Weddings are tricky events, and there's almost nothing as awkward as greeting the bride and groom and realizing you match the bridesmaids. When navigating the dress code, the invitation is always your first clue when figuring out what to wear, and second would be the couple at hand (are they the dial-it-up type or a casual-cool duo?). But as fashion rules for the office or date night have shifted, so too has wedding guest attire — and there are a few things you should never wear to a wedding. If you’ve wondered whether or not it’s acceptable to wear boots whilst witnessing ‘I dos’, the answer lies ahead. The same goes for any and all wonderings about jeans.
Of course, it’s best to march to the beat of your own sartorial drum when it comes to your everyday sense of style, but the wedding circuit is unquestionably a place where playing it safe and abiding by a few rules won’t hurt you (and will be sure to please the bride). To weigh in on what works and what doesn’t at a wedding, five designers, fashion directors, and stylists are divulging the items they consider to be no-no’s. And so as to not make you feel like your favorite party attire is all off limits, don’t miss the edit of dresses and accessories that will most definitely earn you the title of best-dressed guest. Cheers to that!
This might seem obvious, but across the board, white is the number one item to strictly avoid, according to industry insiders. “An all-white dress or suit is my only major no-no,” says Meredith Stoecklein, founder and designer of LEIN, which applies to dresses or separates that have a lot of white in them.
Jessica Raiter, fashion director of the plus-size luxury site 11 Honoré says white is distracting to wear as a wedding guest while Shoshanna Gruss, founder and creative director of the brand, Shoshanna and Caroline Maguire, fashion director at Shopbop both say that the hue totally upstage the bride (or groom if he’s chosen a white tuxedo). Raiter does have one exception, however: “white dresses with prints are okay, but make sure the print dominates the dress.”
Gruss and Raiter are both of the mind that boots and weddings do not mix. Stoecklein, on the other hand, says that a stylish pair of boots with a dress can read totally chic. The trick is to pick a sleek pair in an elegant fabric like leather, patent, velvet, satin, and brocade or a silhouette with elegant hardware or embellishment for a formal feel. Of course, heels will appear more dressed up, but even a low block heel, kitten heel, or flat boot can be polished in a minimal silhouette.
Black Isn't Entirely Off Limits
There is much debate over whether or not it’s a faux pas to wear black to a wedding, and while Stoecklein thinks black is passable, Gruss says to “save it for a more somber event” and instead “think happy and celebratory” with your color choice. Similarly, Raiter says that “black for day is too severe.” If you’re unwilling to depart from a noir palette, your best bet is to do so for an evening or New Year’s Eve wedding where darker tones are more fitting. Or, swap for deep colors like navy or Forrest green as a compromise.
Red Is Distracting
Despite being one of the more popular colors to wear, Raiter says that bright red should be off limits for weddings because, like white, it distracts from brides and grooms. If you’re still in the mood for something punchy, don’t despair — deeper shades of red are more acceptable while cobalt blue, Kelly green, magenta, pink, and yellow are all alternative brights that feel just right at a wedding.
Light Colors Are Iffy
A range of light colors from blush to ivory read bridal and are often worn by modern brides in place of optic white. Because of this, Gruss says it’s best to play it safe and avoid them while Stoecklein says, “I fully support wearing any light colored dress as long as it’s not white.” If you’re finding yourself drawn to frothier tones as a wedding guest but feel a little unsure, a printed style is a safer option.
Keep Silhouettes Appropriate
It should go without saying that revealing silhouettes like down-to-there necklines and micro-mini hems are a hard no at a wedding. While black tie and cocktail dress codes have certainly evolved — meaning midi and to-the-knee hemlines can often pass — Gruss says, “if the invitation reads black-tie, but you really want to wear that mini you just bought, stick with black-tie.” In other words, if a gown doesn’t feel right, go for a midi in a luxe fabric.
Jeans For A Very Specific Venue
Denim at a wedding...seems like an obvious no, right? Not necessarily. Gruss and Raiter both agree that jeans have no place at a wedding — with the one exception being a theme, according to Raiter. For stylist Rebecca Dennett, jeans, and wedding attire in general, is always a case-by-case basis. “Last month I was invited to a wonderfully intimate wedding in Bushwick. I wore jeans and a blouse and danced the night away. Weddings are meant to be a celebration and I think everyone should have fun and enjoy the task of getting dressed for the wedding they are being invited to.” To keep a blouse-and-jeans combo elevated, stick to darker washes and blouses in luxe textures and with feminine flourishes.