Are you wondering what to wear to a wedding? It is just as important to know what dresses NOT to wear to a wedding as it is to know what’s appropriate as a guest.
With many guest outfits, colors, and places to shop, it can feel overwhelming to choose a dress that is both stylish and appropriate according to wedding etiquette. So… we’re here to help!
In this blog post, we’ll show you what wedding guest dresses you should NOT wear to a wedding, why, and what to wear instead. We’ll also provide some helpful dress guides to help you choose the best outfit for the occasion.
If you run into any questions along the way, just ask! :)
Let’s get started.
What Dresses NOT to Wear to a Wedding as a Guest
Here are the 7 most important tips on what to avoid wearing to a wedding as a guest in 2023. Firstly, let’s tackle the elephant in the room: don’t wear white!
1. DON’T wear white.
This one is obvious, but bears repeating: wedding guests should avoid wearing white dresses! The color is reserved for the bride only.
This includes other shades similar to white: don’t wear ivory, champagne, and cream-colored dresses. Here’s an example of a champagne dress to skip, as it will look too bridal in person.
And this one in cream:
Both are super cute for other occasions, though!
Here’s another example: this is adorable but is one of the dresses to avoid wearing to a wedding.
Avoid wearing white at all costs when choosing your wedding guest dress.
TIP: Also skip any muted floral prints where the main color is more white or ivory, giving it a “bridal” look.
Here’s one of the best examples of wedding guest dresses to avoid: it’s too white vs. blue with the pattern. It’s such a cute dress for nearly any other event — not a wedding. The bride could wear this to the bridal shower.
Or here’s another example. Instead of this:
… wear this! It’s a similar style and cut but with different colors.
What Colors to Wear to a Wedding — and What Colors NOT to Wear
Now that we’re on the topic of not wearing white, let’s talk about other colors you can and cannot wear to a wedding as a guest.
Can wedding guests wear red?
In the past, it was believed you should avoid wearing red at a wedding. The reason is that in photos, your eye naturally gravitates towards the shade, which is thought to upstage the bride at the event. However, this isn’t necessarily a rule that everyone adopts today, and you can wear red if you choose. Just make sure you’re not attempting to wear an outfit that is a blatant attempt to steal the spotlight.
Should wedding guests avoid wearing black?
Many believe you shouldn’t wear black wedding guest dresses, as black should be reserved for funerals. That’s no longer the case.
Wear black! Little black dresses, long elegant formal black gowns, and midi-length dresses in black floral patterns are all the rage. There’s no longer a rule that guests shouldn’t wear black dresses to a wedding. Do it if you’d like, as long as the wedding takes place in the evening (daytime weddings call for lighter shades).
► Wondering what is appropriate black dresses for guests to wear? Read: 30 Best Black Dresses to Wear to a Wedding as a Guest.
Can you wear bright colors?
Yes, you can! As long as you’re not attempting to upstage the bride by wearing something overly revealing, it is perfectly acceptable to wear bright and colorful guest dresses given the wedding takes place in the summer when these colors are in season.
Is it unlucky to wear green to a wedding?
No! Green is actually one of the top trends of the year for guest attire. However, there was a past superstition that the bride shouldn’t wear green, as it was bad luck, so many avoided dressing their bridal party in shades of green. Today, though, that’s not the case: there are plenty of happily married couples who chose sage, eucalyptus, emerald green, etc. as bridal party dresses and guests don them all the time. :)
2. DO wear a dress or outfit that aligns with the dress code.
Be courteous of the dress code of the wedding. You can typically find the dress code mentioned on the wedding invitation, but it may be listed on the couple’s wedding website instead. (You can usually find it in the “more” section of the website.)
If there is no dress code mentioned, assume it is semi-formal. It is the best way to dress up enough — without being overdressed — and you’d hate to show up too casual.
This is one of my favorite semi-formal guest dresses for any time of year:
Another way to figure out what dresses to avoid wearing to a wedding is to go based on the venue. Is it elegant and formal? Or is it more laid-back and casual? What time does the wedding take place? You may dress a little less formally in the daytime, but in the evening it will require cocktail or black tie formal attire.
For dress code suggestions, read our helpful guides:
When in doubt, just ask someone close to the bride to find out the appropriate dress code.
3. DON’T wear a dress that is too revealing or skimpy.
Wear a nice dress to the wedding that flatters your figure without being too tight or revealing.
You can still look great and show off your curves, but choose something that’s elegant and sophisticated.
Therefore, you’ll want to avoid wearing something that is more like the dance club scene and instead, choose a wedding guest outfit that is tasteful and stylish.
How do you know what dresses not to wear to a wedding? Anything too tight, skimpy, revealing, short, or cut out in places that are not tasteful.
As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself adjusting the outfit to keep covered — pulling down the skirt or adjusting the top to avoid a wardrobe malfunction — it’s a good sign that you probably shouldn’t wear the dress to the wedding. It will be uncomfortable and distract you all night when you should be out mingling and having fun!
4. DO choose a seasonal dress.
You probably won’t reach for a dress that is wintry for a spring wedding, but this tip refers mostly to the fabric and the length. You don’t want to sit in sweltering heat in a humid outdoor ceremony with long sleeves, even if the dress is cute for summertime.
Furthermore, you don’t want to freeze your you-know-what off in the winter during a wedding where the dress is too short and thin. Dress for the season with consideration for the weather expected; you’ll look appropriately dressed and be comfortable, too.
For exact dress recommendations by season, see these wedding guest dress guides [links open in new window]:
5. DON’T wear the same color dress as the bridesmaids.
Many guests try to find dresses that match the invitation and the colors, but this isn’t always a good idea. That is, unless, you don’t mind showing up looking like you’re a bridesmaid!
The colors shown on the invitation are typically a good indicator of the wedding colors you’ll see on the day of. There’s a pretty good chance one of the colors used on the invite is the bridesmaid dress color. Therefore, you should not wear dresses to the wedding that have those exact colors, or you may accidentally be invited to join the bridal party photos! ;)
I’ve even seen some wear a nearly identical dress to the bridesmaids by mistake! It happens more often than you may think.
6. DON’T forget to accessorize.
Dressing up for a wedding is one part outfit, one part accessories. Don’t forget to add proper accessories to your outfit. A proper pair of heels or dressy flats and an evening bag are easy ways to dress up any style.
Don’t forget tasteful jewelry: a necklace that works with your neckline and a pair of hoop earrings will add to your dressed-up look.
Make sure you wear the most comfortable wedding guest shoes you can, as you don’t want to sit on the sidelines while everyone’s dancing because your feet hurt!
And last but not least, don’t forget to wear proper undergarments. You will look your very best with a proper foundation, so start with this.
Other colors and styles are available here.
The proper undergarment will provide a smooth base with no lines, will contour and flatter, and allow for comfortable movement all night. Plus, you’ll feel confident! Who wants to worry about see-through fabrics, bunching, or lines showing underneath?
7. DON’T wait until the last minute to shop for your dress.
You want to look and feel your best at the wedding, so avoid shopping at the last minute. You want the dress to fit perfectly, and if you order online, you may be surprised at how it actually fits or looks in person. Therefore, shop for wedding guest dresses as early as possible! And give yourself a little extra time for shipping and any necessary alterations, if needed.
In conclusion, the major takeaways from this article are to avoid wearing white to a wedding, don’t choose a dress that is too revealing or short, and try to choose a dress that is most suitable for the season and venue where the wedding takes place. Lastly, choose a color that suits your style, a silhouette that flatters, and a cut that is appropriate for the dress code. Now that you know what not to wear, choose your dream dress → shop stylish guest dresses here that are perfect for the season!