As a guest, you’re not allowed to wear white, right? We have the inside scoop about what you should or shouldn’t wear to a wedding.
What can, or can’t you wear to a wedding? While dress codes have relaxed over time, and Kiwis in particular are chill, there are still expectations about what you can wear. The general rules are below but remember; the expectations of the couple getting married are the most important rule. Every ‘rule’ about wedding guest clothing can be thrown away if they say it.
Can You Wear White to a Wedding?
Unless the bride specifically says there’s a theme and everyone is to dress in white, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If the dress doesn’t look ‘bridal’ and has a cute print, you can flick her a message and ask if it’s ok, but in general, avoid a white dress. There are so many other options that aren’t controversial, just avoid white.
Can You Wear Jeans to a Wedding?
If the invite specifies a theme or dress code, stick to it. If the theme is ‘black’ and you show up wearing pink, you’ll stand out (in a bad way). Generally, New Zealand dress codes might be:
Black tie formal: This is a formal event. Men should wear tuxedos or suits and ties. Long formal gowns are the best choice for women. In NZ, we are a bit more casual, you can get away with pants and a smart shirt or blouse, or a knee length cocktail frock, but jeans are a hard no. Go all out as luxe as you want, with jewellery, gorgeous fabrics, and heels.
Formal attire: This is your typical Kiwi wedding. Cocktail dresses, nice pants and a shirt, or a cute pantsuit are all great. You can always overdress, it’s not a problem to be dressed smartly.
Cocktail: A cute dress with a shorter hemline than a black tie event. Men- suits and ties. If in doubt, a little black dress never goes wrong.
Semi-formal/ beach wedding/ dressy casual: You can relax a bit here, and wear a summery dress or a patterned shirt with no tie. A long maxi dress, a midi dress, a wrap dress, or jumpsuit are all ideal. Think about flats or wedges for shoes for a beach wedding too. Jeans, still a no.
In summary: jeans are a no.
Keep Clubwear for the Club
Dressing sexy is fine. Short skirts or low cut dresses, also fine. But when you wear a short, tight, low cut, sexy dress… maybe choose something else. Keep the attention on the bride. Yes, you’re gorgeous and you are allowed to wear whatever you want. But maybe, just for this day, go for something a little more sophisticated and glamorous.
What to Wear to a Wedding From Another Culture
You’re so stoked to be invited to your mates wedding, but they are Indian/ Muslim/ Chinese/ or some other ethnicity or culture. First, don’t panic. Contact them as soon as possible (i.e. not the day before the wedding) and ask what’s expected of you. Are you expected to wear something culturally appropriate, or will normal Western wedding wear be OK?
If you get an opportunity to wear something from a different culture, don’t stress out too much, they probably have some ideas about what’s OK to wear and where you could get it from.
Many people worry that dressing up in another culture’s traditional wear is cultural appropriation. But unless you’re doing it for financial gain, you can relax; going to a wedding gives you a perfectly legitimate excuse to respectfully embrace another culture.
Indian: Big fat Indian weddings are a great chance to dress up in bright colours, wear loads of jewellery, and eat biryani. There are companies you can rent Desi-style clothes from, and you don’t have to wear a saree (for many people, ‘draping’ a saree presents a challenge although you can buy pre-stitched ones). A lehenga and blouse are a lovely combination, and you can use the dupatta (scarf) to artfully drape and hide your stomach if you want to. Avoid wearing the colours red, black, and white. You can also get ‘mehendi’ done, which is the henna patterns on the hands. India is a big place and North and South weddings are very different affairs and there can be many different ceremonies.
Chinese: Don’t wear red: usually the bride will be. Avoid black or white, as they symbolise mourning and death frequently in Chinese culture. Should you wear a cheongsam? Ask the couple if it’s required but usually it’s not.
Muslim/ other ‘modest’ culture: Do you need to wear a headscarf? The answer is, probably not, but it’s worth asking to make sure. Ensure you wear a modest neckline, shoulders are covered, and skirts are below the knees. Modest culture expectations vary tremendously depending on religion, geographic location, and the individual family’s expectations, so it’s best to ask.
If In Doubt, Ask
Remember, if you’re in doubt, ask the couple. Send a photo of your intended outfit and ask if they think it’s ok. Do this a few weeks before the wedding, because they get busier as the big day approaches. That way, you know you’ll be wedding-approved.