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The Ultimate Guideline on What to Wear to a Wedding Reception


May 5, 2023  • Updated June 7, 2023

As soon as a wedding invitation arrives, your thoughts fly to what shall I wear to the wedding reception? Our guidelines will help you achieve the perfect outfit whether the wedding is formal, semi-formal, white tie, black tie, beach, daytime or evening. 


Our simple dos and don’ts of what to wear at a wedding reception will ensure you don’t have any problems finding the perfect outfit and the whole experience can be fun.


What You Should & Should Not Wear As a Wedding Reception Guest


Most guests at a wedding want to look their best at the wedding reception by dressing well. However, this can mean different things in different locations. If you’re heading off to a wedding in Mexico, what you wear to the reception will contrast significantly with what to wear to a wedding reception at the top of a mountain!

Your choice of outfit needs to:


  • Not take attention away from the bride and bridal party
  • Reflect your style
  • Feel comfortable to wear
  • Be within your price range 
  • Respect the bridal party's culture and religion
  • Be something your can wear again


Check out the advice below, and our suggestions for what to wear as a wedding reception guest, be it held in any season and anywhere. However, remember the aim, as always, when selecting a wedding guest dress is not to outshine the bride herself. 

Colours & Materials For Every Wedding Season


While many traditional dress rules for a wedding guest are changing, wearing white, off-white, or cream needs a little thought. However, combining white trousers or skirt with a coloured top or jacket is becoming more acceptable. As a guest, the last thing you want is to compete or clash with the bride or her bridal party. This consideration is a recurring theme throughout your clothing choices for what to wear to any wedding reception, whether formal attire or a casual theme. 


Certain fabrics lend themselves to a wedding reception outfit. Materials such as silk, satin and crepe are excellent for formal attire, flowing and elegant with a bit of sass and sexiness. Wool and velvet work well for colder weather months, adding depth and warmth to your clothing choice. Linen, seersucker and cool cotton are perfect for the hotter months or destination weddings. 

Tips For Colour Choice


  • In general do not wear really pale colours since they can photograph white
  • Unless asked to dress in black and white, avoid wearing all black
  • If you do, it might be preferable to wear shades of grey to create a monotone effect and not look like you’re attending a funeral
  • Avoid strong colours like red, neon, and orange as these can stand out in wedding photographs and create a distraction from the bridal couple
  • The same advice goes for clothes with logos on them
  • Some colours have cultural intonations, for example, an Indian bride may choose to wear a red sari and white is normally reserved for funerals in India


Life is easier if the bride lets her guests know which colours she would like worn or which to avoid. This might be because they clash with the wedding colours or copy the bridal party colours. The wedding invite's colour scheme is often a good indicator of the colours used for the wedding. If it’s unclear, there’s no reason why you can't ask her or a member of her bridal party for their advice on this.

Styles For What To Wear At A Wedding Reception


Style is a personal choice, from Boho, flowing designs to Bodycon, which can all work for a wedding reception. However, if your style is cargo pants and denim jeans, they won't work well at a wedding reception any time of year. Why? They are far too casual for the occasion. They may work at a backyard wedding that explicitly states casual attire, but even these wedding receptions expect a little more style from their reception guests. 


There’s much to consider when selecting what to wear for a wedding reception. However, most wedding invites come in plenty of time for you to think about what you want to wear and shop around. This way, you can find the perfect balance of style, cost and comfort.


Wearing Trousers At A Wedding

Can women wear trousers to a wedding reception? Yes, it’s normally okay to wear smart, tailored trousers. Dress them up with a polished top, a coloured blouse or a contrasting blazer. You can also add some statement jewellery. Remember, a pair of stilettos can really finish the outfit off.


If you’re considering what to wear to a December or any winter wedding reception, trousers are actually a good plan. A chic option is to wear a pair of wide-leg trousers or palazzo pants. 

What To Wear For Wedding Receptions Throughout The Seasons


Make Your Winter Outfit Sparkle

Deciding what to wear for a November, December or January wedding reception, you have to consider that the weather will probably not be sunny and warm. But, when you go inside, it will be heated, so layering can help with this dilemma. 


An alternative could be a coat dress. Longer hems, sleeves, richer colours, and fabrics all work well for wedding receptions over the winter months. Material like wool or velvet is stylish and weather appropriate. Winter is also a time for faux fur and a little glitter. 


Flowery, Fresh Outfits For Spring 

Time to lose the sleeves and heavier fabrics but keep hold of cosy shawls and shrugs, European weather being what it is. Bright colours, billowy materials, long and elegant or stylish minis are all great to wear at a spring wedding reception.

Cool Yet Elegant Summer Choices

Florals, pastels or bright colours work well for any summer wedding. These would also be perfect for a beach or destination wedding. Look for light fabrics that won't crease or show sweat marks. Backless or low-back dresses are the answer to what to wear to the reception, especially when it’s hot. Printed wide-leg pants or jumpsuits are also cool and comfortable to wear in the heat to a wedding reception.


Go For Natures Colours In Autumn

What should you wear for a September, October or November wedding? Try experimenting with silhouettes at this time of year. Lengthen sleeves and hems, and choose floaty, feminine styles. Take your colours from nature with autumnal oranges, browns, terracotta or rich jewel tones as the season moves towards winter.


Have Fun, Get Creative & Express Yourself 

As you can see, you’re not bound by rigid rules on what you can wear to a wedding reception. Check out the amazing range of styles found at NA-KD, including affordable wedding dresses, elopement wedding dresses and plenty of ideas for budget-friendly, stylish, elegant and fun outfits. 

For example check out our:


  • Elegant long dresses that make a statement for a formal wedding 
  • Maxi dresses or wide-legged trousers for a semi formal wedding
  • Cute sundresses worn with sandals and a hat for a beach wedding
  • Flowy, Boho style dresses, maxi or mini with low heeled sandals for a casual wedding 
  • A range of mother-of-the-bride dresses

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