Article by Pam Black, owner of Celebration House. First appeared in Die Beeld/Die Burger newspaper.
It’s always exciting to receive a wedding invitation especially as these days the only post one receives is either junk mail or bills!
Once our diaries have been checked and we’ve ‘rsvp’d’, ‘Yes’, our thoughts usually stray to pondering what would be suitable to wear to the occasion.
In the past it was unnecessary to tell guests what to wear to your wedding: they simple wore their ‘Sunday Best’. But in recent years we have seen a trend towards more casual dressing among younger guests, with many arriving at the event in jeans. If the dress code is formal, menfolk should leave the jeans in the cupboard and rather bring out the jacket and tie. Weddings today are costly affairs and, at what usually amounts to R350+ per head, are hardly informal occasions. I’m sure many guests are simply not aware of the costs involved, because I like to think that if they were going out for a night on the town and spending that amount of money on the meal alone, they would be more inclined to dress up for the occasion.
Stating a dress code on the invitation does help to a large extent, although I have been to weddings regarded as formal affairs at which some guests still arrived casually dressed. Of course, if the couple who are marrying have chosen to have a themed wedding, then you can afford to be a bit more avant-garde with your choice of outfit.
One of the simple rules of etiquette that female guests should apply is to avoid at all costs up-staging the bride in any way – this is after all her special day and all eyes should be focused on her. It is therefore best to avoid wearing either a white garment or hat and definitely any clothing that is too revealing in any way. If you do choose to wear a white outfit then make sure that it is accessorized in a colourful way.
Poor Pippa Middleton. Ever since she wowed the public at her sister’s royal wedding earlier this year, the British press have been waiting for her to put a foot wrong and recently there has been headline news stating that she committed the ultimate faux pas by wearing a green outfit to a friend’s wedding. Their reason for this claim is that for many years it was considered unlucky to wear green to a wedding but certainly in this country, this superstition has, like many others, disappeared over the years and it is not unusual to see guests and even bridesmaids wearing green. I attended a wedding over 15 years ago where the bride wore green and she is still happily married today!
It has also become more acceptable to wear a black outfit to a wedding, but if doing so it is a good idea to choose colourful accessories to avoid looking funereal.
Mothers of the bride and groom
I read an article recently that said that the road to finding the perfect mother of the bride outfit is littered with potholes and banana skins! Having been down that road myself I have to agree that finding a suitable outfit is not an easy task. The wail I hear most from mothers is that while wanting to look smartly dressed, the last thing they want is to look matronly.
This was the predicament that stars Raquel Welch and Sophia Loren faced when dressing for their sons’ weddings and unfortunately for their new daughters-in-law they chose to wear outlandish outfits that upstaged the brides. Raquel not only held up the proceedings by arriving late but also made an entrance wearing a large white hat and very inappropriate low-cut black outfit that was described as a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen! Sophia on the other hand, dressed modestly for the church service and then for the reception changed into a more revealing outfit of a black satin bra with diamond clasp, a wide open white satin jacket and a see through chiffon layered skirt.
Allow yourself time
With so much to do in preparing for the wedding, many mothers leave the decision of what to wear to the last minute which causes them even more stress. A much better idea is to allow plenty of time to select an outfit.
Before choosing your outfit it is wise for the mothers of the bride and groom to meet and discuss (with each other and the bride) the colours and styles they will be wearing – bearing in mind that it is inappropriate for either to wear a white or cream outfit. When making your choice, take into consideration the colours that the bridesmaids will be wearing so your outfit blends in with them. If their dresses are being made, try and obtain a small piece of the fabric as this will also help you when choosing your outfit.
Appropriate attire for a morning wedding would be a slack suit in a soft fabric, a smart day suit, or a dress and short jacket. For a lunchtime, afternoon or less formal affair, a smart suit with a camisole, or a dress and jacket, are appropriate, while for a formal evening wedding, a long skirt and top (or jacket), or a long dress, are all acceptable.
Although hats are not generally worn at weddings in South Africa, except maybe as protection against the African sun, there is no denying that they add a finishing touch to an outfit. At wedding shows Celebration House has exhibited at in London, it has been interesting to see how much fascinators have grown in popularity over the years and become the choice of headgear of not only the bridal retinue but wedding guests as well.
When invited to a wedding of a different culture to your own, it is always best to enquire beforehand regarding acceptable dress code. For instance, if attending a Muslim wedding one’s dress should be reasonably modest (bare shoulders and low-cut tops are not a good idea). In the mosque itself, women should have their heads covered by a scarf of a hat, but men are not required to wear a fez.
If in any doubt it is better to be a bit too overdressed than underdressed. Remember it is easy for a guy to loosen his collar and a female to remove some of the extra bling she is wearing but if you have arrived underdressed there’s not much you can do about it.
If in any doubt about the dress code it is always a good idea to consult with either the bride or her mother beforehand.