The Top Wedding Guest Commandments

Style Edit

As anticipation for the royal wedding builds to evermore giddy heights, so too do the rumours, speculation and snippets of ‘official’ information about the big day. Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle could well be the most modern royal marriage yet, so what better time to consider the ‘new’ wedding etiquette?

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While we look to previous royal weddings for clues about what to expect, each generation also brings with it new takes on tradition.

Like many women of her generation (and subsequent ones), Princess Diana chose not to promise to ‘obey’ her husband in her wedding vows. Zara Phillips, meanwhile, retained her maiden name when she married Mike Tindall – no surprise when she had established a world-class equestrian career under her own name.

In particular, weddings can make us feel duty-bound to stick to certain style rules, but perhaps we should take our lead from this year’s happy couple instead.

The royal pair have already shown that they’re prepared to dispense with traditions and protocol if it means being themselves and putting others at ease, so before you panic about what to wear to this oh-so traditional occasion, remember that for every wedding style ‘rule’, there’s an exception: 

Wedding guest commandment No. 1: Thou shalt not wear black or white

While for many of us it’s a wardrobe staple, black was traditionally associated with mourning – understandably, not an association many people want on their wedding day.

The logic behind the no-white-or-cream rule, meanwhile, is to ensure that you neither match the bride too closely, nor look like you wish it were you standing at the altar.

And yet, all-black or white outfits can also be formal, glamorous and versatile. Today, some UK couples are even choosing a black tie dress code, which has long been popular in the US.

If you do choose to go monochrome, it’s wise to check with your hosts beforehand – and to add some contrasting accessories.

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Rule-bender: Cara Delevingne as bridesmaid at the weddings of her sisters Chloe and Poppy.

The elder Delevingne sisters both dispensed with the no-monochrome rule when choosing bridesmaid outfits for model Cara. In fact, white or cream dresses used to be traditional for bridesmaids and have recently come back into vogue for adult attendants.

Wedding guest commandment No. 2: Thou shalt not wear the same outfit twice

At a time when weddings have their own Instagram hashtag and every guest a camera phone, we’re more wary of recycling a wedding outfit in case our thriftiness is exposed on social media.

If you’ve hit on a winning look, why shouldn’t it earn a repeat appearance? You’re simply proving your instinct for timeless style and your understanding of what suits you. Change your hairstyle and switch up the accessories to avoid accusations of outfit monogamy.



Rule-bender: The Duchess of Cambridge, who is well-known for her sensible approach to re-wearing the same outfit: here she is wearing the same coat to three different weddings.

Wedding guest commandment no. 3: A hat is a wedding essential

Visitors from the US to the royal wedding in May might be somewhat baffled by our obsession with headwear. While it’s true that a hat can elevate an outfit from ‘garden party’ to ‘elegant wedding’, many women simply prefer not to wear one – whether for comfort, taste or because they want their outfit to do the talking.

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Rule-benders: Samantha Cameron wore a simple hair slide at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while model Karolína Kurková showed off a fetching fascinator at the nuptials of Prince Albert of Monaco and South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock. Jemima Khan, meanwhile, goes bare-headed at her brother Ben Goldsmith’s wedding: we would, too, if we had her lustrous locks.