Here’s What You Should Actually Wear To A Wedding

Recently, a dress took the Internet by storm, raising questions of decorum and morality, and even threatening friendships in the process. It wasn't because we couldn't decide what colour it was, but because some seemed to think the act of wearing it was contextually belligerent.
The piece in question? A snug-fitting gown by designer Eli Mizrahi’s label Mônot. There wasn’t much of it (with its cutout design) and when it graced the runways, we knew it was only a matter of time before we saw it on some supermodel at Nobu. But where we certainly did not expect to see it was at a wedding. 
Cue: Kendall Jenner as a bridesmaid at her friend Laura Perez's nuptials in said cutout dress. Showing off her lean figure in...well, not much, the model's choice of attire left many puzzled. Mixed reviews aside, what the debate really came down to was whether or not the bride would mind. After all, surely Jenner would have checked in with the rest of the bridal party if she was planning on getting her navel out? Or, does she not need to?
Weddings are a bit of a spectacle, and dressing for them isn’t always straightforward. The brief calls for a little more than your go-to dinner attire, but you don’t want to detract from the happy couple. Throw in a vague dress code, unpredictable weather and a rowdy dancefloor, and the outfit ideas slip further and further away. Let alone all the unspoken rules that seem to evade celebrities.
So since wedding season is quickly approaching, we thought we’d get some clarification on what exactly we need to know about dressing as a guest at a wedding. Below, our advice on the dos and don'ts of appropriate wedding guest attire.

Can you wear black or white to a wedding?

LBDs are a staple in everyone's wardrobes, but for weddings, they can be hit or miss. Though it's chic as hell, black is typically associated with mourning, so some people may not enjoy its presence at their nuptials. However, the symbolism is a little more grey in 2021. For the most part, it's acceptable, unless (and we really don't know where this rule came from) you happen to be an ex of one of the betrothed.
White, on the other hand, is widely considered to be a no-no. And if you're holding your outfit up to the light to suss whether it's actually more of a 'bone' or 'eggshell', it's probably best to just leave it.

What shouldn't you wear to a wedding?

There aren't really and hard-and-fast rules, and it really does come down to the individual wedding. But for the most part, there is such a thing as making too much of a statement. When shopping as a guest, think practically. Look to classic silhouettes, avoiding voluminous trains that encroach on other peoples' seats.
And, though it can be tough to shop as a bigger-busted or taller person, plunging necklines and micro hemlines can often be seen as showing too much skin. The reality is that it's just not the time or place to be making a statement about your personal views on dressing. As for how short is too short? Well, it's always worth a sit-down test. If you can peep your knickers when sitting down or bending over slightly, it might be worth swapping your outfit out for one with more coverage.
Of course, if you genuinely believe the couple and their family won't care one bit about what you wear, then, by all means, sashay away in that plunging micro.

What are wedding dress codes?

The key to decoding the dress code usually lies in the location. Is it being held in a church? On a beach? In their parents' backyard? Generally, this should give you a hint about the expected level of formality.
White tie: The top tier of formal dressing. Think of what you would wear to meet the Queen at dinner. It's a fairly uncommon wedding dress code, but it's better to be in the know about what it means.
Black tie: This is generally reserved for evening events, and includes the kind of outfits you may expect to see on a Golden Globes red carpet — formal, but still something you can dance in. A floor-length dress or suiting should suffice.
Cocktail: This means that there is some level of formality to the event, but you don't need to look like a James Bond character. Midi dresses and jumpsuits work here; just steer clear of more casual fabrics like linen, etc.
Smart casual: Ah, smart casual. You've likely been confused by this dress code before. While many have their own variations on this genre, we like to think of it as something you'd wear to a dinner or brunch if you knew you were going to run into someone you wanted to look good for. Here, a more casual dress or trousers with a dressy top may work.
Themed: If there's a theme, stick to it. No questions asked. Even if you don't really care to dress as an Elvish queen from Lord of the Rings, it's your pal's day, and you simply must abide.
For the less traditional bride, anything can go — but it's always worth checking in, just like Cara Delevigne did before wearing a royal protocol-breaking three-piece suit to Princess Eugenie's wedding.
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!

More from Fashion