Figuring out what to wear to a fall wedding is stressful enough on its own, but add volatile September and October weather and you’ve got yourself a conundrum. As wedding expert Anne Chertoff says, if you’re ever stumped on what to wear, the easiest thing to do is ask. The couple, or even their closest family members, will surely be happy to clear up exactly how formal (or casual) their special day will be. Still, if you’re looking for some basic guidelines, here are some simple tips to get you started on dress shopping. There are no hard and fast rules, which is why it’s so important to ask; but there is a way to decode a rough idea of the couple’s expectations, and that can be found in the event’s time and date. Here’s how to figure it out!

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1Black Tie Wedding

what to wear to a fall wedding

Weddings held on weekend evenings, especially in hotels or fancy venues, are usually either black tie or black tie optional. This means long evening gowns or tasteful cocktail dresses. Feel free to go all-out with jewelry, hair and makeup (just don’t upstage the bride)!

//Pamela Rolland Macquard Mermaid Gown, $790; ML Monique Lhuillier, $595; Rachel Zoe Gown, $395; Diane von Furstenberg Gown, $1,180; Roland Mouret Twist-Front Gown, $2,115

2Formal Wedding

what to wear to a fall wedding

Weddings that aren’t quite black tie but still have an air of formality call for a snappy cocktail dress — avoid a floor-length gown but also avoid a micro-mini dress unless the couple specifies otherwise. Weddings held early in the evening, or daytime weddings held in a snappy indoor venue are frequently formal weddings.

//Ali Ro Spiced Dress, $45 rentalDVF Julianna Lace Wrap Dress, $298.80; J.Crew Mae Dress, $200; Paisley Boutique Navy Pintuck Dress, $62

3Daytime Wedding

what to wear to a fall wedding

A morning or early afternoon wedding, especially one held outdoors or in a home, are usually more casual. Obviously, “casual” is relative here — jeans aren’t a great idea — and in this case, refers to a more low-key dress or suit. It’s still a wedding, so a polished appearance is still important, no matter how casual you go!

//KUT From The Kloth Fit & Flare Dress, $118; Ralph Lauren Faux-Leather Trim Dress, $47.99; Trina Turk Dress, $298; Topshop Stripe Fluted Sleeve Dress, $90

Other things to consider:
  • Shopping for a fall wedding can be tough because we’re used to wearing pastels or bright, summery colors to such events. Look for jewel tones or muted neutrals, like rich browns and grey.
  • Because fall weather can be unpredictable, try to choose an outfit that can look complete either with or without tights and closed-toed shoes. Be sure to look for a cardigan or chic jacket to keep you warm since you won’t know what temperature to expect until well into the season.
  • Black is allowed! At fall or winter evening weddings, a chic black dress can look like a dream come true.
  • Avoid wearing white, cream, ivory, or anything that could even be mistaken for white at all costs unless specified by the couple.
  • If the wedding is in a house of worship, respect any rituals or dress codes that may be in place (for example, you may want to cover your shoulders for a wedding that takes place in a church).
  • Try to find out what color the wedding party will be wearing to avoid blending in with the bridesmaids.
  • Every couple is different, so what matters most is their vision for the wedding. There’s no guarantee they’ll follow cultural norms, so if they request a wardrobe choice that seems odd, consider all this standard style etiquette moot. It’s their day, so they’re the ones who make the rules!

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