Your Ultimate Guide To What Not To Wear To A Wedding

Whether you plan to attend a loved one's wedding this upcoming weekend or sometime next year, it's important to stay aware of modern wedding etiquette when it comes to the clothes and accessories you'll wear. There are plenty of rules to follow regarding proper wedding etiquette: You should always RSVP ahead of time, you should always show up on time (if not a little early), you should never show up empty-handed without a gift, and you should make sure that your phone is completely silenced during the ceremony. Refraining from getting too intoxicated, following whatever seating chart is arranged, and keeping your remarks kind and lighthearted as you socialize with others are some other important rules to follow. 


But arguably the most significant thing you should remember is the wedding dress code for guests. Depending on the couple, there might be a strict dress code set up for wedding guests to follow. Some couples don't feel the need to create any rigid guidelines because they trust their guest list to show up in respectable attire. When in doubt, refer to this ultimate guide to decide what to wear to a wedding — and what not to wear to a wedding.

Never wear white

The most obvious and paramount rule surrounding wedding guest attire is to never wear white. If the bride has any intentions of following typical customs, she'll be walking down the aisle toward her future groom in a stunning dress in some shade of white. She should be the only one wearing white at her wedding because it's her moment to shine. Anyone who chooses to wear white at someone else's wedding deliberately distracts from the fact that the bride is meant to be the star of the show. Unless, of course, she's requested that you wear white — then you follow her rules. 


White wedding dresses once represented purity by symbolizing a woman's chastity before becoming a wife. Although a white wedding dress no longer holds a ton of symbolic weight with a topic as serious as purity, it still holds enough weight when it comes to tradition. If you're wearing white clothing covered in polka dots, stripes, or other colorful patterns, then you're probably fine. But if you're wearing something that's completely white without a thread of additional color, you'll definitely risk hurting the bride on what's meant to be the most important and magical day of her life.

Never wear something that's way too risque

Although there's probably dancing, a wedding is not a nightclub, bar, or lounge. That being said, it's in your best interest not to wear anything that's way too risque — especially if it's a church wedding. Avoid clothing made out of see-through material, clothing that reveals excessive cleavage, clothing made out of spandex material, lingerie dresses made out of lace, or worse. There's a time and place for everything, and a wedding isn't it for provocative outfits. 


There's nothing wrong with dressing up in outfits that show off your body if you feel proud of your amazing physique. It only becomes problematic if you wear something that places so much attention on you that it distracts from the bride. Typical weddings are meant to be more formal events where people come together to celebrate the notion of true love. The official union of a couple should be everyone's main focal point when attending any wedding. You can save your most sultry pieces of clothing for enjoyable nights out on the town before or after such a classy event.

Try not to wear the same color as the bridal party

If you're in the know about what color the bridal party will wear at an upcoming wedding, you might want to skip out on wearing any pieces of clothing that perfectly match their outfits. The reason for this is that you don't want to get confused for a specially chosen bridesmaid or groomsman. 


Following this rule is especially helpful to wedding planners who do their best to stay on top of things as they organize the details of a wedding. At any wedding, there are tons of layers unfolding with several moving parts every moment. Wedding planners need to make sure every individual involved is in the right place at the right time. It makes it so much easier for them to orchestrate a perfect wedding when the bridal party is easy to notice and point out in a room full of strangers. It will confuse everything if the entire bridal party is wearing a pale shade of pink, and you show up matching them in the most obvious way.

Don't wear flip-flops

Even if the bride and groom have expressed that they want their guests to show up in casual clothing, you still shouldn't wear flip-flops to a wedding. Flip-flops are the type of shoes you wear to the beach or pool while you're on vacation or enjoying a day off work. They are the epitome of casual, but they take it a bit too far if you're attending an event that's supposed to be respectable and special. 


You can slide into a basic pair of flip-flops in less than two seconds before running out to your mailbox and retrieving a package. You can slip on your favorite flip-flops fairly quickly if you need to dip to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients. Flip-flops certainly come in handy for a multitude of reasons, but none of these reasons are connected to a guest's attire at an event as formal as a wedding.

Don't wear obnoxiously loud jewelry

It should go without saying that wearing obnoxiously loud jewelry to a wedding is an unacceptable thing to do. You might absolutely adore a special pair of earrings, bracelets, or necklaces. If they clink and clank around whenever you wear them, though, you need to leave them behind before heading to a wedding. During a wedding ceremony, guests are supposed to be super quiet in order to hear the vows being exchanged between a bride and groom. 


It's also important to hear whatever the officiant has to say along the way. If one small move causes your jewelry to make a bunch of loud noises, you'll pull attention away from the bride and groom because everyone will be looking your way instead. There's a time and place for everything, including loud jewelry. Since the volume at weddings tends to be quieter, loud jewelry simply isn't a great idea.

Don't wear hats or headpieces that are physically tall

No wedding guest wants to get stuck sitting behind someone blocking their entire view of the ceremony. Weddings are beautiful moments filled with magical sentiments of love. That being said, everyone should be able to easily see whatever's taking place throughout the entire event. If you show up to a wedding wearing a hat or headpiece that is physically tall in size, you'll undoubtedly block the view of anyone who's unfortunate enough to be seated behind you. 


This is also incredibly problematic for wedding day photographers and videographers who need to capture the glory of the moment from as many angles as possible. If some of their angles are hindered because of the super tall hat or headpiece you've chosen to wear, it can impact the results of the final wedding day pictures and videos. If you insist on wearing a hat to a wedding, it's best to make sure that it isn't tall enough to ruin anyone else's viewing pleasure.

Avoid wearing tiaras

No matter how much you absolutely adore tiaras, it isn't respectful to wear one to a wedding. All brides deserve to feel like total princesses on their wedding day. It's not your place to step into that role by showing up to someone else's wedding wearing a tiara that represents royalty and regality. Even if the bride chooses to wear a simple veil, a small headband, a hair clip, or nothing on top of her head at all, none of her guests should be wearing tiaras. 


It would be incredibly awkward if a bride walked down the aisle on her wedding day wearing a tiara to make herself feel like a total princess, and she noticed you wearing a similar tiara in the crowd. Even if you think you're being cute and trendy by showing up to a wedding wearing a tiara that's super small in size, wearing one to someone else's wedding still isn't the right thing to do.

Don't show up in ridiculously casual wear

It's totally possible that the bride and groom have given their guests the green light to wear casual clothing on their big day, like at a barn wedding. Still, you shouldn't show up in ultra-casual clothes that don't depict any sign of respect. There's a difference between wearing a simple sundress with a cardigan as your casual outfit compared to wearing a pair of basketball shorts with a stained tank top. 


Rolling up to someone's wedding wearing sweatpants, baggy T-shirts, or graphic design hoodies is also problematic. You can arrive at someone's wedding feeling casual and comfortable while also showcasing consideration and thoughtfulness with your clothing choices. Making sure your outfit isn't embarrassingly casual is a courtesy that any bride and groom would appreciate. It's easy for you to prove your politeness to bride and grooms who've given the green light on casual clothing if you still make sure you look completely presentable.

Rethink wearing anything covered in sparkles

As we've mentioned before, a wedding day is the perfect time for a bride to feel like a total princess. She should feel like the center of attention on the one day that's meant to be memorable forever. For these reasons, rethink wearing anything covered in sparkles to a wedding. Sparkles are very distracting since they draw attention from just about anyone. Sparkles are visually captivating and aesthetically pleasing in so many ways, but at a sunny outdoor wedding, they could also be blinding. 


If the bride has chosen to wear a wedding dress that doesn't have any sparkles on it at all, it is a bit unfair for one of her guests to show up wearing a dress that's completely decked out in eye-grabbing sparkles. There's no shame in wearing a gorgeous dress covered in sequins for a holiday like New Year's Eve or even when your birthday rolls around. It might be a faux pas to arrive in something that's super sparkly at someone else's wedding, though.

Don't wear anything neon

Wearing clothing made in neon colors is super fun to do if you're headed to a concert or a music festival. It's not considerate to wear neon to someone's wedding, though. For the same reason you wouldn't want to wear white or show up in a dress covered in sparkles, wearing neon pulls attention onto you and away from the bride and groom. Neon clothing stands out in a crowd, no matter what. Whether you're wearing neon pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, or something else, blazing bright clothing is very difficult to ignore. 


It's a safer bet to show up to a wedding wearing softer colors that potentially come from the pastel family. Light shades of green, pink, blue, and yellow are totally acceptable at a wedding since pastels easily fade into crowds and blend in well alongside other colors. There's no denying the fact that neon clothing can be really fun and playful to wear, but it certainly doesn't belong at a traditional wedding.

Avoid skinny heels if the wedding is on grass or sand

It's important to pay attention to where a wedding will be hosted when you're deciding what type of shoes to wear. If you find out the wedding will be held somewhere on grass or sand, you probably want to avoid wearing skinny heels. Anyone who's worn skinny heels on grass or sand knows just how annoying it is to deal with their heels sinking into the ground with each step. 


Sinking heels are cringeworthy and embarrassing but also dangerous to deal with. With each step, you're more likely to lose your footing and fall down. Guests at weddings should be focused on the blissful union of a bride and groom. If you end up falling down because of your sinking heels, all the attention will undoubtedly shift your way — whether you like it or not. Instead, it might be better to wear wedges, shoes with thick heels, or pretty flats to a wedding being held on grass or sand.

Don't wear all black unless you've accessorized properly

Wearing all black to a wedding is problematic because the color black represents a bad omen of bad luck. Most people wear solid black when they're headed to funerals to honor the life and death of loved ones who've passed away. When you're attending a wedding, the focal point should be all about true love, romance, and the future. A wedding simply isn't about death. That being said, what you wear shouldn't remind the bride and groom of a funeral — you are attending their day of love. 


The only way you can truly get away with wearing all black to a wedding is if you accessorize properly with pops of color that take away from the dark, gloomy, and brooding appearance of an all-black outfit. A gorgeous black dress paired with colored gloves, shoes, and a cardigan can make a lot of sense at a wedding. A lovely black blouse tucked into black slacks paired with colored jewelry and a belt around the midsection would also suffice.

Skip anything that reveals your undergarments

The same way you would want to avoid wearing anything that's too risque to a wedding, you probably also want to skip anything that reveals your undergarments. If the top of your dress is showing off sections of your bra, it wouldn't be ideal to wear that to someone's wedding. If the pants you're wearing are so low on your hips that your thong is easily exposed, you might want to rethink those pants before leaving the house. 


So many different things happen during weddings including the ceremony, dinner, dance floor grooving, and more. If your undergarments continually pop out throughout the course of a wedding, you'll likely feel uncomfortable the entire time — and so will everyone else. Having to readjust your clothing every few minutes isn't fun for anyone. If your undergarments are meant to show on purpose by design, reserving those types of outfits for non-wedding events is the more respectful and considerate thing to do.

Leave behind itchy fabrics

When you attend someone's wedding, it's the perfect time to live in the moment and bask in the beauty of true love. If you're busy scratching your skin because you showed up wearing clothing made out of itchy fabric, you'll probably be way too distracted to fully embrace the magic of the moment. Leave any itchy fabrics behind while getting dressed for someone's wedding. 


While you're seated during a ceremony, having the urge to constantly scratch whatever areas of skin are being impacted will be hard to resist. The more you reach around your body to scratch your itches, the more of a distraction you'll become to other wedding guests who really want to pay attention to the bride and groom. The itchiest type of fabric to avoid is probably wool, despite how warm it makes you feel on a chilly day. If you want to make sure that your clothing won't make you itch during someone's wedding, opt for clothes made out of silk, cotton, or cashmere.

Don't show up wearing pants that are way too tight

If the wedding schedule requires a lot of sitting, tight pants will be way too uncomfortable for you throughout the process. Take note of the order of activities at someone's wedding, so you can be aware of how much sitting you'll have to do. You'll undoubtedly be in a seat during the rehearsal dinner, the actual ceremony, and during other vital moments. It's safe to say you'll be on your feet when it's time to hit the dance floor, but aside from that, how much standing will you really be able to do? 


The tighter your pants are, the worse your experience will be as the upper edge of your pants digs into your belly in a painful way. Pants that must be zipped and buttoned should be loose enough for you to easily sit down and stand up multiple times without any issues. If you have to force yourself to hold your breath and suck in to get your pants on, they probably aren't the best option to wear at a wedding.

Skip any strong perfume or cologne

Skip out on any super strong perfumes and colognes when getting ready for someone's wedding. Although you might adore your favorite fragrance that smells like vanilla and musk, the smell of your perfume might not react well in someone else's nostrils. Sitting next to wedding guests who have allergic reactions to your perfume and cologne is a huge possibility. If this happens, wedding guests might end up sneezing and coughing throughout the day. This automatically pulls attention away from the bride and groom and would be an absolute nightmare during the exchange of vows! 


Wedding guests are supposed to be as stoic as possible while vows are being shared between a newlywed couple. If the ceremony is filled with sneezes and coughs from audience members, it would be a huge bummer. If you're insistent about wearing your favorite perfume or cologne to a wedding, consider spritzing a little less product than you normally would on any other day.

Don't wear anything that would potentially outshine the bride's dress

One of the biggest mistakes you could make when attending someone else's wedding is attempting to show up in something that outshines whatever the bride is wearing. The bride's wedding dress is supposed to be the most exquisite, jaw-dropping, and stunning detail of a wedding. If you show up wearing a ball gown or princess frock that totally outshines the bride's wedding dress, it's an incredibly cruel thing to do. This is the type of thing you might only picture happening in dramatic movies and TV shows. 


No one is saying you shouldn't look and feel your absolute best wherever you go. By that same token, it's completely possible to be stylish, confident, and trendy while wearing something that doesn't outshine what the bride is wearing. When choosing your wedding guest attire, carefully consider the type of wedding, the venue, and the soon-to-be newlyweds.