What to Wear to a Winter Wedding: Dos and Don’ts

You Pick Wednesday

What to wear to a winter wedding

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

Has this happened to you? You live in the Midwest. It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s miserable outside. And you’ve been invited to a wedding. What do you wear?? Thankfully I’ve only faced the what to wear to a winter wedding question once or twice in my life and even still it strikes fear into my heart. My spring and summer dressed are too cold. Layering them can make me look like I’m just going to work instead of to what might end up being a fun party. Any long-sleeved dresses I have might be too matronly.

What’s the solution? The four dresses above are great choices for a winter wedding. Why? Because they follow some of what I consider to be the dos and don’ts of picking out a winter wedding guest dress.

Do: Wear something with some texture or visual interest. Colors this time of year are pretty subdued so go for texture or pattern instead of a bright color.

Don’t: Wear white. Alright, some people are okay with this but basically the rule of thumb is that only the bride should wear white.

Don’t: Wear animal print, sequins, or anything too glittery. This is a wedding, not a dance club.

Do: Wear long sleeves, even if they are lace or sheer. Leave the sleeveless for those summer weddings.

Don’t: If you MUST wear sleeveless, bring a shawl to wear over your shoulders. Leave the cardigans at home.

Do: Wear something in a nice fabric. Lace, crepe, or a heavier high quality polyester are all excellent choices.

Don’t: Wear jersey knit, lightweight polyester, or cotton. Those are either too casual or too summery.

Do: Make sure your dress fits appropriately.

Don’t: Wear anything that is considered body-con, shorter than your finger tips when your arms are straight by your sides, shows all your cleavage or your entire back.

Don’t have anything your closet that fits these criteria and don’t want to go shopping? Perhaps Rent the Runway has something for you!  Admittedly, I’ve never used them although I spent a large amount of time at a recent shindig talking to an acquaintance who had and I think I’ll be using their services next time I need a dress. For under $70 you can rent any of these dresses below that fit all the criteria above and would look amazing at a Midwest winter wedding.

Winter wedding guest dresses from Rent the Runway

Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Dress 3 | Dress 4

21 replies on “What to Wear to a Winter Wedding: Dos and Don’ts

  1. Anne

    Oooh, I really love all of these choices! I wore something similar for my rehearsal dinner (in November, so almost winter!). I haven’t been to a winter wedding in a few years, and I think I wore a red sleeveless dress with a black cardigan to the last one I attended. So I pretty much broke all of your rules 🙂

    1. Erin @ Loop Looks Post author

      I’m sure there are ways to wear a cardigan with a dress and not look like you’re going to the office, but I wear them to work so much that I just automatically associate them with either casual or office wear.

  2. Valerie @ The Style Files

    These are SUCH good tips. You are so right- it’s tough trying to find something that provides warmth but doesn’t look matronly or too similar to something I’d wear to the office. I’ve got a 3/4 sleeve lace dress on my “Wish List”…but seeing as the only appropriate place I can see myself wearing it is at a wedding, perhaps renting one would be better!

  3. Amanda

    Thank you for this! I’m going to a wedding in March in upstate New York. It’s likely going to be cold. I got a wool dress in a berry color with an asymmetrical neckline on a whim, and I’m glad it fits all the criteria, except it doesn’t have long sleeves! Better get a shawl…

  4. Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

    Oh, this is just delightful. I still haven’t figured out what I’m wearing to my cousin’s wedding in two weeks…mostly due to laziness. Haha. My mom said it’s kind of do-what-you-want, but shot down my jeans and a sweatshirt plan. Jerk. Hahaha. I kid! I wouldn’t actually wear jeans and a sweatshirt to a wedding. I do have some standards 😛 Thanks for the tips!

  5. Katie of alaskan weredork

    I’ll have to raise my hand to being guilty of wearing a cardigan to a wedding in winter but in my defense, they were pretty casual weddings!! As in, most of the guests showed up in jeans. It’s been years since I’ve been to a formal wedding but all of those dresses are making me wish I was. I keep hearing such good things about rent the runway, I think I might end up getting a dress through them for the next awards ceramoney( yesh, can’t spell) it’d be fun to get something super fancy.
    The “no club wear” totally made me laugh, do people actually wear club dresses to weddings?

    1. Erin @ Loop Looks Post author

      I have a feeling that appropriate wedding attire definitely varies by region! But, yes, I have seen women wear totally inappropriate dresses to weddings. It’s like, do you only own one dress? There are ways to remedy that…

  6. Alyssa @ Don't Look Down

    Love this! I have one sleeved lace dress that I wear to all the winter weddings. I think trying rent the runway would be a lot of fun. Most of the weddings I attend are not super formal so I just try to get by with what I have in the closet.

  7. Susan

    I wish this article had been around when I was looking for a dress for New Years wedding. But I think I did not beak any rules. :).

  8. Chaos

    I am going to a wedding in Chicago in November 2014 for a nephew. I have no idea how formal it is. I live in FL. All my clothes are summer-like but I am a quality clothes shopper and don’t want to spend $250+. I am buying a fabulous designer dress on Ebay. I have so many great choices in 4P, I can’t make up my mind. All are under $100. I realize I won’t wear it again so why not? Most are new with tags or worn once. I can’t decide between the designer net upper top long sleeve black dress, a black lace dress over a cream background with 3/4 length sleeves, or a red/black floral strapless dress with black tights/heels and a wrap. 2:30 wedding and 5:30 dinner/dance. What would you pick? Should I stay away from black? I almost always wear black. I do have a purple knit jersey Ralph Lauren dress that looks quite dressy and fits perfect but since it is knit, I’m concerned that its not dressy enough even thought I would NEVER wear it to work. Am I am not buying new shoes. It has to go with black 4″ patin leather pumps. LOL

    1. Erin @ Loop Looks Post author

      I would go with the black lace dress over the cream background with the sleeves. That’s definitely more Chicago in November appropriate than the sleeveless dress even with a wrap.

      1. Chaos

        Thanks so much for the feedback. I bought a dark navy lace dress that I can wear with my patent leather black shoes. 3/4 length sleeves and fitted without being too tight. At least now they can’t say I was bad karma for wearing a black dress! LOL

        1. Chaos

          Oh and did I mention that I went to Nordstrom’s Rack Room after looking at their current fashions on their regular website and found a $220 Adrianna Papell dress for $60 and an $80 Givenchy necklace for $35? $100 and I am good to go. Now I can spend my money on my Florida weather fashions. : ) I think renting is an interesting idea if I am going for $600+ formal dresses but for the general real world, there are deals everywhere.

  9. jen

    For a NY winter wedding new years day I have a black dress, sleeveless. Do I wear black sheer stocking with black shoes?

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