Weddings are a great place to people watch. Observing family dynamics (both the sweet moments and the crazy drama) is more entertainment than much of what you see on television.
I also really enjoy watching guests' fashion decisions. You can learn a lot about what's hot for different body types, and even more interestingly -- you can see what is an absolute fashion faux pas for everyone. Here are some tips to help you avoid being the gauche guest the next time you attend a wedding.
1. Avoid wearing white: Unless you are invited to a white-themed wedding, don't take attention away from the bride by showing up in a white gown. Trust me, people will talk!
2. Don't wear anything too short or too low-cut: Even worse, don't wear something that is both too short and too low-cut. I have spent hours watching guests tugging their dresses down and then adjusting them back up only to have to repeat that over and over again. Other guests will notice. It looks hilarious, but I'm sure it's quite uncomfortable.
3. Ladies, wear appropriate undergarments: In other words, please wear underwear, or Spanx, or something under your dress. This is especially important if you decide to wear something short. (see item number two above) I have witnessed many female wedding guests on the dance floor who show off more than I think they intended.
4. Take cues from the wedding invitation about the formality of the event: Is the invitation itself formal or casual? Does the wedding take place after six o'clock or during the day? Is the ceremony in a house of worship or an outdoor setting? These are all indicators of how you should dress. Formal invitation equals formal attire. After six usually means to dress more formally than during the day. Churches, synagogues and even hotel ballrooms tend to be more formal than a park, garden or a beach. If you absolutely cannot figure out how to dress by looking at the invitation, don't be shy. It's better to ask the bride, groom or their families than show up in something that sticks out like a sore thumb.
5. Wear clothing appropriate for going to a house of worship: This means no sneakers, jeans, t-shirts or tank tops. Many churches and synagogues also require that women's shoulders be covered, so if you want to wear something a little sexy for the reception, make sure to bring along a sweater or jacket so that you can cover up for the ceremony.
6. Don't wear casual clothes to a formal wedding: It is so awkward to be dressed for a sporting event while everyone else is dressed in cocktail attire. During my duties as a wedding planner, I have nearly had security toss out guests who are dressed in jeans and t-shirts, not because I am a self-appointed fashion police officer, but because I have mistaken them for wedding crashers!
7. Don't wear formal clothes to a casual wedding: Being overdressed for a wedding is just as uncomfortable as being underdressed. You may also inadvertently detract from the wedding party if you are dressier than they are.
8. Wear appropriate shoes: I have worked on many beach and garden weddings where ladies show up in stiletto-heeled shoes. Walking through the sand or sinking into the lawn is horribly uncomfortable. If you want to wear those stylish heels, bring an extra pair of flats to make sure that you can glide through the grass.
When it comes to dressing for a wedding, don't be afraid to show your personal style, just be mindful that in addition to the wedding being a party, it is a significant ceremony and right of passage. Keep the simple tips above in mind, and you will have no problem dressing to impress!