You’ve received an invitation to a winter wedding—but what are you going to wear? Winter weddings are romantic and elegant, but they can be a challenge to dress for. You have to balance not only the formality, dress code, and location of the wedding, but you also have to contend with wintery elements like rain, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures… while also finding a dress that’s flattering and suits your style. Dressing for a winter wedding can feel like a daunting and exhausting task, so we’re here to help! In this guide, we’re giving you what to wear as a winter wedding guest, so you can get rid of the stress and focus on the magic and romance of attending your friend’s wedding.
Sleeves, length, and fabric
The toughest part about dressing for a winter wedding is the balancing act of dressing warm for when you’re braving the weather outdoors (like going in and out of the ceremony and reception hall)… but not too warm that you overheat on the dance floor. The first three things to consider are your sleeves, the length of your dress, and the fabric of your dress.
Keep in mind that, for the most part, the “rules” of wedding attire stay the same in the winter as they do in other months. You’re just adding a little winter twist with longer sleeves or lengths, heavier fabrics, darker colors, and/or cold-weather accessories to make it suitable for the season.
Long sleeves are an easy go-to
Wearing long sleeves instantly makes the dress wintery. Whether you’re wearing a maxi, mini, or midi dress, long sleeves denote winter weather elegance. The sleeves will help keep you warm, while also adding a classic silhouette to your ensemble. Long sleeves offer sophistication that can work for casual and formal weddings alike. Whether you choose tight sleeves or lantern/puff sleeves is up to your preference and body type!
Short sleeves work too
I like to dance at weddings, and it can get hot on the dance floor. If you want to avoid sweaty armpits, you don’t have to force yourself to wear long sleeves just to make the dress seem wintery. Short sleeves can be equally wintery as well, especially when paired with other layers like a shawl, outercoat, and scarf. If most of the wedding reception will take place inside and there’s going to be lots of activity and dancing, it’s a smart move to wear a dress with short sleeves paired with layers that you can take on and off depending on the temperature in the space.
Short or long length for a winter wedding?
Now that we’ve dealt with the sleeves, what about the length of the dress? Like the sleeves, there are pros and cons to different hem lengths. A short dress is a contemporary option that’s easy to move and dance in, while longer dresses can be both warm and elegant. So, there’s really no correct answer. Choose whichever you like!
If you go for a short or midi dress, make sure the dress has at least one “wintery” element like long sleeves, a dark color, and/or a thick material. To keep your legs warm, consider stockings (which we talk about more below). Even an upscale knit dress is a great option when paired with heels and upscale accessories.
The same rules apply to a maxi dress. It should have at least one “wintery” element, like a dark color or thicker fabric. You don’t want to wear your beachy maxi dress to a winter wedding just because it’s a long length.
Formal winter weddings are the perfect time to break out your evening gowns that you never get to wear. (Summer weddings are too hot for a ballgown.) So have fun dressing up!
The deciding factor between a summer dress and a winter dress really comes down to the fabric. Heavier or thicker fabrics tend to have a more wintery feel because of their rich, depth, and warmth.
For example, a velvet skirt or dress is gorgeously lavish while also keeping you warm. Velvet is available in a lot of winter colors, particularly saturated hues like emerald and burgundy. (Saturated hues are especially trendy for winter 2021.)
If you’re worried about wearing something too thick because the reception hall might get warm, I highly recommend lace. It’s a light fabric that will keep you cool, while still having the elevated and elegant look of a winter fabric.
One of the simplest things to wear as a guest at a winter wedding: a mid-length, dark-colored dress with lace long sleeves. With the right overcoat and accessories, it will keep you warm outside while staying cool on the dance floor, and it can be equally formal and casual if you’re unsure of the formality of the event.
Dark colors for winter weddings
If you’re not sure what to wear as a guest to a winter wedding, start your search by looking for dresses that come in dark, cool colors. Rich hues like burgundy, emerald, and plum are great options if you’re looking to add some color to your ensemble. If you’re looking for a neutral, forgo the winter white (only the bride should be wearing white, unless otherwise specified) and instead go for the timeless and elegant black. Cool neutrals like gray and navy are also flattering on most everyone.
Want to wear a dress with print? Focus on prints that have a dark base color and aren’t too bold. A black dress with florals can be surprisingly wintery, and it’s a more casual option for less formal weddings.
What about the winter wedding suit?
Don’t want to wear a dress? Try out a winter wedding suit or jumpsuit! Wear your favorite black blazer with black pants, paired with heels and statement jewelry for a powerhouse look that can work for informal and formal events alike.
When wearing a winter wedding suit, the same rules apply as above: opt for dark colors with thicker fabrics to keep it wintery. Suits can be a fun and sophisticated wedding option, so don’t be afraid to play around with colors and silhouettes that you like! Just no white suits unless otherwise denoted on the invitation.
Get more ideas for formal winter outfits here: 19 Holiday Party Outfit Ideas For Every Event
Layers, layers, and more layers
You can winterize just about any dress with the right layers, like a tailored coat or long puffer jacket. Trench coats are always a timeless option and pair with just about any style of dress, long or short. We also prefer neutral-colored outerwear, like black or camel, so they can match with and complement your dress.
The fabric of your coat matters too. You want fabrics that will actually keep you warm and dry, especially if you end up with an icy or snowy night. Check out our article with the top eco-friendly fabrics that will keep you warm this winter, and also take a look at our guide to sustainable outerwear to find options that will keep you warm without hurting the environment.
Shawls are another great layering tool to have in your winter wedding toolkit. They add warmth without covering up your gorgeous dress, and you can easily take them off and hang them on the back of your chair if you start to get warm. You can even use a shawl as a makeshift sleeve if you’re wearing a sleeveless or short-sleeved dress. You can also use a wrap to add texture to your outfit, like wearing a plain black dress with a black shimmery or lace shawl.
Get ready for winter with these 15 winter fashion hacks for a gorgeous cold-weather ensemble.
Winter wedding shoes
Shoes can make or break an outfit—particularly when you’re dealing with winter weather like snow and ice. Heels are traditionally a favorite for weddings, but they can be a hazard on icy, windy nights. Besides, you don’t want to be in heels all night long if you plan on doing lots of dancing.
If you’re going to wear heels, opt for close-toed shoes to protect your feet against the frigid air. Pumps are a timeless go-to, but we also love block heels, heeled boots, and even sock boots for winter. If you’re worried about wearing heels on a wintery night, check out these 12 hacks to get better traction. Please don’t wear heels or slippery shoes on ice; a cute shoe is not worth breaking an ankle and missing the winter wonderland wedding!
There are a lot of other great alternatives for formal occasions besides heels to prevent any disastrous falls or trips. Wedges give you height without as much worry of falling. Boots with a low or no heel can look stunning under a long maxi skirt. Closed-toe flats, even slingbacks, can be a beautiful addition when matched to the rest of your outfit. You can even try out oxfords or loafers for a more studious look. If you’re wearing suede, which is a common winter fabric, make sure to spray it with a suede protectant to keep it safe from snow, ice, and salt on the road.
Another option is to bring a change of shoes! Wear winter boots or flats when walking to and from the ceremony and reception, and then change into heels or another shoe inside. It’s a little extra worth, but it could save you a slip and fall.
The right accessories can take your winter look up a notch. For formal events, you typically want small and elegant accessories, like a clutch or small crossbody bag with dainty jewelry. Utilize statement pieces only if your dress doesn’t have any embellishments.
When it comes to what to wear at a winter wedding, there are three key accessories: stockings, scarves, and gloves.
Stockings will help keep you warm if you’re wearing a shorter dress, and they add a level of sophistication. Wear them in black or nude, or you can even wear patterned stockings if you have a more subtle dress.
Also, stockings come in different thicknesses—some are sheer and some are thicker. Choose the thickness based on the weather as well as the rest of your dress. Sheer stockings have a sultry look while thicker stockings will keep you warm and are a bit more informal.
Scarves and wraps
Scarves keep your neck warm from winter winds, and they’re a hassle-free way to stay warm since they’re easy to take off once you get to the reception room. Play around with different scarves and wraps to find the one that best complements your outfit. Whether it’s a blanket scarf or a sheer wrap, you’ll be happy to have another layer of protection against the winter cold.
Don’t let cold hands stop you from cheering for the couple. Traditional leather gloves in black, nude, or brown are timeless and work with just about any coat and outfit. If you’re looking to try out something that’s equally classic and trendy, throw on long white gloves with your dress. White gloves are a feminine touch that will keep you warm while also adding a layer of grace and poise. (Just don’t wear any other white pieces except your gloves, so the bride can have her white moment.)
What to wear at a winter wedding
Want to start browsing for dresses to wear at a winter wedding? Check out Current Boutique’s Best Dressed Guest section and keep an eye out for dark colors, sleeves, and thick fabrics. You’ll find high-end designer pieces at a fraction of their original cost, so you can treat yourself to a new winter wedding dress (and still have enough left in the bank to contribute to the happy couple’s honeymoon fund).