You probably know the basic rules of wedding attire: no white, nothing too short or too low-cut, and please, for the love of all things holy, read the dress code. But what about outdoor weddings? Do anything goes? Is there a different protocol for outdoor ceremonies as opposed to indoor ones? We turned to very smart people (aka our fashion insiders) to bring you some tips on what’s appropriate to wear when you head outside on someone else’s big day.
Be sure your outfit has structural integrity.
- Have you ever attended a wedding where the bride was barefoot, or the groom couldn’t find his shoes? The most common reason this happens is that they kicked off their footwear during the ceremony—and while an outdoor wedding can be a wonderful thing, it also means that afterward, those shoes are gone forever. Don’t let this happen to you! Be sure your outfit has structural integrity.
- If you’re wearing a dress, make sure it stays on by testing its zipper and fit. For example, try sitting down in it to make sure you don’t accidentally flash anyone when you reach across the table for the bread rolls. Also consider making sure your hemline isn’t too small—if it’s too short, any gusts of wind could easily expose your underwear.
- Choose a dress with a high enough neckline so it won’t fall off. A good rule of thumb here is to make sure there’s at least one button above your bust line (preferably two), and if there isn’t, then add one yourself by tacking on an extra button or two with some strong thread (not fishing line!).
Think about the weather.
You should plan your outfit with the weather in mind and consider how you’ll stay warm or cool, dry, and comfortable. This is especially important if the wedding will be held at a beach, poolside, in a vineyard, or outdoors during any time of year.
Weather can definitely impact what you wear to an outdoor wedding depending on where it’s being held and whether there’s a possibility of rain. For example:
- If it’s going to be hot or humid outside, don’t wear a heavy dress fabric like velvet—you’ll want something that breathes easy. The same goes for snowy or cold weather because you’ll want to keep warm without overheating if you go inside for pictures or dancing. Also be sure to bring a coat if it’s going to be chilly so you’re not stuck freezing all day long!
- If there’s any chance of rain at all (even just 20%) then make sure your shoes are waterproof or have some kind of cover over them so they won’t get ruined when walking through wet grass/mud from puddles etc… You may also want to bring an umbrella as well as extra layers just in case these things happen while outdoors with guests during ceremonies/reception events.
Check for dress codes.
Dress codes vary so widely from wedding to wedding that you really have to do your research. First and foremost, check the wedding invitation for any hints or requirements. If there’s nothing listed, it’s perfectly fine to ask the couple what they’d prefer. If you’re unsure about a dress code, err on the side of caution and go with a more formal style that still lets you be comfortable in the weather circumstances.
If a dress code is specified but you don’t know what it means, try looking online for examples of how people adhere to those dress codes at other weddings. You’ll often find specific ideas on Pinterest—or if they have a wedding website, they may include some examples there as well.
It’s always best to play it safe and respect whatever attire is requested by the couple hosting their special day. However, if no dress code is stated anywhere, then feel free to take risks and personalize your outfit as much as possible! Go wild!
Consider your venue.
Your outfit should be crafted with the venue in mind. If it’s on the beach, you don’t want to wear something that will be dragging in the sand or tangling in a sudden breeze. You’ll also have to take into account what footwear is appropriate, especially if you’ll be walking across rocky terrain.
If your wedding is up in the mountains, an evening dress may not work as well as something simple and elegant like a long-sleeved black jumpsuit that can keep you warm once the sun sets. You don’t want to wear anything too flashy if you’re visiting a rural farmstead—leave your experience at the opera for another day by opting for a less dramatic style. The same principle applies if you’re attending a wedding in an urban setting; instead of dressing up (and shelling out) for designer threads, try mixing and matching classic items from your own wardrobe to create an ensemble that feels like it was put together by Visvim-clad fashion insiders.
Remember to wear layers.
Layers are essential for any outdoor wedding guest, as the weather is one of the most unpredictable factors that you’ll have to work with. Start off with a good base layer of breathable fabric in neutral colors like black, white or beige. Then add on top of that solid-colored separates using lightweight fabrics like silk and cotton, which are perfect for keeping your cool under the sun.
You can get away with wearing a variety of colors and prints to an outdoor wedding, but it may feel more appropriate to stick to earthy hues (think: greens and pastels) or bolder jewel tones (like ruby reds and cobalt blues). You can also incorporate wild patterns into your look as long as they don’t overpower the rest of your outfit — think florals or ikat prints. If you’re wearing a dress to an outdoor wedding, consider pairing it with a jacket in case there’s an unexpected chill in the air.
If you want something more versatile that can double as an accessory, go with something light like a pashmina shawl or blanket scarf so you can stay warm without sacrificing style. Another plus? You can use it as a picnic blanket later on at the reception!
Consider the season.
Whether you’re excited for a summer wedding or the chill of a winter ceremony, you’ll want to take the appropriate clothing into consideration when attending. All seasons have their challenges (and benefits), so it’s important that you prepare accordingly. Here’s a rundown of the best season for each type of event and how to dress accordingly:
- A Spring wedding should be mostly casual but still look put together. For this type of event, bring neutral colors that blend in with the venue or surroundings. You can also take a cue from your preferred flower color and make sure to wear a piece in complementary shades or hues.
- A Summer wedding will likely host many different types of guests, so it’s important to avoid wearing white if your skin tone is pale. Instead, find pieces in neutrals like blue and pink—or go with pops of color that are more vibrant than pastels. For instance, flowers in orange and yellow will add warmth to an otherwise cold setting without drawing too much attention away from the bride and groom themselves.
- A Fall wedding tends to be quite formal, so you should keep both formality and style in mind while planning your outfit choice (but don’t forget comfort!). Stick with earth tones like browns and dark greens; accessories such as jewelry can put a bit more polish on an otherwise casual look by complementing your outfit instead of distracting from it.
- A winter wedding is typically reserved for close friends and family members—so don’t stick too closely to black! If you do want something completely monochromatic, consider colorful accents like pops of red or orange here and there instead—these pieces will draw less attention to yourself than solid colors would alone. As for shoes, keep them simple yet durable with boots if possible; you’ll probably be spending most of the day on foot under blankets anyway!
If you’re a guest, don’t try to upstage the bride and groom.
A good rule of thumb is to dress at the level of formality as the bride, but not more. For example, if you know she’ll be wearing a long, formal gown, don’t wear an even longer or fancier gown to try and upstage her. The bride and groom should be the center of attention at their wedding.
Another tip is to avoid wearing white. White is traditionally worn by brides at their weddings (at least in Western culture) and for guests to wear white is considered impolite. If you have doubts about how formal or informal your outfit should be, consider dressing slightly lower than your perception of what’s appropriate; this way you won’t accidentally offend anyone by overdressing.
For outdoor weddings it’s especially important to dress appropriately since weather conditions can change rapidly at different times of day and year. Remember that June may seem like summer in your area but could mean late spring or early autumn in another area where a wedding may take place. Bring along a jacket or cardigan so you will be prepared for changing conditions as the day goes on.
As long as you’re prepared and dress appropriately, there’s no reason to stress about your outfit.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that any outfit you wear is yours and yours alone. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin and feel confident in what you’re wearing, there’s no reason to stress about your appearance. Although your outfit should be appropriate for an outdoor wedding, remember that fashion is temporary while style lasts forever—and that means no one else can tell you how to look good. Be yourself and have fun!
Though it may seem like a lot to consider, being prepared and dressed appropriately will leave you free to enjoy the occasion and get some great photos. Remember that even if the weather is perfect, there could still be puddles or muddy areas. For the most part, though, when you’ve thought ahead, the biggest challenge at an outdoor wedding will be keeping your heels out of the grass.