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5 Must-Follow Wedding Reception Fashion Rules

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Last Updated on May 14, 2021 by Steal the Style

Frugally fashionable tips for the wedding guest on a budget

Ah, weddings, the beautiful events that have you paying a bundle to look your best for someone else’s special day. Sure, you could understand the expense if you were the bride, the maid of honor, or even a bridesmaid—but just a regular guest—come on!

It’s often the case that one cousin or college friend’s landmark day will break your monthly budget if you need to buy a new dress for the occasion. However, that doesn’t have to be the case, even if you’re wondering what to wear in order to no commit a major fashion faux pas to the wedding reception.

Yes, there are fashion rules for wedding receptions—and your dear Uncle Joe with the patterned suit and bad toupee has no idea, so don’t even dream of asking him for his opinion.

Let’s face it, weddings should leave more than a bad taste in your mouth after you buy an expensive dress and wear it once. However, if you’re celebrating the special day of one (or two in some cases) close to you, you should make more of an effort than just pulling that same old dress you’ve worn to the last 10 weddings you’ve been to out of the back of your closet.

Frugal wedding guests still have lots of options when it comes to dressing for a wedding reception. Here are 5 must-follow wedding reception fashion rules.

1. Formal wedding receptions call for long gowns

Look at the wedding invitation. Is the reception specifically called a “formal” reception? Then you need to wiggle into a long gown for the occasion. I’m talking floor-length like these stunning Jovani numbers! That cute tea length or cocktail dress that shows off your gams won’t do this time. That also means that dressy pants and blouses for women or even suits are not acceptable at formal or black-tie receptions.

2. Semi-formal wedding receptions call for dresses of any length

Sure you could wear a long gown to a “semi-formal” reception, but you’ll likely look like you’re overdoing it amongst the short cocktail dresses and cute knee-length skirt and top combos. You might even see ladies in dressy pant suits at a semi-formal reception.

3. Turn up the glam after 6pm

A general rule to follow is this: at wedding receptions that begin after 6 pm, the attire tends to be a little dressier than a reception in the afternoon. For instance, ladies can get away with a cute skirt and top or even a cute sundress and heels for a luncheon reception. However, after 6pm put some extra effort in. Glam your cocktail dress up with some statement jewelry, flashy heels, and put extra effort into the hair and make-up.

4. Don’t let it all hang out

It’s a fair statement that at a wedding the bride is supposed to get the most attention—not your overexposed cleavage or thigh. So rein it the sex factor, you’re not Angelina Jolie! Weddings are generally classy events where family and even children will be present, so concentrate on looking your best without the chance for a wardrobe malfunction that leaves the bride horrified and the groom (and father of the bride) in deep water.

5. You Don’t spend a fortune—the day isn’t about you

It’s the bride and groom’s big day, so let them have it. While it’s important to look your best, don’t overdo it. Believe me; your grocery budget will thank you later. If you can’t afford something new for a wedding reception, you can still find a stylish dress in the following budget-conscious locations:

  • Buy used: Stay out of pricey bridal stores and look to vintage and thrift stores for a cool retro-designer label.
  • Buy online: Look to up and coming fashion designers on sites like Etsy.com and Ebay.com for a good deal on a unique dress. On many of these sites you can bid on a dress and score a really great deal.
  • Borrow a dress: If you have a fashionable friend or sibling, borrowing a great dress is a good possibility.

About The Author: Evelyn Luo is a writer that has turned her love of shopping into a freelance career as a contributing writer for Style Cynics, a fashion and celebrity gossip site that features the latest star buzz and the hippest and hottest styles.