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Weddings

The definitive guide to dressing for weddings

3 Nov 2019

By Carol Porges

PH: Pexel & Shutterstock

Weddings are emotional events — choosing what to wear to one shouldn’t be. Have no fear: Mada’s got your back. We came up with a few simple rules to keep in mind when wedding season rolls along. Think of this as your definitive guide to being the second best-dressed person at every wedding you go to. Don’t know who the best-dressed should be? Read on, my friend.

But first, a note on dress codes:

Dress codes — that little reminder printed somewhere on the invitation that your date needs to wear a tux — can be tricky. The two most common dress codes at weddings are cocktail attire and black tie. Chances are, unless you’re attending a royal wedding or the 2020 Met Gala, the term “white tie” isn’t in your fashion vocabulary. GQ enumerates a whole list of rules men have to follow for white tie events, among them a hand-tied white bow tie and an evening coat with tails.  

Luckily for ladies, we have more leeway when it comes to formal dressing. This can be both a blessing and a curse. While men have to mind the tux vs. suit paradox that comes along with a “black-tie optional” dress code, it’s not as clear cut for women. So here are some guidelines: 

Rule #1: Fabric speaks louder than length. 

Length does not always equal formality. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that the longer the dress, the fancier the occasion. While this rule of thumb may work for high school prom, when it comes to weddings, it’s a little more of a free-for-all. 

Women wear long dresses to cocktail events and short dresses to the fanciest of black tie. A better rule to follow when looking for the right dress for any level of formality is quality of fabric. Wear your lighter, cotton, or printed dress for that afternoon wedding in the garden where semi-formal is more than appropriate, and save your rich silks or organzas for the black tie wedding at the Plaza.

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Rule #2: Pay attention to the setting.

Of equal importance to the dress code is the setting and time of year. A black tie wedding on a beach in Hawaii is vastly different from a black tie wedding in New York City on New Years Eve. Dress for the occasion, and the weather. 

Mada envisions a flowy, sunset colored dress rendered in a breathable fabric for the destination wedding you blew all of your credit card miles on. Throw this on with bare feet and a lei to accessorize. For the New Year’s wedding, something a little slinkier, perhaps? What about this prosecco satin slip dress with sequined embroidered accents? Wear it with your most killer pair of black stilettos and a dark red lip for a #madamoment.

Rule #3: Don’t wear white. Or anything close to it. Just don’t.

This is the oldest rule in the book, and it has stood the test of time for a reason. While brides can and should rock any color they want on their special day, many stick to the tradition of wearing white. So, let the bride have her moment. This means staying away from white, eggshell, ivory, cream, or anything in the white family. There are a million colors to choose from — save white for the bride. 

There are a few notable exceptions. It is traditional in English weddings for the entire bridal party to wear white, which is how we got Pippa Middleton’s amazing cowl-neck Alexander McQueen look in 2011. But your best bet is to play it safe, or check with the bride if you’re unsure.

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Rule #4: Don’t be afraid to be an outfit repeater.

There is only so much space in your closet — and your bank account — for formal dresses. When you’re at the height of wedding season, you will probably attend two weddings with completely different guest lists. So pull out that red strapless cocktail dress and take it for a spin once more. Try styling it differently on the second go-round. If you went for a sleek and minimal look with understated jewelry and a great blowout last time, try an updo with some statement earrings and a fun pair of shoes this time. 

Bonus tip: Go shopping in your friends’ closets. Swap looks to get that new dress feeling without spending any extra cash. 

When you have 10 weddings on the horizon for the summer and fall, don’t let the stress of a #madamood weigh on you. Simply follow these guidelines, and you’ll hear wedding bells from the style gods in no time.

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