will bring me back down to earth.

Be Comfortable.

Wedding celebrations are generally long affairs. There is nothing worse than feeling awkward through discomfort. Take the lower heels to change into when the toes start screaming; stash a shawl for later if it is an outdoor event. And watch those pinching earrings – I don’t know about you but once my earlobes start aching nothing helps. If they are a delicate balance and you must wear them try not to touch or move their position. The same goes for my hair, once it is up or tied back i can’t change it.

Dresses are my answer to the what-to-wear-as-a-wedding-guest question.


I can dress them up for the occasion and dress them down for every day. As much as I would love to go “gala” it is too impractical. I want to wear a dress, slightly longer than mid-calf, that has the party impression without the impossibility of formality.

Fullness can do this – a fitted bodice and fuller skirt – or a longer sheath dress with an embellished style. One that is simple in shape but intricate in detail. The best part of choosing a dress is once you find the right one it is an easy option. Less to think about; more time for other things.

That’s where I started. xv

The ‘Wedding Guest’ Dress

run don’t walk

topshop plissé midi  ||  topshop feather midi  ||  alfred sung cocktail dress  ||  js collections soutche lace

js collections soutche mesh  ||  tadashi shoji lace tea-length  ||  dodo bar or ruffle-trimmed lace

divine inspiration

lela rose bow waist  ||  oscar de la renta leaf print  ||  malene oddershede bach floral

roksanda sibella bow  ||  hillier bartley short-sleeve silk  ||  chufy embroidered kimono  ||  co bubble-sleeve

image, the style co australia

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In This Post:



Mimi Gregor

Very timely, Vicki. After not attending a single wedding for about 20 years, we are invited to two this year in the space of a month. We both have been wondering what we should wear, and have decided that it should be what we would wear to dinner out at a fine dining restaurant: something dressy, but not over-the-top, and comfortable, that expresses us. I, too, am not about to buy something I will wear too infrequently to pay for itself. For The Hubs, it will be his Italian wool suit. For me, my black sheath dress.

I remember many decades ago, buying a black gown to go to the wedding of my boyfriend’s brother. Unfortunately, boyfriend told the bride about my “amazing find’, and she had a cow that it was black. Boyfriend’s mom ended up paying for a “more suitable” gown for me just to keep the peace. It was peach (urgh!) because back then it was difficult to find a small size that wasn’t frilly, and wasn’t too expensive. If it were today, I would tell boyfriend to keep his lips zipped about what I’m wearing! It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.


I’m going to a wedding in California in July (so it will be hot!) and I do have a fabulous dress but it’s in black. I’ll take some of your tips here to maximize the style!

Janice Quinn

I attended a wedding wearing a Cream sheath dress that was totally embellished in jet beads in the front. An elderly lady sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and started to scold me about me being old enough to know better about wearing white to a wedding. I took great pleasure in pivoting around and saying “yes, I know.”. Her face was a delicious shade of scarlet!


Not knowing the rules in US but in middle Europe it is a no go to wear black or white


Great timing. I am going to a wedding in late May (Memorial Day weekend for Americans). My problem is that it is a destination wedding at a mountain resort – envision hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, strolls through the meadow. The invitation states ‘cocktail attire’ and the pictures online appear as though the wedding, dinner and dancing are in a barn. What type of dress to wear? Shoes will have to be chunk heel, flat or wedge otherwise I will be forever pulling my heel out of the dirt!


47 years ago a guest at my wedding wore a long white dress with a soft hood as was the fashion in 1971. I was so offended as was my mother. To this day I would not wear solid black or white to a wedding (black and white print is ok). My best wedding story is years ago I wore a lovely George Gross frock to a garden wedding only to find two other guests in the same frock I told the wearers that they had excellent taste!


Oh, Mimi … You got me at ‘ she had a cow ‘ I couldn’t stop grinning – a chuckle ~ if you will.


Have seen black at weddings too these days. But if you know it might be offensive or upsetting to some people, why do it? Weddings should be happy occasions so I would never wear a colour traditionally associated with mourning and grief. There are so many beautiful colours to choose from. The Queen only wears black when she’s in mourning. She always looks beautiful, whatever colour she wears, even at 90. We could learn a lot from her. Best wishes, Pamela

Michelle à Détroit

I’m going to wear a black “smoking” to the next formal wedding DH and I are invited to. After all, men can wear a black dinner jacket to a wedding, so why couldn’t I?


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