The Wedding Guru - What to wear to a wedding and what not to

First published: 26-06-2015

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Wedding season is at its peak and it's time to get your perfect outfit ready for the big day. Whether you're attending an informal, beachy affair, or a city-slicker black tie do, it's important to look the part and - most importantly - not upstage the bride and groom!

For both men and women, there are a number of things to consider, but we're on hand to help you get it exactly right. With so many different styles and options available, you needn't struggle to find the perfect wedding reception get-up.

Ladies: Dress to impress, but not upstage

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It seems obvious, but many a guest has fallen victim of dressing for a night out rather than a wedding. Tastefully done, a low-cut V-neck can look totally appropriate, but never when paired with a short skirt or really figure-hugging fit.

Of course, it all depends on the dress code. Certainly, more formal weddings will call for very extravagant outfits - a ball gown at a black tie event would not necessarily look out of place - but at a beach-style wedding, you may prefer something lightweight and flowy. Keep comfort in mind too! Wedding receptions can be quite long, so go for something you will feel comfortable in all day long.

This is the bride's big day, so all eyes ought to be on her. However, so long as you don't upstage her with something too revealing or eye-catching, you too can look and feel your best.

White ain't right

Yes, we know, Pippa Middleton looked great in her white bridesmaid dress at her sister Kate's 2011 wedding. However, unless specifically requested by the bride and groom, guests should not under any circumstances wear white.

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A significant number of brides have started to favour more unusual colours for their dresses, but while the traditional colour is still white, any guest wearing it will look like they are trying to upstage the bride.

Elements of white in your outfit are okay - a white pattern over a different base colour could look really classy - but steer clear of donning too much of it. From certain angles, it could appear that you are in fact just in white; this is a privilege reserved for the bride.

Accessorize to perfection

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Much like patterns and colours, it's fine to pick something bold when choosing accessories. The trick is to select one statement piece in your outfit and work around it, rather than cramming too much in.

When it comes to bags, a clutch may be preferable to a handbag, since these are smaller and easy to tuck under your arm when you're holding your bubbly and grabbing a canapé! If you would rather carry something with a strap, look out for something delicate and not too bulky, which will be perfect when you're busting a move on the dancefloor.

Hats are a big point of contention at weddings. The tradition used to be that all ladies should wear hats, which is why Samantha Cameron caused such uproar by going hatless at the 2011 royal wedding. However, the less formal the wedding, the less expectation there is for ladies to wear them, so take your cue from the dress code. For most weddings, a fascinator will be a perfect solution, since they are delicate and feminine but still add an element of sophistication to the outfit.

If you do opt for a hat, avoid the Princess Beatrice approach and go for something petite; you don't want to spoil the view for anyone sitting behind you! This could be the stand-out accessory of your outfit, or it could simply highlight one of the colours; the choice is yours.

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The same applies for jewellery. If you choose jewellery that will complement the rest of your outfit, simple pearl earrings or bracelets will match pretty much every pattern or colour you could possibly choose.

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However, for more subtle outfit choices, you can afford to make a real statement with your choice of jewellery. An eye-catching necklace, such as this one by Ted Baker, can add a touch of sparkle and glamour to your outfit while still looking appropriate for the occasion.

Gents: Know your suits

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For a more casual summer wedding, a single-breasted lounge suit will work wonders. It is still a very smart option, befitting the importance of the occasion, but is much less formal than a dinner suit or anything double-breasted. Single-breasted suits can look really classy with a waistcoat, which means that later in the evening, the jacket can come off and you'll still be one of the best dressed gents in the room.

Dinner suits - usually referred to as 'black tie' - are a smarter affair. These typically come in darker colours than lounge suits and are more frequently seen at winter weddings than summer ones.

At the most traditional of events, you may be required to wear a morning suit. In this instance, fit is everything and the money you will spend at the tailor's getting it in tune with your body will be the best investment you ever make.

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Morning suits hark back to a bygone era that has seen a revival thanks to TV shows like Downton Abbey. You will look every bit the gentleman in one of these, but leave the jazzier patterns to the groom - it's his day, after all!

The devil is in the detail

The smallest of details can take you from zero to hero. For example, while trouser pockets are a very convenient storage space for your keys, phone, wallet, etc., this creates a bulky and unattractive silhouette - to avoid looking scruffy in all the wedding photos, utilise your inner jacket pockets or ask your date to pop your phone in her bag.

Furthermore, unless the dress code calls for you to look like Michael Jackson circa 1982, there is absolutely no excuse for wearing white socks with black trousers and shoes. Especially at more formal weddings, your socks should not be a stand-out feature of your outfit.

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Whilst all eyes should be on the groom, you can still show a little bit of personality in your suit without upstaging him. A very subtle plaid or thin pinstripe can look really sophisticated, while a matching tie and pocket square, or a great pair of cufflinks, will show how stylish you are.

When it comes to ties, they can act as a burst of colour in an otherwise subtle outfit. Keep in mind the overall shade of your suit and this can inform the colours or patterns you pick for a tie. Just remember: unless it's a really formal wedding, black ties tend to look a bit too funereal, but we'll leave this to your discretion.

Choose the right shoes

For both men and women, the correct shoes are vital. You need to consider the venue and what types of floors you will be walking on, or even how much time you'll be spending out on the grass.

For country summer weddings, ladies might want to opt for wedge heels to support you on grass. Also bear in mind how long you will be wearing these shoes; if you're a pro in four-inch heels, rock them with confidence. However, if you know you struggle after a few hours, go for something lower that you will feel more comfortable in.

Gents should pick the right colour shoes to match their suits. For black suits, black shoes are the obvious choice. However, for other colours, you could instead opt for brown or tan-coloured shoes. A light grey suit could look really slick when paired with pale brown shoes, so consider the range of colours available when you're out buying your wedding outfit.

Most importantly, follow the dress code!

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No matter how much you love your cream linen suit or your fuchsia-sequinned dress, they just won't be appropriate if the invite says 'Black Tie'. If the bride and groom have requested a specific manner of dress, you must adhere to this or risk never being invited anywhere again!

Weddings are a time for joy and celebration and you want to feel comfortable in whatever you're wearing. Follow our hints and tips and you can enjoy the day without spending a single second worrying about your outfit.


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