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What To Wear To A Wedding

Fashion etiquette for when you're not the star of the show, but still want to look like one

wear to wedding

Before I became a wedding photographer, I was an occasional wedding guest. As I’m sure you can imagine (and probably relate to), I spent the majority of my time leading up to each wedding worried about what I was going to wear. Would I be overdressed? Underdressed? Not… on theme… enough? And I was convinced if I got it wrong that everyone was going to notice. Then I started shooting weddings professionally. And after nearly a hundred weddings, what I’ve learned is this: no one is paying attention to what the guests are wearing. (In hindsight it’s very obvious. Because you’re paying attention to the couple. Duh.)

Well, actually, allow me to revise that statement. No one is paying attention to what the guests are wearing, unless:

  • You are wearing a white or ivory dress
  • You are not wearing enough clothing or are suffering from a wardrobe malfunction
  • Your outfit is on point. (And then people are only paying attention because you’re stylish and they need something to occupy themselves with while they wait for the ceremony to begin. Sit back and enjoy the compliments.)

Instead of motivating me to care less about my wedding outfits, realizing that no one is watching did the exact opposite. As Michael and I enter the second wave of friend’s weddings, instead of freaking out, now I just wear the most awesome thing, occasionally using the weeks leading up to a wedding as a convenient excuse to populate my wardrobe with fancy clothes I don’t exactly need (and/or to rediscover items of clothing I forgot I had), and prepping Michael for lots of selfies.

In the spirit of this discovery, today’s roundup is all about those times you get to go to other people’s weddings. Because beyond all of the important emotional stuff that happens at weddings, the secondary function of a wedding is a party. And half the fun of going to a party is the getting dressed part. So here are my best tips for putting together a wedding outfit that’ll make you the coolest kid at the party (and hopefully not the brokest. I intentionally chose mix-and-match pieces because, let’s be honest, we’re all throwing this stuff together from shit that’s already in our closets):

1. Phoenix Wing Ear Cuffs from BaubleBar ($38) 2. Teal Faux Pearl Embellished Crop Top from River Island ($44) 3. Topshop Gold Foil Midi Skirt from Nordstrom ($75) 4. RSVP Sutton Heels in Burgundy from Zappos ($79) 5. Fiorelli Cleo Clutch Bag from Asos ($85.69)

That which twirls, wins: First things first: your outfit should be fun to wear (seems obvious, but my drawer full of Spanx tells me I’ve made the mistake of ignoring my own advice). Nowadays, I refuse to step into anything I can’t wear a normal bra with. But the real secret sauce is finding an outfit that’s fun to dance in. Which for me means things that twirl. If you opt for a high-waisted skirt like the one above, just make sure to keep the proportions of your top in balance (crop tops should just skim the top of your waist band). A sliver of midriff is totally appropriate for a wedding, but you don’t want to have to worry about underboob when you raise your hands for the chorus of “Shout.”

1. Premium Oxblood Suit from Topshop ($200) 2. Third Eye Ear Jackets from BaubleBar ($28) 3. Hops and Lollipops Flats from ModCloth ($35) 4. Sequin Tassle Zip Top Clutch from Asos ($66.65)

It doesn’t have to be a dress: Or heels for that matter. Unlike some trends in fashion (I’m looking at you neon), burgundy comes back around basically every fall, so even though this suit is a wee on the expensive side for guest attire, you can easily rotate the pieces into your day-to-day wardrobe. Plus the more classic cut will still be relevant next year. A pair of interesting shoes keep this outfit from looking like you’re going on a job interview. (Though can someone buy the pair I really wanted to include with this roundup? I can’t, in good conscience, tell you to buy $185 Jeffrey Campbell shoes for every outfit in this roundup. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.)

1. Lime Belted Jumpsuit from River Island ($96) 2. Dark Teal Leather Biker Jacket from River Island ($260) 3. Jeffrey Campbell Metcalf Block Boot from NastyGal ($198) 4. Leopard Ponyskin Clutch from Asos ($57.13)

Go For The Transitional Trendy Piece: It’s worth noting that you probably look better in a jumpsuit than you think you do. I normally advise against buying any very trendy clothing that costs more than $50, because very trendy things tend to have very short shelf lives. So if you’re going to spend more, I recommend wearing something that can transition seasons. This neon/chartreuse jumpsuit can be paired with jewel tones in the fall, or brights in the spring and summer. Since sleeveless is probably too cold for most fall weddings outside of California or some areas in the South, I’d pair it with a leather jacket worn over the shoulders, cape-style (because you know how I feel about capes). Bonus: when you wear the jumpsuit and the leather jacket together, you can finally live out your fantasy of looking like Sandy from the final scene in Grease, and that seems worth it to me. (For plus size jumpsuits, I’m digging this one from Asos Curve and this one from Michael Kors.)

1. Claire Richards Plus Size Sequin Dress from SimplyBe ($165; available in sizes 8–28) 2. Jeffrey Campbell All Bat and More Heel from ModCloth ($180) 3. Wing and a Prayer Tunnel Earrings from NastyGal ($18) 4. Sondra Roberts Croc Embossed Clutch from Nordstrom ($68)

Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: While I wish it were true, I know it’s not reasonable to buy a new outfit for every wedding. (This is part of my ongoing acceptance of the fact that I am not, it turns out, a celebrity. Repeat outfits are allowed.) If you want to update a fancy outfit you already own (like that sequin dress you just had to buy last year), head to your local Target, or shop places like Asos, ModCloth, NastyGal, TopShop, H&M, and River Island for cheap(ish) accessories that have a lot of personality. My best trick is to keep a few ridiculous statement accessories in my closet (like these bat shoes. Why? How? I don’t know, but I need them) and then pull them out whenever I want to make something I’ve worn a million times seem cooler.

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