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There are certain things I assume everyone knows.  I don’t think I should have to tell anyone how to go about looking for a job or how to order lunch at a restaurant.  Because I tend to think that people know what I know, I’m always taken aback when I encounter irrefutable evidence that they clearly do not.  Dressing for special occasions happens to fall into this category.  Now let me be clear; I am not above making bad choices from time to time in the clothes department.  Anyone interested in style will invariably take chances, and taking chances ensures failure at least some of the time.  However, I do believe there is a difference between dressing appropriately and being chic.  Every person attending an occasion is expected to dress appropriately.  Period.  Having attended a wedding last weekend where guests sported shorts, golf shirts, hooker heels, and beachwear to name a few sins, I felt I needed to listify.  These are my top 10 No-No’s to wear to a wedding.  Why?  Because it’s an occasion where dressing properly shows your respect for the bride and groom, who don’t do this every day and are paying for your dinner.

10- No white.  This is more for the ladies than the gents, but a white suit on a guy is also a no-no.  Wearing white is the priviledge of the bride, and showing up to her event in her colour is just plain tacky.  My Mother told me this rule, and I think a lot of Mothers seem to have missed sharing it with their daughters.  Shame.  Conversely, black has recently become ok to wear, but it must be to-the-knee only unless it’s winter, and accessorized with bright colours like pink or blue.  No yellow, you’ll look like a bumblebee.

9- No jeans.  I know this seems obvious, but I’ve seen it.  At one event the photographer wore jeans.  She was being payed, and couldn’t be bothered to dress professionally so, at the very least, she didn’t call attention to herself.  Shameful.

8- Do not wear anything you’d wear to a club.  Unless you’re the classiest club dresser in history, anything you’d wear to make random hook-ups is inapropriate to wear to a marriage ceremony.  This includes very high heels, very short skirts, and anything with a glittery-stretchy combination thing going on.  Also anything more than a whisper of cleavage is too much.

7-Do not wear your office clothes.  Just because it’s not jeans does not make it wedding-appropriate.  Pinstripes are not for toasts and dancing, they’re for filing and typing.  Ladies: if your top has buttons going up it, keep it in the work pile.  I saw many middle-aged women at my last wedding who looked like they went in to their closets at the last minute and pulled out black pants and a button-up shirt, thinking perhaps that because they’re not jeans or workout wear, they must be fancy .  Uh uh.  Go shopping.  It’s pure laziness and disregard to show up to a wedding looking like that when someone has taken the care to invite you.  There isn’t even a budget excuse; I got my last formal dress at Value Village for $10.

6- Day dresses.  This is similar to #7, but seems a bit trickier for a lot of women.  Let me help you out: if it doubles as your beach cover up, do not wear it to a wedding.  You may think you’re thrifty or no one can tell, but you just look like the lady who has no idea what a day dress is.  A dress appropriate for a wedding will have a shape, be made of silk, satin, chiffon, organza, lace, etc.  Nice fabric.  Not t-shirt material or denim.  They will be hand-wash or dryclean only, not machine-wash.  They will have lining.  They will make you feel attractive, they will get you compliments.  Pick the right one, and you won’t regret spending the time or money for a second.

5- Sensible shoes.  Even if you’re a nurse, you’re not at work.  Sensible shoes are not called pretty for a reason.  You’re not meant to be comfortable every single second of your entire life, so stop whining and make an effort.*  Heels will make you look long and lean, and create a better silhouette for your killer dress.

*I recently purchased those little roll-up ballet flats in silver, and they matched my strappy heels perfectly.  I had the option to swap them out at the end of the night if I felt like it…and they fit right in my evening bag!

4- Gentlemen: Just becaus it has buttons does not make it a dress shirt.  It might make it a golf shirt.  Or a bowling shirt.  If you can’t be bothered wearing something with structure that doesn’t wick away sweat, you can’t play with the big boys.  So get yourself to Banana Republic or even H&M, and either make your wife proud to be with you, or look put-together enough to attract a wife.  Or husband.  Whatever floats your boat.

3- Now that you have the outfit and shoes, get a bag that works.  NOTHING ruins a pulled-together look like toting your old, scuffed-up purse with a lovely formal dress.**  You look cheap.  You can get by your entire life with 2 evening clutches: 1 in black, the other in a silver or a bronze, whichever tone you tend to wear more.  You can also get either of these items at any second-hand store at any time.  The best shape is a long envelope, and they can hold your cards and some cash, your lipstick, your cell phone and a camera.  I also fit those ballet flats in mine, pulled out flat.  These are the only items most people ever need for a day/night as a guest, and if you need more, keep it in the car.

**It looks terrible in the day too, but I’ll let that go for now.

2- Leave your watch at home.  One of my bridesmaids actually slipped her watch on just before walking down the aisle and it was in the pictures.  Gag.  Watches are functional, and while some are beautiful, so are bracelets.  There’s something wrong with keeping track of the time during a celebration, so just skip it.  For guys, a watch can actually be sexy.  Sorry if this sounds unfair, but a man in a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show his forearms and a nice watch is incredibly sexy.  Just saying.

1- The same thing.  I’m not trying to be a snob, BUT: weddings are events where there are very many pictures taken.  With modern social media, those pictures are often seen by hundreds of people.  If you’re tagged in pictures on facebook, they’re seen by all of your friends.  Do you really want to be known as the girl in the blue dress?  One-note Nancy?  Fortunately, we tend to have advance notice of weddings, and you have time to plan your outfits.  Use that time.  If you need to get 1 or 2 dresses and make them last for several events, then buy different shoes, accessories and coats/sweaters that make them look different.  Even having your hair up at the first event and your hair down at the second changes the look.  Dressing for weddings isn’t supposed to be hard or burdensome, it’s supposed to be fun.  So scour the second-hand shops for dresses with great fabric you can alter on a dime.  Shop online.  Borrow from a friend!  Make an effort to attend special events with the attention that’s called for.  I promise, you won’t be sorry.


This black lace dress I thought couldn’t be worn to a wedding…but with a tan and a bright pink pasmina, it looks perfectly appropriate!


This dress I got at winners, and received many compliments (and several unwanted advances) when I wore it.  This is me with my brother who’s dressed quite dashingly, I have to say.


This dress was found at one of my favourite Value Villages, but it was longer and had godawful lacy sleeves with shoulder pads.  I took it to my seamstress, explained my vision, and 2 weeks and $60 later, I had a masterpiece!