Open thread: How should an offbeat wedding guest dress?

June 12 2015 | arielmstallings

offbeat wedding guest dress

I just was wondering if someone could do a "what to wear" post for wedding guests. I saw a few posts about dress codes, but some links and ideas (like your shoe posts) would be super useful. Even though I've been to over a dozen weddings in the last 6 years I am still clueless about what to wear.

I am generally under-dressed at formal weddings or I end up buying a dress that is boring, wear it once, and donate it. I don't even know where to look for some cool, offbeat wedding guest dresses. I even googled "dresses to wear to formal weddings" and was overwhelmed by blandness.

I guess basically, can someone tell me (and probably others) what an offbeater wears to a formal gig?

Fridays are normally reserved for shoe posts, but today is going to be the exception. This is sort of a rough question to answer because of course finding a wedding guest outfit that feels "right" will be super dependent on the specific wedding, and the specific guest.

Also, I have loud and questionable taste that will not be to everyone (or even many people's?) liking… but hey! You asked me! Moral of the story: there's no way this one post could be everyone's everything, but I'm going to round up some of my favorites outfits to give you some jumping off places in your own explorations. I've included tons of plus size dresses, and options for our beloved dapper androgynes. Plus my recommendation for the ultimate wedding reception dancing outfit…

Retro wedding guest dresses

Super affordable at $62 and available up to a 4X With Only a Wink Dress in PeridotEVERYONE loves this dress — we've seen brides wear it, bridesmaids wear it, and it's perfect for guests, too (although cross you fingers that no one else wears it!)

affordable dress on offbeat bride
Another one that's super affordable ($50!), available in 18 colors, and goes up to size 20.

Bohemian

 

Flowy!
Flowy!

Floral wedding guest dresses

I love bold floral prints!

Take Your Picnic DressSuch flowers. Much pretty.

Wait until you see the back!
Wait until you see the back!

Modern wedding guest dress styles

This one might be best suited to an sophisticated indoor evening wedding. (Available in plus sizes only.)
This one might be best suited to an sophisticated indoor evening wedding. (Available in plus sizes only.)

 

Yes, you can totally wear a mermaid dress to a wedding. (Available in plus sizes only.)
Yes, you can totally wear a mermaid dress to a wedding. (Available in plus sizes only.)

In the Key of Chic Dress in Polka DotsI personally own this dress and LOVE IT.

So you don't want to wear a dress?

Wedding jumpsuit is totally a thing.
Wedding jumpsuit is totally a thing.
I, for one, welcome our new wedding jumpsuit overlords.
I, for one, welcome our new wedding jumpsuit overlords.

Dapper

Take a page for these two brides: dark jeans, trim blazer, and accessories!
Take a page for these two brides: dark jeans, trim blazer, and accessories!
Cole + Kim Wedding
Cole here rocked this look — bow tie, vest, and a tailored shirt. Photo by Kim Ventola.
Folks of any gender identity can't go wrong with a crisp white shirt, tailored pants, and a colorful bow tie from Knotty Co's Spring Fever collection.
Folks of any gender identity can't go wrong with a crisp white shirt, tailored pants, and a colorful bow tie from Knotty Co's Spring Fever collection.

Unicorn suit

STAY WITH ME HERE! I'm not suggesting you wear this to the wedding ceremony, but I am telling you first-hand that there is no quicker way to liven up a wedding reception dance floor than by changing into a unicorn onesie. TRUST ME.

unicorn onesie on offbeat bride

How do I know this to be true? Just ask this guy:

alternative wedding expo bridal fair lovesick expo (3)

Clearly, my taste is questionable. Share links to what YOU'RE wearing to weddings this summer!

  1. Ooooh, that crop top dress is beautiful! I would look terrible in a jumpsuit, but I really want to see someone in that hot red one. And mmmm, vests and bow ties. <3

    My only caution: A couple of these are pretty heavy on the white side–the gorgeous off-shoulder one could legit be a wedding dress from the waist up–and some brides (and their families) may not be okay with that. Know your audience before wearing white to someone else's wedding…or at least bring your unicorn onesie along in case someone takes issue.

    14 agree
      • OMG thank you so much for this picture. Also, amazing sweater. And hair flowers. <3

        And, um… -cough- Any chance I could get that link to the aforementioned pretty off-the-shoulder dress again? I think I need it.

          • That link appears to be just for the skirt – I think it's perfectly acceptable for a wedding if you pair it with a blue or other colored top!

            2 agree
          • I noticed that too, and I totally agree! The crop top they've paired with it is adorable in its own right, too–just not for wedding pictures, as discussed below. Ha!

            1 agrees
    • I wanted to second this – it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the selections in this post. Anything with a largely uninterrupted white or cream background is not good wedding wear. Even if it's covered in polka dots, or flowers, or what have you – white is reserved for the bride!

      Personally I find a ton of my wedding guest dresses on ModCloth – even though I'm not so much into the retro thing, they have so many unique dress styles that you're not going to find anywhere else! Tons of options that are unique and also wedding-appropriate.

      5 agree
        • I agree that not-white is a perfectly acceptable color for a bride, but for some reason i still think guests shouldn't wear white (or all black) to a wedding…

          As for offbeat attire, i don't know if they're available across the pond, but I have two very cool long dresses from Save the Queen! and Le Gatte that i wore to weddings and got lots of compliments about

          4 agree
          • That's funny, the 'all black' thing. I am a trombone player and I was playing in a 1940s Swing Band in my friend's wedding – I was also invited to the wedding. I had to wear all black for the band, but the still go to the wedding beforehand and be a guest. I wore a gorgeous black dress that was all patterned with black flowers, a black shrug, a black fascinator, black tights, black boots, and a really bright necklace. I got a lot of compliments on my outfit! So it all depends on what fits.

            3 agree
          • @normajean: It's funny, I would never have thought to have a problem with people wearing black. It's formal, it's flattering, it's easy to find, no big deal! But I was informed by my mom and grandma that weddings are for happy colors, so that's fine too, haha. Plus it turned into great ammo when I was convincing FH not to wear black and white (because morning wedding, ivory dress). He's definitely on the The Way Things Are Done side, so telling him black is for funerals definitely helped sway him 😉

            1 agrees
          • As someone with hyperhidrosis, white and black are the only things that don't show how sweaty I am. I don't want to show up to a wedding and look like I'm a melting wicked witch of the west or something.

            2 agree
        • Even if she's not, I would definitely check with her first. And I have firsthand experience with the waist-up issue – someone wore a short, light gold strapless dress to my wedding that in person was fine, but in pictures where she was photographed from the waist up she looked like she was wearing a wedding dress. It was especially problematic when she posted a shot to Facebook where she was standing next to my husband! Seriously, I'd caution people from wearing *anything* that is substantially white, cream, gray, metallic, whatever from the waist up without express approval from the bride.

          3 agree
      • I got married last September, and a few people asked if it was okay if their dress was white or mostly white. I didn't care, I wore purple! I was also wearing a veil and had a constant stream of people around me the whole day, so it was pretty obvious I was the bride. However, my sister-in-law is getting married this year, and she (and my mother-in-law) would be . . . upset. . . if someone else wore white or a mostly-white dress. So I think the "wearing white to the wedding" rule is wedding- and bride-dependent.

        ETA: That said, if you aren't comfortable asking the bride, it's probably better to err on the side of caution and avoid dresses that are white or might photograph white.

        8 agree
        • @Willow, I wouldn't actually mind people wearing white either. I agree, it's pretty obvious who the bride is. Really, the only reason I would be upset is because I've been told that I should be offended by someone wearing white to my wedding! Aren't ingrained societal teachings fascinating?

          5 agree
  2. tribesmaid IttyBittyKittyCommittee sparked a great debate on on the tribe as to whether a dress with a maneating plant pattern was suitable for her sisters wedding (I was in Team Yes, it was fab!). Others were less keen, I think, check with your sister first was the end result.

    I second Tribesmaid Kaitlin, I would be seriously unimpressed if someone rocked up in the first floral one at my wedding (in fact I may look at it for my second party…). I am of the opinion you shouldn't wear white or black to weddings. I also try to find out what the colour scheme is and avoid it in case I look like an imposter bridesmaid.

    That green 50sy dress would also make an amazing bridesmaid dress

    2 agree
  3. I LOVED this post, you made such good suggestions that I think can appeal to may different styles, taste and 'dressiness' preference levels while still being wedding-appropriate, even for the more formal weddings. Thank you for sharing.

    2 agree
  4. Weddings in Florida are always informal, so I usually end up in some summer boho outfit (patchwork skirt, romantic corset top, etc). Everyone else may be in khakis and pastel sundresses, but I tend to have flashy colors. Everyone usually remembers me "being there" simply because of my clothes.

    1 agrees
  5. Most of these dresses are just-shy of formal though, aren't they? This question seemed to be about what an offbeat person wears when you're supposed to get dressed UP–these seem more "Festive Attire" outfits than, say, "Black Tie" or "Black Tie Optional" outfits.

    6 agree
  6. I would go to any of the following sites…
    Sourpuss Clothing
    Blame Betty
    Pinup Girl Clothing
    Grease, Gas & Glory
    Daddy O's
    Unique-Vintage
    Vivien Of Holloway
    Rebel Circus
    Starlets & Harlets
    Baby Girl Boutique
    Angry, Young & Poor
    I could go on and on lol 🙂

    2 agree
  7. I found a lovely purple knee-length number on the clearance rack in the prom section a year or two ago. It's fancy enough for formal, unique enough that no one else is wearing what I'm wearing, and classic enough that I expect to be able to rock it to every wedding I go to for the next 3-5 years. The best part is I think it cost $20.

    So check clearance racks after prom season, the more offbeat numbers may be slow to go

    3 agree
  8. Thank you for posting this in response to my quandary! This is so helpful to work off of. I struggled so much with finding a dress that was both appropriate for the occasion AND felt like something I would wear. It really made it hard to enjoy going to weddings. I feel more confident about it now, so thanks again!

    3 agree
  9. For the first time ever I'm so happy to be right on the cusp of regular & plus sizes, because I need that mermaid dress in my life.

    2 agree
  10. I had the pleasure of wearing a mermaid print dress as a bridesmaid for my friend's wedding. I'd totally wear it again as a wedding guest. I generally wear 1950s style dresses with a vibrant print, teamed with a quirky fascinator. Sometimes I worry about the head wear, but in reality it's a great ice breaker as people want to come and speak to the lady wearing the crazy hat.

    I think it's all about compromise really. If people are likely to be shocked by your usual style you can tone it down by wearing a more appropriate dress and wearing crazy shoes instead. That way you still feel like you but you don't have to feel uncomfortable around more conservative guests.

  11. My suggestion for almost any dress code: a wrap dress (bright color or funky pattern if you are wanting to show your offbeat side), with ballet flats, heels, or metallic sandals.

    If that's too femme of a choice, then strait legged black or grey pants with a tucked in dress shirt and a snazzy belt with ballet flats or oxfords.

    If blending in with the dress code is important to you, another great option is to choose one of the above options in a conservative colour, and then go a little out-there with a couple accessories: super funky shoes, a ton of bangles, a giant pendant, an old funky broche, or something unexpected in your hair, like a giant starfish clip.

    1 agrees
  12. My general rules of thumb for attending mainstream weddings (besides the don't wear white, which has been thoroughly covered) are to dress less fancy than the bride, avoid wearing "her colors" (to avoid being mistaken for a bridesmaid), and dress nice enough to not be the most under-dressed person there. Basically, dress nicer than you'd dress for work in a professional environment (school, office, bank, etc).

    Generally, I get my dresses for attending weddings from Dress Barn. I'm super biased, because I used to work there, but their dresses are great, not super expensive, and the people there have been trained to help you find something that looks good (and most of them really enjoy doing so)! They've got a decent variety, and most items can be dressed up or down as you please with accessories. If dresses aren't your thing, I highly recommend palazzo pants and a dressy blouse. They're super comfy, and look like a formal skirt. As an added bonus, you can wear them to all your dressy events, and just change up the top as needed . This works great if your top half is a different size from your bottom half too! I've found similar dresses to what Dress Barn sells in places like Burlington Coat Factory and TJ Maxx as well.

    Here's a link to the pants in question (they come in a variety of sizes – this listing is for the plus sized short variety): http://www.dressbarn.com/detail/plus-size-sheer-matte-palazzo-pants-short/101487181/150 Seriously, they feel like pajama pants.

    Of course, this advice is for "normal" weddings. With offbeat weddings, obviously, things can vary greatly. When in doubt, ask the bride/groom (or someone directly involved with the wedding) for guidance. Some couples might want you to wear jeans and a t-shirt, some might want costumes, and some might want you to dress as fancy as possible (wasn't there a wedding featured here where they wanted guests to outdo the bride?).

    3 agree
  13. A fun way to make a formal outfit more you is fun accessories too. Adding some sparkle to a somewhat plainer dress (I own one like this, but where this one is white, mine is deep purple: http://www.rickis.com/geo-insert-sheath-dress-8104ED1125099.html?dwvar_8104ED1125099_colour=Black%2FGrey%2FIvory#start=37&sz=36 ) can make a dress that seems less formal more formal, and leave you with a dress you can wear again (I wear mine with a blazer to the office). I am also a fan of the fascinator, the hair clip, and the headband to fancy things up. I have found people are as likely to appreciate good accessories as they are a good dress.

    On the other hand, a good idea is to ask yourself what makes a dress make you happy? To me it is interesting detailing/ patterns, bright colours (as a larger lady if I have to wear one more formal dress in black I will SCREAM), OR a poofy skirt. I know I will feel like I'm having fun in a dress that makes me happy. So try and pick a "you" feature and then take it up a formality level.

    2 agree
  14. Most of my fancy dresses come from department stores. The “prom” section has nice stuff year-round (I actually prefer that section in the off-season because I don't have to wade through the prom dresses).

    That said, Modcloth has loads of pretty dresses, and so does Amazon! LindyBop, Sidecca Retro, and like a million other Amazon vendors sell pretty retro-style dresses that would work for a wedding, shower, or rehearsal dinner. I wore this for my engagement shoot, and it was quite comfortable: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JU7PWUC/ref=twister_B00JU7PID8.

    I'm seriously contemplating wearing this to my FBIL's wedding next spring: http://www.nyandcompany.com/nyco/prod/dresses/pleated-halter-dress-/A-prod3360073/#.VXuaL3D3arU. My FH loves purple, and I don't want to buy a new dress – we'll be going to / involved in so many weddings in the next two years, I can't keep buying new dresses for all of them!

    PS: I loved everything linked in this article! I didn't consider it to be outlandish at all! I love bright colors at a wedding – I personally think unrelieved black should be reserved for mourning.

    1 agrees
  15. I wear white or nearly white with pattern or all black to weddings because I have hyperhidrosis and most colored fabrics show when I sweat. Sometimes you gotta break the rules and not worry about what the bride's grandma is going to think of you.

    2 agree
  16. All of the women in my family accidentally wore patterned black and white dresses to my brother's wedding. It looks planned and so ridiculously clash-y in all the group photos. Plaids and florals and polka dots and swirls galore.

    That was the last wedding I attended as a guest, six years ago. I've attended 40+ weddings as a vendor since then, and I sport slacks or palazzo pants and one of various comfy, professional looking blouses. If my clients have a theme, I'm happy to work within it; I commissioned a fascinator for a Victorian Hats Required wedding last year and had a great time building an outfit around it that I could still work comfortably in. Someday I'll get to attend a wedding as a guest again, and that will be a bit of conundrum in its own right to be able to wear something sexy and slinky and not worry about photography stances looking inappropriate. I'll have altogether too many options!

  17. I'm really surprised that a dress was removed from this post because at some weddings some guests might not like it. Surely the point of OBB is finding what works for you. If every post was edited and content removed based on some people at some weddings not liking it this website would be pretty empty! I don't give a monkeys if people turn up in white or cream at our wedding. If I had bridesmaids I wouldn't care if other people were wearing similar colours and I expect lots of people feel the same too. Of course you don't want to go out of your way to offend people and judge it depending on the wedding but on their wedding day is anyone actually going to be focusing on whose dress might possibly look white in a photo rather than on marrying the love of their life?

  18. I love the dresses on ModCloth but I've never purchased any because the dimensions just don't work for me and I have major sensory issues so I need specific fabrics. I've had great luck with Lands End dresses — I know! — because most of them have pockets, come in petite sizes, and, most importantly, can look fancy while feeling comfortable. I've worn them to multiple weddings. (Their dresses are actually what got me out of the "queer so must wear pants always" mindset which I'd gotten into in high school. There's nothing wrong with wearing pants all the time but I discovered that cotton/spandex leggings paired with a cotton or ponté-in-the-winter dress is an extremely smushy-comfy outfit, whereas pants which look nice/formal/adulty are usually not comfortable. Feels like pyjamas, looks like business casual depending on the colors.)

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