Church Weddings: What You Should And Should Not Wear, With Examples

Church Weddings: What You Should And Should Not Wear, With Examples

When it comes to attending a church wedding there are some guidelines that guests should follow in relation to what they wear. Men should wear either a suit or formal jacket with shirt and tie.

Women should wear dresses that are modest or a trouser suit. Hats can be worn but are not strictly necessary in most churches unless it is a traditional Catholic wedding. Revealing clothes and stiletto heels should not be worn.

Casual clothes are also a bit disrespectful. 

Bear in mind that you are in a place of worship and dress accordingly.

What You Can Wear To A Church Wedding

When attending a church wedding it is best to dress as modestly and demurely as possible out of respect for the couple’s beliefs and choice of wedding venue.

This dress code applies to both men and women. However, as women traditionally have a wider choice of outfits it is worth noting a couple of things.

First, women can and should wear a hat in church, particularly a more traditional Catholic church where women were once required to cover their heads.

Men on the other hand should not wear a hat in church, especially not a casual type such as a baseball cap.

Modesty should be the watchword for female guests who shouldn’t have a lot of bare skin on display. A jacket, or shawl is a good option to wear over a dress with short sleeves and the length of the dress should be at least to the knee.

Women should check that when they are seated that the hem of the dress does not expose their thighs. Out of respect for the bride, women should not wear white to a church wedding.

Men

Men can’t really go wrong with wearing a suit to a church wedding, but they do have other options.

Formal Suit

If you are not sure about what to wear to a church wedding then it is best to go with a suit. This will rarely be a bad choice and for the reception you can always ditch the jacket and tie.

A nice formal suit looks good on most men and will not be out of place at a church wedding. 

Tie

Your choice of tie should be fairly formal and not too gaudy or brash. Loud patterns or bright colors are probably not a good choice either so stick with plain or muted colors.

Sports Jacket & Dress Pants

If a suit is too formal or not required for a church wedding you can choose to wear a sports jacket with dress pants. This is a good alternative to a suit and is still quite smart for such an occasion.

A plain shirt and a sharp tie will complete your outfit and be more than appropriate for a church wedding.

Chinos & Smart Shirt

Wearing jeans is never a good option for a church wedding so choose a nice pair of chinos. They are still smart enough for church and not too casual. Pair them with a smart shirt for a relaxed but respectful outfit.

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A smart shirt should be worn with chinos or similar type pants. It should have long sleeves and not be too garish or brightly colored.

Shoes

Traditional dress shoes should be worn by men at a church wedding, typically black or brown depending on their outfit. Running shoes or sneakers are not appropriate footwear for a church wedding and should be avoided. Don’t wear sandals either, not even in summer.

Women

Women probably have a lot more choice when it comes to choosing an outfit for a church wedding but with more choice comes more considerations of what is appropriate.

Dress & Matching Jacket

Women should dress modestly for a church wedding. A good outfit for these occasions is a dress and matching jacket. The hemline of the dress should reach the knees and not ride up too much when she is sitting down.

Colors should not be too garish, but doesn’t mean women have to wear dull colors. Pretty colors and patterns are fine, it is a wedding they are attending, and it is a joyful occasion. Women’s attire can reflect this happy event without being immodest or loud.

Evening Gown

For a very formal church wedding women can wear an evening gown. This should be tasteful with a long skirt and not showing too much bare skin. If the gown is sleeveless then a pashmina, shawl or bolero jacket should be worn with it.

Choose a gown that is not too sparkly or brightly colored. A muted color is preferable and for a very formal occasion a tasteful black evening gown is appropriate. If you feel the ensemble is too understated you can always accessorize it with some nice jewelry and glitzy clutch.

Cocktail Dress

Another option for women to wear at a church wedding is a high neck cocktail dress. This doesn’t mean it has to cover the neck but that the neckline should be above the collarbone. The hemline should be knee length or longer.

If you are wearing a cocktail dress to a church wedding make sure that it is not backless. If it is, then as with a sleeveless dress you should wear a shawl, pashmina or light jacket over the top of the dress for the ceremony. For the reception the dress should be fine on its own.

Top & Skirt

A top and skirt combination is an alternative to wearing a dress for a church wedding. As with dresses, the hemline of the skirt should come to the knee or below. The color or colors should not be too loud, a black and red combination are probably best avoided.

The top should have a reasonably high neck, at least to the collarbone and preferably have long sleeves. If it has short or cap sleeves then a cardigan, shawl or pashmina will cover you up for the ceremony.

Also make sure the top is not too tight. The color of the top will obviously be to match or to contrast with the skirt but should not be too garish or loud.

Hats

Years ago women were required to cover their heads in church. This was particularly the case in Catholic churches. Today this is not really observed except in those traditional churches that celebrate the Latin mass. Here, women are still required to cover their heads.

It is unlikely that you will be attending a wedding which is conducted as a Latin mass as these are sadly becoming more rare. So although you won’t have to wear a hat many women still do as part of their ensemble and that’s fine.

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Just be aware of the size of your hat and whether you will be obstructing the view of those behind you in the church. You won’t want to sit at the back so choose a hat that is pretty, matches your outfit but is not too large.

Sensible Shoes

Churches are places of worship and anyone attending a ceremony there should be conscious of the purpose of the building.

Wearing very high heels is not appropriate in such a setting and should be avoided. This does not mean that you can’t wear heels but just keep them at a sensible height, no more than 3 inches.

Don’t wear heels that will either scratch the wooden floor of the church or make a lot of noise when walking on a stone floor. Both can be disrespectful and distracting.

What Not To Wear To A Church Wedding

Sometimes it can be easier to list what not to wear rather than what you can wear to a church wedding. Again it does depend on the denomination of the church that you will be attending.

Some protestant denominations such as Presbyterian, Episcopalian or Baptist churches may be more relaxed in church attire than the Catholic church which is traditionally more formal.

If you are not sure of the dress code for the particular wedding you are attending it is better to get clarification before the day rather than turning up in something inappropriate. For the majority of church weddings however the following will generally not be advisable attire.

Men

Men potentially have an easier task of avoiding inappropriate dress for a church wedding. If they stick to the shirt, tie, jacket and smart pants they are unlikely to offend. But there are some things that should definitely not be worn to a church wedding.

Jeans

A man should never wear jeans to a church wedding as these are far too casual for such a formal setting. Under no circumstances should they wear trendy ripped jeans. This attire is disrespectful to the couple who are having a church ceremony and should be avoided.

Even if the jeans are black and look reasonably smart, denim is too casual a material for a wedding outfit.

Short Sleeve Shirts

Men should not wear short sleeve shirts as again this is a casual look and will look totally out of place at a church wedding. Any kind of garish or loudly colored and patterned short sleeve shirts is a definite no, but even a monotone one will be inappropriate.

Of course if a man wears a jacket over a short sleeve shirt at the ceremony, this is absolutely fine, and he can remove the jacket for the reception. This works well if the wedding is in the summer or in a hot climate.

T-shirts

T-shirts are never appropriate attire for any church wedding and should not be worn. Even with a jacket over the top a t-shirt is far too casual and may be seen as disrespectful to the couple’s choice of wedding location.

Under no circumstances should t-shirts with inappropriate designs or graphics be worn at a church wedding. Nothing that is contrary to the beliefs of the couple and their faith should be displayed on a t-shirt and political statements on clothing should be avoided.

Shorts

Unless you are attending a beach wedding not many men will wear shorts to a wedding. A church is definitely not the place to be showing off your legs and will be seen as disrespectful in a church setting.

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Hats

Unlike women, men should not wear a hat in church. Unless this is a very formal wedding, and in that instance only the groom and groomsmen may wear top hats, typically with a morning suit.

Male guests should not wear hats and in particular no casual hats such as baseball caps should be worn in church.

Women

Ladies are often credited with having more choice for wedding outfits than men but that can come at a cost. There are often more pitfalls for women when it comes to avoiding the wrong attire for a church wedding.

Short Skirts

Short skirts should not be worn to a church ceremony. If the hem of the skirt is above the tip of your middle finger when your arms are by your sides then the skirt is too short.

When choosing the length of your skirt for a church wedding a good rule of thumb is to choose one with the hemline at least reaching the knee.

Don’t just test the length when you are standing, sit down and make sure the skirt doesn’t ride up so much that most of your thighs are bare.

Low Cut Tops

You should not be showing too much cleavage at a church wedding so no low cut tops or plunging necklines. However, if you cover up with a shawl, cardigan or jacket for the ceremony then such a top is probably fine for the reception.

Just check with the couple that this is acceptable. Some couples do invite the presiding minister or priest to their reception so be aware of this.

Bare Back Or Midriff

A top or dress with an open back is not appropriate for a church wedding so a jacket, pashmina or bolero should be worn. The same applies to outfits which reveal your midriff.

The general rule is to not expose large areas of bare skin in church as this is deemed immodest.

Stiletto Heels Or Platform Shoes

If the shoes you are wearing are more appropriate for a night out clubbing then don’t wear them to a church wedding. Low heels or pumps are more modest and will make less noise on marble or stone floors.

Final Thoughts

We really hope this guide to what you should and should not wear to a church wedding has been helpful and has given you some inspiration.

Lisa Plaitt