Whether you’ve been dreading or dreaming of it, the time comes in any engagement when you have to answer the age-old question: What to wear? Considering that the obvious answer is “something” –– unless of course you’re on a nude beach somewhere (disclaimer: The Wadsworth Mansion has no beach, nude or otherwise) — you’ll want to think through a few things before deciding on the dress, the tux, bridal party attire, or dress code.
1. How you want your wedding to feel. You’ll be referring back to this one all the time. It is the key to your wedding seeming cohesive. Your big event should be a reflection of both of you on your best day ever. Decide what that looks like. Season and location are a big part of this; long, lacy sleeves feel a little imprudent on the shore in August, n’est pas? Once you select a venue and date, which should help guide your vision, you still may want to think of a few adjectives to fill out the daydream: whimsical & bright, elegant & classic, modern & trendy, understated & unique, warm & casual… Once you’ve given yourself a basic road map it’ll be much easier to say, “yes, I loved that sleek, barely-there satin number I saw on Pinterest, but y’know it just doesn’t fit with the wintry, happy, storybook vibe I’m going for.”
2. How you plan to move your body throughout the day/night. Despite the image you’ve conjured up from the picture-perfect, stock-still photos of gowns you’ve been drooling over since the fifth grade, you will be moving. A lot. You’ll be sitting, could be kneeling, oughta be dancing. Select something that makes you feel like a million bucks and allows you to eat dinner! Keep this in mind as you try things on, and then again as your fittings happen. Jump up and down, bend over, put your arms over your head; having to tug/pull/adjust your wedding finery on the big day is a big no — your tailor’s job is to make you feel effortless regardless of action.
This rule also applies to shoes! Make sure you can comfortably walk on any surface (and PRACTICE! Yes, you!!) so people are wondering over the vision that you are, not the over/under on when you’ll bite it or go barefoot.
2a. How you want others to move their bodies throughout the day/night. If you want your bridal party and guests to really cut loose on the dance floor, consider issuing them less restrictive attire and toning down the formality of the dress code. If the effect you’re going for is a little more elegant than eccentric, remember that bending over to pick up a cornhole beanbag might not be the chicest (or easiest) cocktail activity.
3. How individual you want the bridal party to look. We are — thankfully — far from the era of matchy-matchy, one-note, prom-esque attendants. Nowadays it’s acceptable to, y’know, be considerate of the people who’ve agreed to stand next to you and populate all those photographs. Before placing the order on those shiny, cap-sleeved, mustard dresses and the matching vests and bow ties because they go with your fall scheme perfectly, think about the people who have to wear them. Think of their body types, shades of skin, colors of hair… You want them to feel confident, right? Maybe you like the look of similar dresses in complimentary hues. Maybe a patterned fabric in a bias cut will be the most flattering on everyone. Maybe you want these dresses to actually be wearable more than once. Even if you want them to be wearing the exact same thing from earrings to nail polish to shoes, you’ll still want to dedicate some time in deciding all those elements. Do unto others…
4. How you know your invitees. Unless you’re some kind of royalty with a public ceremony (I’m looking at you, Prince Harry), chances are you’ll know all your guests. (I mean, except for your fiancee’s Great Aunt Ermingarde who hasn’t left her neighborhood since the Nixon administration and is shockingly making the 3-state trek… although even she isn’t “a stranger.”) But maybe you’re having a remote, intimate ceremony with just family, which probably invites less pomp and circumstance than a fete with 200 of your parents’ nearest and dearest. Or, maybe you are having a grandly-scaled affair brimming with all your college buddies, which could make a “Creative Black Tie” dress code apropos. At the end of the day, your guests will do their best to bedeck themselves according to the standard you set. Just know the party you’re throwing, and for whom. And if Great Aunt Ermingarde calls to ask, ” Just what do you mean by Cocktail attire,” she’s not nagging you, but only trying to answer that question: What to wear?
5. How you feel like you. Remember when I said your wedding should represent you & your fiancee on your best day ever? I couldn’t mean that more. Even if you’re the poster child for the athleisure movement and this is your one chance to really gussy up, or even if you’re a Tuesday afternoon sequins person and you don’t know if there’s enough Swarovski in the world to out-do your everyday, there’s no reason that the fanciest or most refined version of that person can’t be present. If your heart is set on being a princess for a day, do it — but be yourself. If you want to wear a jaw-dropping red dress because white isn’t your thing, do it — because that’s you. Don’t let your makeup artist, or your mother, or your own self-doubt talk you into wearing something that doesn’t make you feel like the ideal version of yourself. Who cares if it’s different from what you imagined in high school?! If, on your wedding day, you were to be asked the compulsory red carpet question, “Who are you wearing?” your answer should resoundingly be: Me.
Now — go forth, shop well, be fabulous.
Natalie Newman Locke, the Event Supervisor and a Wadsworth Mansion bride herself, is a seasoned wedding & production professional. When not creatively writing, photographing weddings, or acting as social media guru, she enjoys sampling wedding cake.