What Not to Wear to a Wedding

Avoid these ensembles when attending nuptials as a guest.

While attending a wedding is primarily about celebrating the couple of honor’s love for one another, it also serves as a social occasion for guests. As such, wearing appropriate attire is definitely a matter of importance. Though the dress code – often listed on the invitation or wedding website – helps to indicate what to wear, there are those who can use a bit of extra guidance.

what wedding guests should not wear, entryway into seated wedding reception dinner what not to wear at a wedding
Photo by Maya Myers Photography

Below are examples of what one should avoid wearing when attending the celebration of someone’s nuptials. Disclaimer: Of course these rules do not apply if the couple getting married has specifically requested said attire, particularly at more laid-back beach weddings.

- A white or similarly colored dress. Brides often wear gowns in shades of ivory or cream now; so don’t think any frock that isn’t stark white is safe. Sure, the bride may have said it’s fine, but it’s just one day. Do you really not have anything else to wear? On a similar note, men should avoid tuxedos if the attire is less formal than black tie, in order to avoid upstaging the groom. 

- Lounge or active wear. It may be acceptable to wear yoga pants outside of the studio now, but that doesn’t mean it’s wedding appropriate. 

- Shorts or short sleeves for men. We know summer celebrations can get hot, but a short-sleeve dress shirt will make you look like you’re at your 8th grade graduation, not your fraternity brother’s wedding. Choose a lightweight fabric and you can roll up your sleeves when it’s time to hit the dance floor. It is very tough for shorts to look sophisticated – save them for brunch the following morning. 

- Flip-flops. If you don’t want to wear heels, that’s fine. Don a nice pair of sandals or flats instead.

- Skimpy clothing. You certainly don’t have to be overly modest, but it’s best to balance revealing aspects with coverage. For example, a short dress with a high neckline is okay, but a short dress with a plunging neckline is a bit much. 

- Jeans. Unless specifically requested, khakis or linen pants are more appropriate attire for a casual wedding. 

Get the answers to your dress code questions answered here, and gather ideas for dresses to wear to cool-weather celebrations and warm-weather fêtes.

Authored by: Emily Lasnier