Destination weddings are so popular. Along with unique venues comes the question, “What to wear to nontraditional weddings?” We know to forego wearing white to a wedding, but what else should we keep in mind?


Consider the elements of wind, sun, sand and sea when choosing your attire for a beach wedding. Choose a pastel colored or floral printed tea-length sundress in a breathable fabric that you would wear to a nice dinner. Bring along a wide-brimmed hat for protection from the sun. Wear flat sandals that can be easily removed for walking in the sand.

Avoid: short dresses or skirts that could be caught in the wind and cause an embarrassing show, rubber flip-flops, swimsuits and tennis visors.


Alpine wedding locations are chosen for their vistas, not because the wedding couple is a fan of buffalo plaid and hiking boots. With that insight, consider a knee-length dress or longer of wool or velvet in feminine colors for winter. Choose festive but sturdy fabrics like shantung for spring or summer. Closed-toe pumps and tights in the winter, and peep-toe or low-heeled dressy sandals in the summer. Be flexible in your attire choices as weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. If it snows in the winter, bring boots to wear to the venue and change shoes once you get there. Bring a festive sweater to ward off chilly breezes in the spring. If you are not accustomed to higher altitudes and dry air, bring chapstick, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.

Avoid: denim skirts, hiking boots and camouflage (even if the wedding party is wearing it.)


Wedding couples choose barn venues for the rustic chic décor and romantic, ethereal atmosphere. Although some wedding parties may wear cowboy boots, most do not. Most brides will wear full, formal, white wedding dresses in a barn venue, so you should take that into consideration when deciding what to wear. Color is important. Many brides who choose this type of venue have wedding colors in soft, romantic tones. Unless you want to be left out of the group photos, leave your bright red dress at home. Dresses, skirts or pantsuits are acceptable. Choose sturdy but festive fabrics like shantung. In the full heat of summer choose breathable cotton or linen in pastel colors or floral patterns. Wedge heels or sturdy heeled ladylike loafers are a must when walking over gravel and grass.

Avoid: fabrics that snag easily, stiletto heels, full-length dresses or skirts that can drag in the dirt or mud.

Daytime wedding

Knee-length dresses and skirts are still the most appropriate wedding guest attire. Choose a pastel colored or floral print dress in georgette fabric that follows the romantic but casual feel of a daytime wedding. Wear wedge heels for ease of walking on tile, grass or garden paths. Be considerate of churches or synagogues that require female guests to cover their shoulders or heads by bringing a pashmina or fine-gauge sweater.

Avoid: tank tops, miniskirts and heavily distressed fabrics of any kind.

Evening wedding

Many evening weddings are more formal. Whether the dress code is white tie, black tie or formal, choose a full-length gown, faceted jewelry, strappy metallic sandals and an updo. You can also choose a festive cocktail dress paired with statement jewelry. If you do not own any formal wear, consider shopping at a consignment store to find a great deal on dresses that have been gently worn. Remember, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. The wedding couple will appreciate the gesture of honoring theirspecial occasion by dressing your best.

Avoid: minidresses, linen, casual hairdos and business shoes. ■

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