I was lucky enough to attend a lovely, lovely wedding yesterday. The bride and groom were glowing with happiness; their families and friends were there to support them and share their joy; and the bride chose (and wore with élan) a perfectly suitable and elegantly simple gown.
I was also pleased to see how many people were following the rules for dresses at weddings (that is, rules for the dresses that are not the Wedding Dress–the Wedding Dress has its own rules that are beyond the scope of this blog). However, seeing so many people dressed beautifully and appropriately reminded me of the many weddings I've attended where many were not, so here is a refresher for those who need it.
One: do not wear black. I can hear somebody whining that she only has one nice dress, and it NEEDS to be black because she has to wear it on New Year's Eve, and besides, black is slimming. I am not listening to you. You do not wear black to weddings. You do not wear black to weddings because wearing black at weddings means you disapprove of the marriage. You do not wear black to weddings because someday, god forbid, you might actually WANT to wear black to a wedding in order to show your disapproval and your deep grief over somebody's ill-advised nuptials, and no one will know that this is what you intended because there will be a roomful of women in LBDs dancing barefoot to "We Are Family" and your grand gesture will be for naught. MARK MY WORDS. (Besides, black is BOR-ing. And not as slimming as you might think.) Black and white prints are allowable if they would be unsuitable for a funeral.
Two: do not wear red. Wearing red is an attention-grabber, and it is rude to try to take attention from the bride. (A corollary of the "do not wear red" rule is "do not wear dresses cut down to (or slit up to) THERE".) This rule goes double for the groom's ex-girlfriends. This rule goes triple for the groom's ex-girlfriends who are there as the "and Guest" of somebody else.
Three: do I even have to tell you not to wear white? And yes, ivory, candlelight, pale shell pink, and pearl grey all count as white. Better safe than sorry. If you have to ask why you can't wear white, you are no longer allowed to attend any weddings at all. If you are the mother of the groom and you wear white or a whitish shade, you will not be allowed to ask "why? why?" when the newlyweds move someplace you need a visa to visit.
Four: if you are wearing a dress with spaghetti straps or no straps at all, or one that is far enough off the shoulder to need special undergarments, AND the ceremony is in a place of worship, please bring a shawl, a wrap, or something to cover up with. Yes, I know that God doesn't care, but churches are usually cold (it's all the stone) and goosebumps are unbecoming.
The general idea is that a wedding is NOT simply a fancy party to which you wear your fancy-party clothes; a wedding is a wedding, and it has its own rules. (However — if you are a bridesmaid, and the bride asks you to break any of these rules, you suck it up and say "yes, whatever you like, it's your day." Without eye-rolling where she can see you.)
Now I can hear that same somebody asking, "Well, what CAN I wear?" Weddings, especially summer afternoon weddings, are the place to wear dresses. A simple sheath in a bright color or print is nearly always flattering, appropriate, and pretty. An A-line or full-skirted dress will be a pleasure to wear while dancing. (I myself use nearly every wedding as an excuse to sew a new dress–if they care enough to invite me, I should make my best effort, shouldn't I?) Summer weddings are one of the last places where a frivolously pretty dress is recommended, if not required — why ruin it by crowding out the dresses with sparkly cocktail gowns and business suits? They have their own turf.