Going to the Chapel… For Someone Else’s Wedding

By: Tamara Jane

In a society that finds it acceptable for students to wear pajamas and boxer shorts to class, is it any surprise that people show up to weddings these days in jeans?

I’ve always believed that you should dress up for a wedding. It’s the most memorable day yet in the life of the bride and groom and the guests are key in helping to make that memory. I wore dress pants to a wedding once, and I think that is about as casual as a female guest should go to a wedding. However, I’ve noticed at the last few weddings I’ve attended, that some people wear jeans. I thought to myself, “Seriously? Jeans?”

Am I just old fashioned? I needed a second opinion, so I did some searching online and found from four different sources (Vogue, About.com, Yahoo Answers and a wedding blogger) that fashionistas agree: wearing jeans to a wedding is taboo – and even dress pants is slummin’ it. So, what’s the thinking behind this fashion faux pas?

“I want to be ready for the reception,” might be a typical justification for skipping the dress. Guess what – you shouldn’t wear jeans to the reception either! Unless the bride and groom are dressing down, it’s just not right for the guest to go get comfy-cozy either.

“I’ve never worn a dress in my life and I’m not going to start for some lousy wedding.” With those kinds of well wishes, perhaps you should just stay home. As if putting on a dress is some major sacrifice! I John 3 says we should be willing to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. Put it in perspective! No one’s asking for a kidney here!

“I don’t own a dress, and I can’t afford to buy one.” OK, this may have some validity. However, most weddings don’t sneak up on us; we usually have a month or more advance notice to fix this problem. Can’t afford a dress? How about borrowing one? Your dress-wearing friends most likely have in their closet a small collection of things they wore only once and now can’t bear to part with or stoop to wearing again. Don’t worry about someone recognizing the dress as your friend’s. Dresses look different on different people. No one will notice! No friends your size? In this case, I’d refer you back to my column on how to look great on the cheap. If you can afford a value meal at your favorite fast food place, you’ve got enough to buy a nice secondhand dress.

“I feel so awkward in a dress. I’m afraid to eat, drink or dance.” Afraid to eat? Try a bib. You’d look a lot less silly with your napkin tucked in your dress than you would in jeans. Afraid to dance? Then don’t. If you must be in jeans to dance, just sit this one out.

“The wedding is outside and it’s going to be cold and windy.” Here’s a situation that might warrant dress pants, depending on how cold we’re talking. Maybe you own a dress, but not dressy outerwear. Admittedly, that is harder to find secondhand or borrowed. If it’s a cold-weather, outdoor wedding, you’re going to need to start early trying to find something suitable, but the same strategies apply.

Have we come to terms with jeans being taboo for a wedding? Okay, then, so what should we wear? Some clues as to how formal the event will be can be found in the invitation. Where will the wedding be? Where is the reception? Check out the couple’s wedding Web site, if available, to see if the bride has made any suggestions. If you’re still wondering, ask one of the attendants. Are the groomsmen going to be in tuxes? Then you should dress formal as well. If they’re going to be in shirt and tie – follow suit with business casual attire. Don’t assume that just because the couple is tying the knot barefoot on the beach that it’s OK for you to show up in capris and a tank top. It is still the right thing for you to do, as a friend and supporter of this union, to hobble out in the sand in your dress shoes. Always better to ask than to under-dress.

Color? It’s OK to try to dress to the colors of the wedding, but don’t feel obligated to – anything that is seasonal and appropriate to the level of formality of the event is fine. Black? It used to be considered bad form to wear black to weddings, but that has gone the way of white after Labor Day. Black seems more appropriate for an evening event, however.

Let’s be clear about the motive here. Whatever you decide to wear, it should not be about you. In your decision-making, you should be doing unto others as you would have them do to you. Your goal is to contribute to the warm memories made that day. You don’t want to stand out in the happy couple’s memory for having stolen the spotlight with a peacock feather hat and a plunging neckline, nor for sticking out like a sore thumb as the only one in jeans. Blend! Be the memory! For more on what to wear to a wedding, check out Westchester Weddings.com’s guest attire suggstions.

Weddings are unlike any other event. They are a celebration of two people. They don’t come once a year like birthdays, and there aren’t 300 other people celebrating the same occasion in the same place, like graduations. Hold your choice of clothing in as high regard as you hold the people you are celebrating.



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