What to wear to a wedding: the ultimate guest dressing guide for women

Zoe Gunn

16 April 2021

From church ceremonies to boho beach weddings, allow us to inspire a fabulous wedding guest outfit for any dress code

16 April 2021 | Zoe Gunn

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Dig out your finest hat: wedding season is back. And, with many nuptials having been put on hold during the past year, it won’t just be the bride and groom that will be looking forward to putting on a show. 

After a year of nothing but athleisure and loungewear, a wedding invite represents your first chance to get properly dressed up. But, even if you’re desperate to give that floor-length sequinned number you bought for Christmas 2020 its first outing, a good guest knows to dress appropriately and to stick to the rules. Not sure what to wear to your next wedding? Here’s our essential guide for every type of ceremony.

Church wedding

Malone Souliers Brook mesh pumps, £790, farfetch.com; Irene Newirth Gumball ring, £1,445, matchesfashion.com; Simone Rocha neutral egg bracelet bag, £495, brownsfashion.com; Irene Neuwirth Gumball Akoya pearl hoop earrings, £4,594, matchesfashion.com; Carolina Herrera crepe midi dress, £1,610, net-a-porter.com

The most traditional of wedding venues calls for something a little more demure – but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. Opt for a midi-length dress in a summery block colour (we shouldn’t have to tell you not to wear white) and instead let your accessories take your look from plain to party time.

Pair Carolina Herrera’s elegant pastel pink dress with Irene Neuwirth’s modern take on pearls and a pair of sleek mesh pumps from Malone Souliers to add fashion-forward elements to a classic silhouette. The finishing touch? Simone Rocha’s pearl-toned egg bag might not be practical but it will certainly be an ice breaker if you find yourself at a table full of strangers.

Country house wedding

Asceno Ibiza tie-halterneck dress, £380, matchesfashion.com; Erdem bee brooch, £205, ssense.com; Emily London Amanyara beaded headpiece, £385, harveynichols.com; Alexandre Vauthier Black Ane suede pumps, £605, brownsfashion.com; Judith Leiber pearly clutch, £2,550, harrods.com

While we’d never recommend outdoing the bride with a meringue of your own, the grand proportions of the average country house mean that, when it comes to choosing your own outfit, a little bit of volume won't go amiss. The modern way to do this is with a ruffle or two and, with its side-tie neckline and layered ruffle, Asceno has the style nailed. Balance out the volume of the dress with a bejewelled Emily London headpiece, instead of a hat, and a discreet clutch bag by Judith Leiber. Shoes should be delicate with just a hint of sparkle (Alexandre Vauthier is the master here) while, thanks to its size, this is the perfect dress to wear with a brooch. We love Erdem’s bee design.

Beach wedding

Pippa Small abalone shell aquarelle jellyfish earrings, £3,200, pippasmall.com; Annoushka sapphire vine leaf necklace, £1,700, annoushka.com; Savannah Morrow The Label Maria maxi dress, £299.18, net-a-porter.com; Valentino Garavani Roman sandals, £540, farfetch.com; Maison Michel Blanche ribbon-trim hat, £570, matchesfashion.com

OK, so you might not be jetting off to a beach wedding anytime soon – unless you know a very brave couple planning their nuptials on the shores of the English Channel – but you can never be too prepared. The most relaxed of all wedding venues, beach weddings call for something loose and longline, like this organic cotton-gauze dress by Savannah The Brand. A beach wedding is also your chance to ditch the heels for a pair of party flats. With their ankle tie detail and gold hardware, Valentino’s sandals add interest without going over the top. Hats should be of the floppy, wide-brimmed variety (Maison Michel’s errs just on the right side of formal) while jewellery should be bright and brimming with semi-precious stones. Annoushka and Pippa Small are brilliant places to start.

Barn wedding

Saint Laurent ruffle detail blouse, £1,130, harrods.com; Batsheva Suffragette floral print skirt, £195, brownsfashion.com; Maison Michel Miwa 3D headband, £310, michel-paris.com; Bobbies Candice sandals, £180, harveynichols.com; Alighieri Il Leone medallion necklace, £205, net-a-porter.com

The more relaxed, boho style that tends to come with barn wedding venues make them the perfect occasion to indulge in a little colour with your look. Stick to a seasonal colour palette and feel free to play with print and separates. We can’t imagine anything more summer appropriate than Batsheva’s micro florals paired with Saint Laurent’s ruffle blouse. Keep the theme going with colourful accessories. Maison Michel’s headband makes a sophisticated alternative to a hat or fascinator, while Bobbies' sunshine-hued sandals can be worn long after the big day. When it comes to jewellery, keep it classic with Alighieri’s signature coin necklace.

City wedding

Diane von Furstenburg Monica velvet jumpsuit, £374, mytheresa.com; Curve bag, £1,090, alexandermcqueen.com; Mozfarian diamond necklace, £2,151, harveynichols.com; Aquazurra Forever Marilyn pumps, £447, farfetch.com; Yeprem white gold and diamond earrings, £18,800, net-a-porter.com

An urban aesthetic calls for outfits which are as smart as they are modern – which means this is place to break out your favourite tuxedo (or, in the case of DVF, tuxedo jumpsuit). Pair with sky high heels – Aquazurra’s tie-back pumps are classics – and Alexander McQueen’s conversation-starting Curve bag. Forgo the hat (small city wedding venues can’t always accommodate them) and instead finish your look with lashing of diamonds.

Read more: Where to buy bridesmaids' dresses in London