Wedding guest etiquette

While a certain amount of tradition will almost always be adhered to, I think it is a wonderful thing that many brides and grooms are ‘suiting themselves’ now and choosing venues and wedding styles accordingly. The days of ‘having to do’ because ‘everyone else does’ is a mere memory and weddings now are designed around the individuals getting married.

I just received an invite to a ‘White-tie wedding’ and in big bold lettering at the very bottom of the invite I saw ‘100% UNPLUGGED’! What this means is that under no circumstances is anyone to post any photographs or videos on social media at any stage during the day. It is the first time that I’ve seen this but I know that it is becoming more and more commonplace, as many brides come across ‘not the most flattering’ pictures of themselves on social media in the days following their wedding. Is it a step too far? I really don’t think so. How many brides and grooms look back on their wedding day and think…if I had it over again, I wish I had spoken up about this and that? With the cost of weddings at an absolute all time high, I do believe the privilege of planning every second of the day exactly the way the way the bride and groom want it is how it should be! I have a feeling that more and more invites will carry this ‘Unplugged’ line.

So a White-tie wedding…I can’t wait. This is ultra-formal; a tuxedo jacket with tails and a white bow tie and gloves for ‘himself’ and it’s a full length formal ball gown with the best jewellery for me – exciting and nerve-wracking all rolled into one. This is my first time so I will be sure to take it ALL in. We would all be a little more familiar with Black-tie weddings where women wear a formal dress in a neutral tone and men wear a dark suit or tuxedo with a black bow tie.

Most wedding invitations will not have a set dress code but it is almost always expected that you would follow a few simple rules: Girls, don’t wear white, always err on the side of being too formal rather than dressing too casually and don’t ever assume that a destination wedding – to a beach for example – means that you wear a casual summer dress and flip flops. It is still a wedding, there will be photographs and it is a very special day for the people who chose to invite you, so dress climate-appropriately but in wedding attire! 

While there was a time that all women wore dresses to weddings, now we can choose between a jumpsuit, a two piece suit, a skirt and top or trousers and top…isn’t this a wonderful variety? What this means is that if you are at the age where all of your friends or all of your friends’ children are getting married, you won’t end up with a wardrobe full of wedding guest dresses but a wonderful mixture of incredible pieces that you WILL get to mix and match and wear again.

I do believe that every time I’ve written an article about weddings, I say the same thing about ‘hem-line’. Don’t ever wear a dress that is too short to a wedding, no matter how great your legs are…it never looks becoming. You can look feminine and attractive without having to wear a skimpy dress with a short hem and a super-plunging neckline!

Always avoid wearing white or off-white to a wedding unless you are invited to an all white affair. I’m amazed that some women still don’t seem to know this. Don’t ever worry if you appear in the same shade as the bridesmaids, these scenarios are unavoidably inevitable at times and don’t let it ruin your day. The bride obviously loves that colour or shade so bottom line you have extremely good taste!

Your shoe choice has the ability to dress your ‘look’ way up or down so choose a pair of shoes based on the formality of your dress and you will achieve the right balance. If the heel is a little higher than what you would normally wear, practise makes perfect – always. I heard about taping together your third and fourth toe to help redistribute your weight and this simple trick will allow you to last all day in heels; girls, I tried it, it works and stops your feet from swelling. While black is always a great choice, as it goes with everything and can be slimming, matching your skin tone to the closest shoe colour (nude shade for most of us) will make your legs look longer and it will also make you thinner and taller!

No matter what kind of a great deal you got on a designer bag in the sales, if it is a big bag, then leave it at home. A clutch bag will always be a winner at weddings and look much better in photos too. 

If you are planning on borrowing a dress from a friend for a wedding, just remember that everyone is different and I always believe that even if body shape is exactly the same, the same dress can look fantastic on one person and not suit the second person at all. The reason goes beyond not suiting skin tone or hair colour, it’s about wearing something that suits your personality; 

when you do, it looks exactly right in the most flattering way possible. Just bear that in mind, so give yourself plenty of time to perhaps borrow from a few friends rather than banking on just one dress and ending up being disappointed at the last second. 

When it comes to colour, I advise to go with one of your favourite colours rather than what is ‘in’. You will always look better, hold yourself straighter and feel more confident and comfortable in a shade that you know looks good on you, rather than a shade that is in fashion.

If you are pregnant then choose a dress that has plenty of lycra to flatter your bump in every way. Maternity style is amazing and just because you are a few inches wider does not mean that you have to turn down the glamour. Whatever you choose, you will be glowing, don’t doubt that!

If in doubt, opt for an empire waist dress. With a fitted bodice and waistline that is placed above the natural waist (sometimes even just below the bust) a typically long and loose fitting skirt, this cut skims the body and elongates the figure. It will always be a popular choice for a wedding or formal occasion as it is most flattering on women who are pear-shaped, bottom-heavy or those who might want to disguise a thick waist at any age. Helen Mirren has an on-going love affair with this cut and never fails to WOW the cameras! 

No matter what you buy and how much you spend, if you are not comfortable in what you are wearing, it shows. Choosing wisely and planning what to wear in advance means that you can put on your outfit on the day, have your hair and makeup done (or do them yourself) and relax. When you love what you are wearing you will also feel comfortable in it, all self-conscious rubbish thoughts will disappear and you will look amazing, smile more and love every single photo of yourself. Trust your intuition – if you are struggling with a decision in a fitting room, then ask the shop owner to hold the outfit and go have a cup of coffee or call your most ‘honest’ friend to help you decide. Most of the time, you just KNOW when you try something on, remember that. 

It will always be an honour and a privilege to be invited to a wedding. To share in such a special day is a wonderful thing. Enjoy every minute of it. 

Louise O'Dwyer

Louise O'Dwyer is an Image consultant based in West Cork

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