When you’re choosing your outfit for a wedding, there are many things to take into consideration, starting with the weather and the venue, along with the season and the time of day when the ceremony is scheduled to take place.

Follow the most important rules of the wedding guest style guide and you’ll be on your way to picking an outfit that will both reflect your personality and help you stand out without outshining the bride.

Stay Away from White and Off-White

The oldest fashion rules for wedding, white should still be the exclusive prerogative of the bride. Even if you know the bride has chosen a wedding dress that’s not white, you should still avoid this color. However, if you simply don’t have anything else to wear or the budget for a new look, you can wear a white dress, as long as you bring in some color with your accessories.

Wedding Guest Outfit One Shoulder Maxi Dress
photo: Jennifer Grace

Follow the Dress Code

One of the most important tips in the wedding guest style guide is to always stick to the dress code. If it’s “black tie optional”, the safer choice would be a dress suited for a black tie event. However, if you’re going to a beach wedding, you have a lot more leeway (wearing flats or a shorter dress), even if the invitation states black tie.

Wedding Guest Outfit With Blazer And Sequin Skirt
photo: Flávia Desgranges van der Linden

Go for Timeless Elegance

Wedding guest dresses come in all shapes and sizes, but a beautiful cocktail dress is the best choice for almost any ceremony. Choosing a hemline that’s around the knee will help you look good, regardless of any trends. If you plant on wearing separates, keep the same thing in mind. Even if you don’t play a big part in the wedding, you might enjoy looking at the pictures a few years from now, and you don’t want to cringe at a dated look based on short-lived trends.

Wedding Guest Outfit High Low Dress
photo: Jessica R.

More: 10 Dress Styles You Should Own

Accessorize Based on the Time of the Wedding

Choosing the right accessories is one of the most important parts of any wedding guest style guide, and that’s why you should always start from the time of the ceremony. Keep the big necklaces, earrings and cocktail rings for a ceremony that takes place in the evening. If the wedding you’re attending takes place during the afternoon, less is more.

Wedding Guest Monochrome Outfit
photo: Madeline Becker

Don’t Wear Black to a Destination Wedding

Red and black are two colors that have been traditionally avoided when it comes to the perfect wedding attire, but that’s no longer the case. Red can be an excellent choice for a summer wedding, but for black a few restrictions still apply. If you’re going to a destination wedding or a casual wedding, don’t go for the little black dress, which may be more appropriate.

Wedding Guest Outfit Colorblock Maxi
photo: Daniela Ramirez

Try to Avoid Wearing the Same Color as the Bridesmaids

If you can find out what color the bridesmaids are wearing before choosing your outfit, go ahead and then pick something different. While the wedding guest style guide advises you to avoid blending in with the bridesmaids, sometimes you don’t have a choice. Don’t consider this a faux pas as big as outshining the bride, but try to avoid it.

Wedding Guest Outfit Little Red Dress
photo: Adriana Gastelum

Bring Flats

While most weddings require a dressy shoe for the ceremony, nobody’s forcing you to stand on heels during the entire reception. If it’s possible, bring along a pair of flats, whether they’re ballet flats or sandals, that work with your dress. That way, you’ll be more likely to dance as much as you want and have a great time without any foot pain.

Wedding Guest Outfit Yellow Peplum Dress
photo: Tatiana Vasilieva

Avoid the Matchy-Matchy Look

According to the old wedding guest style guide, matching your shoes and bag is still important, but that’s one rule you can throw away. Be particularly careful of matching too many things, including your accessories and even nail polish color. The matchy-matchy look doesn’t usually age well.

Wedding Guest Outfit Coral Ruffle Dress
photo: Sirma Markova

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Go for a Clutch

Whether you’re attending a white or black tie event or the most casual of beach weddings, the clutch is still the top choices. Your outfit will look better when there aren’t any handbag straps that get in the way. If you absolutely need both your hands to be free, choose a bag with an elegant chain strap.

Wedding Guest Outfit A Line Dress
photo: Darya Kamalova

Don’t Outshine the Bride

Probably the most basic rule in the wedding guest style guide, outshining the bride is still the biggest wedding fashion don’t. While it’s hard to compete with a flowing wedding gown, if the wedding style is casual, make sure you’re not overdressed in something too extravagant.