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Tips on What to Wear to a New England Wedding

guest wedding attire

Brides spend so much time thinking about what they are going to wear, dress, shoes, veil, accessories? Add to that the selections for grooms, bridal attendants and parents of the couple and there is hardly any time left to worry about how the guests will be dressed when they arrive.

Just like with the marrying couple, acceptable attire for guests may be dependent on the setting and the weather. Certainly, beach wedding demand much less formality than an exclusive country club. Standards do however exist for wedding guests. Let’s review etiquette and expectations to help your guests decide.

Dress for the Setting

Weddings may take place in a religious center, and therefore may have certain customs and expectations. This can also be influenced by culture, so be sure that open shoes, bare arms or head coverings are not offensive or insulting. The time of day is also a factor in the dress code. Afternoon weddings, although it maybe formal, may require slightly less formal attire than an evening wedding. Often guests can get an understanding of the affair from the style of the invitation, is it formal, semi-formal, informal? Beach weddings does not mean dress for a “beach day,” so avoid showing up in your bathing suit! They are a little more informal, you should still plan to dress up, but make it something sand proof.

Black Tie, White Tie

Know the difference between “black-tie required,” “black-tie optional,” and “white-tie” levels of formality. Not all formal affairs are created equal. When attending a wedding that is BLACK TIE REQUIRED, this indicates that men should be wearing tuxedos with a black bow-tie. Women should select a full or tea length gown. The later in the day the event takes place, the more formal your dress should be. This is often confused with BLACK TIE OPTIONAL events, which are also formal affairs. For this type of event, the expectation is crisp suits with a tie for male attendees, and a formal gown or cocktail dress for female attendees. The biggest difference here is that tuxedos are not required. The most formal occasions, called WHITE TIE are rare (think Royal Wedding) but demand specific dress. Tuxedo jacket with tails, a white pique vest, a white bow tie and gloves for men, and very formal gowns for women, often with gloves and formal wrap.


With summer weddings especially, the tendency is to wear light weight clothing in lighter colors. It may be tempting to wear that creamy ivory or white summer dress you have hanging in the closet, or that crisp white linen suit just back from the cleaners – but resist the temptation. Unless you have been asked to wear white for “theme” purposes, this is a color that is still reserved for the bride. We realize this may seem old-fashioned, but it’s a convention not to be broken. Unless you are invited by the bride to wear white/ivory or know without a doubt that she will NOT be wearing white/ivory, you should make other outfit arrangements!

Stick with the Theme

Popular with today’s couples is the idea of a themed wedding. From vintage to modern, bohemian to rustic, whimsical to modern, and beyond, we encourage you to get with the theme. Learn as much as possible about the expectations of the dress associated with the motif and then go for it. Keep in mind that you will be attending a wedding, so even though you may be dressing for a theme, remember that there are still rules-of-thumb for how you dress: Don’t dress to casually, don’t wear anything too revealing (skirts too short, or cleavage), include fun accessories that add to the outfit, and choose colors for the appropriate months/season.


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