TLC recently published an on-line article listing the ten things guests should never wear to a wedding. I hate to pick at the author, but I found the list a bit silly and the explanations laughably atrocious. So many caveats were included as to make the restrictions meaningless. I gather the author has not attended many weddings recently.
I do agree female guests should steer clear of outfits that are predominantly white or off-white. That is a convention I believe still holds true. Most contemporary brides, though not all, still choose to wear a shade of white. So it is probably best to avoid the unwanted perception of "competing with the bride."
The admonition against wearing black to a wedding is completely irrelevant these days. No one assumes a wedding guest attired in black is confusing the joyful occasion with a funeral or is expressing any sort of dismay regarding the couple's decision to marry. This has been a popular color choice, especially for evening weddings, for over two decades.
I get the impression the article was intended for guests who will be attending large formal weddings rather than smaller gatherings for family and close friends. Fashion dictates can definitely be relaxed for these types of weddings, especially when they are held in public parks, on the beach or in a backyard.
Even at larger, more formal weddings, female guests are not obligated to wear skirts or dresses. I actually found the inclusion of pantsuits on a list of fashion no-nos to be a bit insulting. Not all women are comfortable in dresses and formal pantsuits can be quite feminine and stunningly appropriate. Slacks and pantsuits that blend in with the degree of formality for the affair are just fine.
The invitation often indicates if the wedding will be casual, semi-formal or formal. If unsure, guests can certainly contact the couple and ask. However, please do this well in advance of the wedding day. The couple do not need to be fielding calls about their guests' clothing in the days and hours leading up to their ceremony.
I believe the best rule of thumb for a wedding guest is to select an outfit in good taste. I define being in good taste as "non-attention getting."
Dress so as to be comfortable when you sit, stand and dance. Blend in with the other guests. The bride and groom alone should be the center of attention. No fashion lists are necessary if you respect that obvious tidbit of courtesy.
See what you miss with strapless?
Maybe I should start regular features on this blog and make Wednesday, “Ask Rev. Ann” day. What do you think?
I got an email yesterday from a lovely young lady in Colorado who told me she’s been following my blog since my first entry and has also read some of my articles on various wedding planning sites over the years. Traci thinks I’m funny so she’s already scored some points with me. She’s picked up on the fact I am not a huge fan of strapless wedding dresses and wants to know why I dislike them so much.
Let me start off by assuring everyone I don’t dislike strapless wedding dresses. They are like nails on a blackboard with me. I have come to practically loathe this style. For one thing, they are a fashion trend that has outworn its welcome if you will pardon the really awful clothing pun. Strapless wedding gowns have been what seem like 99% of the racks in bridal stores since I first began officiating weddings in 2006. Okay, I think the official figure is more like 75%, but that’s still an incredibly high percentage of the market. I’m sure the trend didn’t coincidentally begin at the same time I was ordained, so this has been going on for a minimum of six years. I bought my wedding gown in 1993 and had plenty of neckline and sleeve choices. So we can date the advent of this tragic fashion industry decision to between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Enough already!
I have had a few bridal consultants tell me it is because demand is driving the market and all their clients want strapless dresses. They aren’t talking to the same brides I am!
I have had some bridal consultants tell me it is because the style looks good on all figure types and body sizes. They aren’t seeing the same brides I am!
I have to quote Katherine Goldstein’s article, “Say Yes to a Different Dress” because I think we are getting closer to the truth.
“…Rentillo admits that strapless gowns also much easier for wedding-dress designers to construct. “Adding different necklines and sleeves lead to more design challenges. It’s easy for [fashion designers] to design strapless gowns all day long.” Kate Berry concurs that strapless dresses are easier to make, and that sleeves can present more alteration challenges.”
Ms. Goldstein continues, “Call me high maintenance, but if I’m going to spend more on a wedding dress than I ever have on an outfit before, I don’t mind making a designer work a little harder to put together a flattering neckline.”
I have to agree. If women are going to spend outrageous sums of money on a dress they are only going to wear once (don’t even get me started on that), then the designers and bridal shops can roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Strapless gowns still present challenges to the women who can wear the style well. I have yet to see a bride in a strapless gown refrain from tugging at her dress. They may not even realize they are doing it, but they are. It’s not really an attractive sight and because it is motion, the action grabs our visual attention. Therefore, it is extremely noticeable to others. While the still photographs taken of the bride with her arms grabbing at her dress in the position of a monkey scratching its armpits can be deleted, no videographer on the planet can edit the motion out of a video without losing the flow of the occasion.
Beyond the fact the strapless dress looks good on a small percentage of women and results in constant distracting readjustments, my biggest objection to the style is that it adds to the anxiety of the day. And what bride needs anything that, by its very nature, adds to her stress?
I don’t care how well fitted the dress is, strapless gowns inherently generate the anxiety of a wardrobe malfunction. I have worn a strapless gown before that was custom made for me. I spent the entire evening terrified my bare breasts were going to make a grand entrance at any moment. I cannot imagine having that feeling while walking down the aisle with all eyes on me! I have seen entirely too many brides step on the hemline at the front of their dress while walking down the aisle or up some steps. The look of terror on their faces is the stuff nightmares are made of. Because the escort is holding one arm and the bouquet is in the other, the bride does not have a free hand to lift the skirt or grab the top should it slip.
So we have come to the inevitable question. How many brides have I seen experience a wardrobe malfunction with a strapless gown? Two out of over two hundred—which is not a high percentage, but it is two brides too many who didn’t deserve the mortification on their wedding day. Now in one of the cases, the groom and I were the only two people to witness the mishap. I can’t say the same of the other. Regardless of the low risk though, it is the anxiety felt by almost every bride in a strapless gown that is utterly unnecessary and can be avoided by choosing a dress with straps or sleeves.
If the style suits you and you aren’t the anxiety-prone type, than by all means find the strapless gown of your dreams. Just don’t come crying to me when you view your video and there you are tugging at your dress. Because I can guarantee you there is not a woman anywhere who can wear a strapless dress for several hours without subconsciously checking at some point to see if it has stayed where she originally put it.
I sincerely hope Kate Middleton’s gown choice influences bridal trends. Sooner rather than later would be nice.
Rev. Ann Fuller
The commentary on this blog is my own opinion developed over years of officiating a wide range of wedding sizes and styles. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.