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Expert reveals how to dress as a wedding guest without upstaging and upsetting the bride


The unwritten rules of attending a wedding are generally easy to achieve, with minimal effort: always RSVP, do not bring extra guests, make sure to be on time and most important of all… do not upstage the bride.

Fashion experts at Karen Millen have revealed top tips on ensuring you dress to impress without stealing the limelight from a bride at her wedding. Whether you are the mother of the bride or groom, in the bridal party, or just attending as a plus one, these tips are the perfect guide on how to dress appropriately with style.

Does the bride have preferences?

The first place to start when beginning to look for a wedding guest outfit is to establish if there is a theme or colour scheme the bride wants guests to stick to. If there is, you are one step closer to finding the perfect dress, and if the bride has not suggested which colours to look for, then politely ask if there are any colours she might want you to avoid wearing. If you let the bride guide you, you will find something perfect.

What colours to avoid:

You want to make sure the dress you choose compliments the style or colour scheme of the wedding, which will probably be common knowledge if you are in the bridal party. Still, if not, there are a few colours that will undoubtedly take away the limelight of the bride unless she has specifically asked you to choose these colours:

  • Red: Visually, red is a bold and flashy colour that will immediately draw attention to you, whether that be in person or photographs; if guests surround you in neutrals and a bride in white, you may feel out of place with the tone of the wedding.

  • Black: Many brides and grooms opt for a black and white-themed wedding which is perfect if that is the desired look, but wearing a black dress to a neutral wedding would be a bold choice. Black also absorbs heat and will cause you to get hotter faster, so if the location is on the beach or in a warmer season, you probably want to go for a lighter option.

  • White: It might be obvious to some but wearing white to a wedding is best to be left to the bride to avoid any upset. Unless the bride gives the go-ahead to wear white or ivory-like colours try options in other light colours, such as pistachio greens and baby pinks.

What colours work well?

The main goal for a wedding guest is to blend in, but this does not mean your outfit has to be dull and drab. The best way to choose what colour dress to wear is to find out what is complimentary to both the wedding and you. By doing this, you will find something you feel confident in and not take anything away from the bride.

Light neutral colours and pastel shades are a go-to as this keeps the aesthetic light and airy and allows guests to experiment with various shades and hues. Having guests in different pastels or neutrals also turns out great in photographs with a wide range of tones bringing the bright white or ivory of the bride's dress to light.

Jewel tones and earth tones are also fantastic options for guests who have been allowed to wear darker colours but still want to inject some colour.

What silhouettes work well?

Choosing the right dress for your body type can be difficult, especially if you do not like to experiment or try different silhouettes. The best way to learn how to compliment your figure and find something you feel confident in is to try on as many different styles of dresses as possible.

It is also important to remember that even though a particular style or silhouette is in fashion now, it does not mean that it is right for the theme or tone of the wedding.

  • Think of the climate – Steer clear from long sleeve dresses and thick coordinating jackets if the wedding you are attending will be held in the warmer months or abroad. Try to opt for breathable fabrics which will keep you cool and comfortable.

  • Try flowy fabrics – There is nothing more elegant and effortless than a light and flowy dress as a wedding guest, but just remember to avoid any flowing fabrics that could have a bit of a train!

  • Opt for a one-shoulder – One-shoulder dresses are fun and flirty but also ideal for spring and summer weddings as they still allow for breathability.

  • Maxi dresses are not off limits – It is fine to go floor length as a wedding guest if the dress is simple enough to blend in. If you are looking for a maxi or midi length dress, avoid purchasing those with big patterns colours.

How do you pick a dress as the mother of the bride or groom?

It’s best to allow the bride to choose her bridesmaids’ dresses before choosing your dress because you want to blend in with them and wear a complimentary colour to their dresses.

Avoid sequins, extravagant patterns, and outrageous diamonds or jewels; although it is important for you to look your best, it's also vital to have all eyes on the bride and groom. The same goes for large bold patterns and garish silhouettes; your outfit should be elegant and graceful.

Keeping it classy is also vital, as wearing something too revealing or scandalous could jeopardise the big day. Make sure if you are opting for a shorter dress that the length is appropriate to what the happy couple has specified in their dress code - just as well as if you are opting for a backless or cut-out style dress.

Final tips to remember when choosing the right dress:

  • Extravagant dresses, headpieces and trains are a no-go – Let the bride’s dress do all the talking.

  • If in doubt, aim for neutrals and pastels – The perfect way to blend in and still look elegant.

  • Avoid being too casual – Being too casual will have the same impact as wearing something over the top; nothing should take away from the bride.

  • Dress to impress in comfort - Do not forget you will be in this dress for hours, so make sure the dress is flirty, comfortable, versatile and vivacious; you will be wearing this dress all day.

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