What To Wear If You're Invited To A Rehearsal Dinner

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The bride and groom have a long to-do list before the big day. There's the task of arranging and rearranging seating charts, attending dress fittings, and booking caterers. Zola notes that 96% of couples struggle with anxiety leading up to the big day, and a not-so-insignificant 40% called wedding prep "extremely stressful."


The rehearsal dinner, traditionally held on the night before the big day, is just one element of a wedding weekend. According to The Knot, the popularity of these dinners can be traced back to the 1950s when it became trendy to host big, expensive ceremonies. "With this wedding explosion, there was no choice but to get everyone together to rehearse the ceremony, so it goes smoothly," explains Virginia event coordinator Thomas Waters. 

Ultimately, it's best to avoid asking the happy couple questions about the dinner's dress code — they've got enough on their plates, even before the meal is served. Instead, refer back to the invitation or ask other guests what they plan to wear. Ultimately, it's more than likely the event will call for cocktail attire, per Brides.


Keep the venue in mind

For starters, do a quick google search to find out where the dinner is being held. As personal stylist Sharon Warten tells Brides, "Knowing the venue or location beforehand will be the first step in helping you decide what to wear. ... If it's a more formal location, your best bet is to wear cocktail attire or that dress you've been holding onto in your closet for an exceptional occasion." 


Speaking of "cocktail attire," check out this chic cafe-colored mini from Reformation — pair with heels for a fancier venue or your favorite knee-highs for a more casual affair. The bottom line? "You tailor your choices to fit the mood and theme of the dinner, as you wouldn't wear jeans if it's at a country club or a cocktail dress to a barn," L'Armoire's Diane Lloyde Roth tells Insider.

A little black dress is a versatile choice

A little black dress is a closet staple, and for good reason. Start with a simple base like this strappy satin fit from Urban Outfitters, and find new ways to dress up your "LBD." 

Because rehearsal dinners are typically an evening affair, Brides notes that a black dress is universally appropriate, no matter the time of year. After all, you can always warm up a sleeveless mini with a pair of nylons and a classy shawl like this cashmere silk scarf from Quince. Alternatively, keep it breezy in ruffled sleeves — check out this dress from Altar'd State. For a warm weather occasion, stay cool in open-toed heels. 


Chiffon is a go-to fabric for more casual affairs

Some couples may opt for a casual celebration — a seasonal outdoor venue, maybe even a barn party. Rustic weddings are growing increasingly popular, according to The Atlantic. For these, stick to a chiffon dress like this tiered smock mini from Asos


As etiquette expert Lisa Grotts explains to Brides, chiffon is the ideal fabric when it comes to casual dress codes — especially for fall ceremonies. Pair with cowboy boots (theme permitting) or platform sandals (weather permitting).

Consider the dinner's start time

The rehearsal dinner's start time will also clue you in on the dress code, says Insider. For instance, an early evening appetizer party will likely be more relaxed than, say, a late sit-down meal. 

"[Rehearsal dinners are] meant to be a time for the wedding party and close family members to come together in a more intimate setting before the larger wedding celebration the following day," wedding consultant and event producer Erin Davies explains to The Knot


So, if you're wearing a formal maxi during the "I dos," you can feel more confident debuting your favorite mini the night before — check out this Lulus floral dress for inspiration.

Steer clear of distracting patterns

Everyone knows not to wear white to wedding events, but what about other colors? Avoid loud sequins and distracting patterns, really anything that will steal the bride's thunder (via Martha Stewart). 


Also, make sure you're keeping things appropriate. "You show up to the wedding to honor the couple. Your appearance should reflect that," says wedding stylist Julie Sabatino, adding, "Never wear something with a lot of exposed skin." 

Stick to solid colors or subtle patterns during the rehearsal dinner. For instance, see Topshop's emerald mini for the perfect combination of flirtiness and sophistication, or, if you have a preference for patterns, this understated floral midi from Urban Outfitters.

Pick a look inspired by the seasons

If you're still overwhelmed by options, use the seasons as a guide. "In the summer months, choose lighter and brighter colors. In the fall and winter go with jewel tones or darker colors!" Sharon Warten tells Brides. "Soft, quiet subdued prints can show off your personality without stealing the bride's thunder." 


Whereas chiffon and tulle make great summer fabrics, stick to thicker, glitzier materials like velvet in the colder months. If you're preparing for a late winter wedding, for instance, check out this velvet look from Reformation in a range of colors.

It's better to be overdressed that too casual

When in doubt, opt for formality. As BHLDN / Anthropologie Weddings general merchandising manager Lori Conley tells The Knot, "Never be the guest that is too casual—jeans are off the list, as are sneakers. It's [sic] always better to opt for a tad too dressed up than [sic] to look sloppy." 


Don't forget to carry along a handbag with space for your phone, wallet, hotel room key, and maybe a lip gloss. It's hard to go wrong with a beaded clutch like this floral design from Lulus.

Show off your personal style in a suit

Ultimately, confidence is key. As former Brooklyn Museum gender and sexuality intern, Anna Kinlock, explained to The New York Times, "The androgynous fashion movement is about expressing yourself without the confines of gender." 


Check out the many gender-neutral looks available on Wildfang like the empower tux blazer or invest in an oversized blazer and tailored vest from Something Navy. "As a nonbinary wedding guest, if you find yourself considering wearing something you would never wear in your day-to-day life ... scrap it and stay true to your style," Courtney-Rose Dantus, the founder of Dantus & Co. Events, tells Brides.

Experiment with an asymmetrical neckline

According to Rent the Runway's style director Blaire Walsh, asymmetrical necklines and puffy sleeves can elevate a dress for a more formal occasion, per The Knot. Add a touch of intrigue with a one-shoulder midi from Marcella New York or make a statement with this Asos babydoll puff dress


According to The Knot's senior fashion and beauty editor Shelley Brown, guests are ready to make waves in maximalist style now that relaxed COVID restrictions have allowed for the reemergence of in-person weddings. 

Don't shy away from accessories

"Accessories can take an old outfit and make it look brand new," wedding style expert Monte Durham explains to The Knot. Del Toro Shoes CEO Andrew Roberts agrees, adding, "The key is adding your own tasteful twist to the outfit and wearing it with bold confidence." 


For instance, spiff up a cocktail dress with statement jewelry like these rhinestone earrings on Amazon. Alternatively, a pair of evening gloves will make your dress instantly classy — check out this matched velvet glove and dress set from Urban Outfitters.