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.
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.