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What To Wear To A Church Wedding [And What Not To!]

It is often the case that when we are invited to a wedding, one of the first things to consider is what you will wear to celebrate the occasion. Particularly when no dress code is given, it is important to ensure that you are wearing an outfit that reflects the formality of the occasion, and often there are particular things that both male and female guests will need to consider, particularly if the wedding in question will be held in a church.

So, what do you wear to a church wedding? Church weddings require guests to be respectful of religious connotations along with any requests of the bride and groom. So, it is usually advised that guests wear ‘Sunday best’ to a church wedding. For men, this might mean a suit with appropriate footwear and for women an outfit with a modest hem and neckline and covered shoulders.  

Typically, the dress code for any wedding is indicated by the formality of the invitation and depends on the time of day, location, and preferences of the happy couple.

But if you do want to see some examples of outfits, and maybe even pick one up with 80% off the retail price while you are there, head over to the Church Dress Collection on The Dress Outlet.

If you still have questions about your attire, however, continue reading to find out what is appropriate, and why.

How Should I Dress For A Church Wedding?

You should dress formally yet elegantly for a church wedding. It is also generally advised to wear a shawl or coverup over the shoulders.

It is always better to ‘over-dress’ than to take a more casual approach at a wedding (unless specifically advised by the bride and groom).

Weddings are usually quite formal celebrations in that there are many traditional elements that couples often choose to uphold.

Traditionally, wedding attire is relatively formal, hence our advice as to what to wear to a church wedding.

If you are unsure of the formality of the wedding celebration you are attending, I would always advise speaking to the happy couple to ask for their opinion.

It is quite common for guests of a church wedding to dress however they wish, but to bring with them a jacket, scarf, or shawl to the church ceremony.

Covering up a slightly more revealing outfit is seen as a sign of respect in the church.

The term Sunday best originates from the nineteenth century, where people’s best clothing was typically reserved for special occasions and attending church.

Nowadays, the phrase refers to formal clothing.

Attending any wedding, I thoroughly enjoy looking at what others are wearing.

This weekend we attended the wedding of our friends – held in a church.

Most of the men in attendance were wearing formal suits with ties and smart dress shoes.

As it happened, the majority of the men wore blue suits but any color – black, grey, brown – would be acceptable for a church wedding.

The women wore a variety of different outfit styles.

Some wore smart skirts, blouses, and jackets, others were in formal dresses and a few of the female guests wore pantsuits.

I was surprised to see that a few of the guests wore halter-neck dresses or dresses with very narrow straps.

This got me thinking about whether or not shoulders need to be covered in a church.

So, I did some research. Read on to discover what I found.

Do Shoulders Need To be Covered In Church?

When attending a wedding mass in a church, it is advised, (but not enforced) that women should cover their shoulders. This is a long-standing tradition of modesty during church services and does differ depending on the church. For example, during a Catholic wedding mass, it is more likely that women would be expected to cover their shoulders.

That being said, it does not mean that you cannot wear an off-the-shoulder or strapless dress to a church wedding.

Quite the opposite, in fact, it may just take some forethought and a root around in your closet or trip to the store to ensure that you have a jacket, shawl, or simple throw to cover your shoulders during the church ceremony part of the wedding day.

Some churches do have a slightly more modern view on appropriate attire and so sleeveless dresses or shirts are absolutely fine to wear.

Often, churches will have a website where this sort of information can be found so guest can plan their outfit accordingly.

And, again, if there is any uncertainty in your mind about whether or not to cover your shoulders at a church wedding, we would highly recommend seeking the guidance of the wedding couple beforehand.

What Not To Wear To A Church Wedding

As with any formal event or occasion, there are certain things to avoid wearing to a church wedding. These include trainers, sportswear, highly revealing outfits, swimwear, the color white (unless explicitly stated), denim, clothing that is ripped or has holes in, sweats, and t-shirts.

It goes without saying that it should only be the bride – or brides – in white on their wedding day.

So perhaps steer clear of that white dress in your closet. Even if it is white with patterns or print on, I would recommend avoiding so as not to cause any upset.

Men, in particular, should avoid wearing trainers with their suits.

Not only does it look bad, but trainers are considered informal attire by most establishments – including some bars, nightclubs, restaurants and you guessed it- churches.

A dress shoe in either black or brown often works well.

Sweats and sportswear are also not appropriate in that they are just a bit too casual for an occasion such as a wedding.

If you are wanting to be comfortable at the wedding, instead opt for a floaty dress or loose-fitting shirt.

On their wedding day, the bride and groom (or any other combination of those roles!) understandably should be the star of the show, so guests should try to avoid wearing a highly revealing outfit to the wedding.

Not only does this detract attention away from the happy couple, but it may be viewed as disrespectful in a setting such as a church.

Denim is also a no-no for wedding attire, being more of an everyday look, guests are encouraged to make an effort with their appearance and so avoiding a casual denim look is encouraged.


Weddings are momentous occasions in peoples’ lives.

The formality of the happy couples’ nuptials will often be dictated by the formality of the invitation.

Either way, making an effort with your outfit as a wedding guest for a church wedding is the best way to go.

And if you are looking for inspiration or a particular outfit, head over to Church Dress Collection on The Dress Outlet.

Trust me, you’ll find something there.

And while they meet the criteria, if you don’t shop there and decide to do so elsewhere, have in mind the phrase Sunday Best when selecting your outfit for a church wedding. This way you won’t go wrong!    

Check out my other wedding attire guides: