Wedding guest dress codes are one of life’s greatest mysteries. Learning the subtle nuances that define each occasion – from topiary-lined English gardens to see-and-be-seen city receptions – is a good place to start your outfit planning as the invitations stack up.
Among the more traditional British wedding venues, the manicured, topiary-lined lawns of a stately home often inspire the most formal dress codes of the season. Here, it’s safest to stick with maxi- and midi-length dresses – not only are they elegant, but they’ll be your most comfortable option on a warm summer’s day. Feminine prints from polka dots to florals will always look at home in a blooming garden, but if you prefer something simpler, you can draw from your surroundings in bright block colours or gentle pastel hues. Remember: a formal countryside wedding may also call for fabulous headwear, so be sure to think about matching millinery when choosing your dress. As for the shoes? Avoid anything too spindly as you’re likely to be outdoors – look to lawn-proof block heels to avoid a sinkage situation.
Picture yourself sipping an Aperol Spritz amid rolling Tuscany hills, or toasting the happy couple at sunset beneath glowing strings of fairy lights. What does one wear to match such idyll? For rustic rural weddings like these, your dress code will likely be more relaxed. Bucolic patterns will still work perfectly, but they require a different approach to a classic stately-home wedding – think laid-back fabrics like cottons or linens, earthy tones and organic textures, and botanical motifs of a wilder nature to befit the landscape. On your feet, block heels, wedges or flats may be your wisest choice if you’re unsure of the terrain, but don’t be afraid to opt for a glamorous heel if you want to add more formality to your ensemble.
If you’re lucky enough to be jetting off for a ceremony on sandy shores, think comfort first. Lightweight, breathable fabrics – silks, cotton voiles, linens and even swimwear textures – will all fare well under scorching sun, while breezy maxi silhouettes and loose-fitting kaftans will offer a layer of protection both before and after sundown. If you see yourself venturing onto the sand, be sure to stick to flat sandals under foot, elevated with glittering embellishments and metallic finishes, or opt for a beach-proof espadrille wedge if you want some height. For the finishing touches, a little sparkle via your clutch bag or jewellery will elevate your ensemble for the occasion – and come into their own at golden hour.
Whether it’s an intimate town-hall ceremony or a chic hotel reception, city weddings can inspire a more fresh and fashion-forward dress code. Less occasionwear, more partywear. For these invites, you’re free to go bigger on glamour with feather and sequin embellishments, shorter hemlines, cool two-piece suits and sky-high stilettos (no chance of sinking into the ground, here). As for the colour palette, go bold with jewel tones or dabble in darker hues – and don’t be afraid of the little black dress!
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