What to wear to a wedding: the age-old question that so often leaves the sartorially conscious at a loose end. Is there a right or wrong answer? Are monochromes always forbidden? And how can you stick to the dress code while retaining a firm grip on your own personal style?
Whether it’s a traditional church or bohemian beach setting, there are countless factors that come into play when deciding what to wear to a wedding.
To ensure your outfit this bouquet-catching season is both appropriate for the occasion and allows you to express yourself, take inspiration from the most stylish wedding guest dresses of all time. Think Georgia May Jagger in a sharp red suit, as worn to her brother's nuptials, or Zooey Deschanel, radiant in vintage florals in 500 Days of Summer.
While their eventual estrangement may not be much to aspire to, Kate Moss and Jamie Hince captured the boho romance and relaxed atmosphere of a country wedding with Primrose Hill panache. A bride in a elegantly understated gown and a garland headdress epitomises this theme – especially if she’s basking in the warm glow of an English summer afternoon with a Pimm's cocktail in hand.
Delicate and whimsical is the direction, but reference brands such as Roksanda and Peter Pilotto to look pretty without feeling prissy. At London Fashion Week this year both showcased the new romance: feminine frills and conservative necklines brought up to date with playful hemlines and offbeat accessories, like a wide-brimmed Maison Michel hat in a soft pastel hue.
Church ceremonies, lengthy receiving lines and a three-course sit-down meal followed by dancing to a live band: these are the calling cards of a classic wedding. With brides resplendent in fairytale gowns and grooms opting for classic morning suits, it’s best for your wedding guest dress to reflect the atmosphere of the day while retaining your own personal aesthetic.
Botanicals capture the tone of a traditional wedding. Use Antonio Marras as your mood board, where the ubiquitous print is made irreverent with graphic garden blooms and antique lace finishes.
Alternatively, explore dresses from Dolce & Gabbana, which embrace classic ‘50s silhouettes with romantic petals and patterns influenced by rose gardens.
Weddings in exotic locales tend to have fewer guests and a much more intimate feel. Imagine a barefoot bride, a sun-soaked beach and a candlelit wedding reception at an upscale open-air bar, and you're almost there.
Focus on 2016’s exotic motifs, tribal patterns and animal prints. As an example, the vibrant colour clashes and sheer materials in the Versace collection are an energetically eclectic choice for wedding guest dresses.
Valentino's African-print textiles in dark reds and greens are enough to make anyone hope for an elopement. The flowing skirts, palazzo pants and kaftans emblazoned in elephants, giraffes and rhinos will make for striking photographs and a creative, non-conformist option. Simply accessorise with sun cream and sand between your toes.
Weddings in the middle of the metropolis take on an air of sophisticated simplicity: think Marilyn Monroe caught in new husband Joe DiMaggio’s arms after their civil ceremony, or Carrie finally wedding Mr Big in an understated – but no less stylish – skirt suit. Capture that spur-of-the-moment excitement with an effortless two piece in a loose jacquard fabric by the queen of straightforward dressing, Isabel Marant.
Afterwards, chances are you'll end up in a refined restaurant for the evening reception. To discover dresses for wedding guests in this setting, look to Oscar de la Renta's collection of evening and cocktail designs, which emanate the brand's quintessential opulence and charm.
It can be tricky to navigate a vintage-inspired wedding without feeling like you're playing dress up – although that’s often part of the fun. However, as this theme can encompass anything from a ‘20s prohibition party right through to a ‘60s-style soirée, it’s still difficult to pin down what to wear to a wedding with a theme. If you're unsure of how to wear one specific era from head to toe, look to accessories like Retrosuperfuture's cat-eye sunglasses for '50s styling or a pull your hair up with a loosely tied monogrammed scarf for '40s chic.
To nail vintage without looking overly twee or alarmingly kitsch, aim for a specific direction. Take your cue from Yves Saint Laurent’s smoking jackets of the ‘60s, or copy Katharine Hepburn's signature androgynous look. Sharply tailored suits create just the right amount of vintage flair - especially when paired with a striking red lip.