How To Dress for Any Wedding

Put down the Ben & Jerry's, turn off Steel Magnolias and get out of the fetal position... wedding season is not a time to start feeling sorry for yourself. Let's go shopping.
06/08/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Aug 08, 2012

It's that time of the year again: Time for summer blockbusters, bikini shopping sprees and wedding invitations. I understand that it is a rough time, but do not let the missing ring on your left hand distract you from your other goals. Put down the Ben & Jerry's, turn off Steel Magnolias and get out of the fetal position... wedding season is not a time to start feeling sorry for yourself. Just because you are missing a +1, does not mean you are a failure in life. Call your gubby and get a nice stretch in, because we are going shopping.

Summer wedding attire can be a bit tricky because the traditional venues (such as banquet halls) are often overlooked and events move from 6pm to noon, adding an extra reason to ask "WTF am I supposed to wear?" Then throw in phrases such as "Black tie optional" and "Garden wedding," and you'll vow to never put your friends through the agony of your own wedding. So before we dive into wedding attire specifics, I'm going to break down the basic dress codes that you might see on your invitation.

WHITE TIE: Are you sure you can afford the gift that this shindig requires? This is the formal of the formalist. You should be in a floor-length gown with your finest Neil Lane jewels and your date must dust off the tuxedo he bought for the Royal Wedding viewing party -- yes, it's fancy.

BLACK TIE: This is another chance for you to wear a gown if that's your jam but you could also get away with a fancy cocktail dress. Don't let the options confuse you into dressing down -- men will still be in tuxedos and bow-ties.

BLACK TIE OPTIONAL/COCKTAIL: Your male guest should be in a full suit and tie and you have the option to wear a chic cocktail dress, fierce pants suit or floor-length dress.

CASUAL: You can get away with day dresses or a skirt and top combo. Nothing with too much bling, avoid up-dos and absolutely no denim.

FESTIVE: This can get tricky, as it depends on the theme of the wedding or time of year. Pay close attention to what the invitation says, you don't want to show up in your favorite Preen if everyone else is dressed for a Cinco de Mayo themed reception.

Kind of bossy right? But that invitation guidance will save you several phone calls to the bride asking what you should wear and embarrassment if you show up in a gown and everyone else is wearing a day dress. There are of course some other basic rules for wear if you are a wedding guest:

Don't wear white (le duh). A lot of wedding pros would tell you to avoid shades of white as well -- that means ivory, cream, off-white, etc; I, however, feel that these are great summer shades and are appropriate accent colors for a wedding.

Read the invitation. We've covered that. Pay attention.

Break in your shoes. If you plan on dancing at the reception, make sure your shoes are worn in before-hand. Don't take them off -- only bridesmaids have that privilege. (And there is no reason to accept those gift basket flip flops as a consolation prize -- have some self respect).

Don't be that girl. You know the one I'm talking about. She couldn't decide if she wanted to bare curves, legs, or cleavage so she chose "all of the above." People will talk about you and kids don't need to see that.

Keep the bright colors and sparkle to a minimum. As much as we all want to be a walking Vogue editorial whenever we get the chance (it's fashion, I get it) this is the bride's moment, so it's not cool to take the attention away from her and onto your new hot pink Matthew Williamson outfit. What I am trying to say is... look good but not too good.

Don't let all the rules and the fact that you are going to another wedding single bum you out -- you can still have fun with your look. For summer I would avoid black at all costs (even if it is an evening black tie event... snooze). Rock pastel color combos and don't forget the layers... chances are you'll be attending the reception and weather from day-to-night can be hard to predict.