What to wear to a wedding, and still enjoy the event
You want to make a statement and look as if you’ve made an effort, but don’t forget the importance of dressing for comfort. It’s going to be a long day, and night, after all.
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Nothing generates more expectation and excitement than an invitation to a summer wedding.
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It’s an opportunity to ditch the everyday workaday gear and glam up for a celebratory and joyful affair. Dressing for summer nuptials in Ireland, however, requires some advance planning and brings with it obvious challenges, given our unpredictable weather.
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A long day involving a lot of standing, sitting, eating and drinking, with dancing and gadding about in the latter stages demands armour that must take all that action into account. There is safety in dresses and separates that don’t wrinkle or crease, but none in constricting killer heels, so attention is needed as to what accessories to wear – and what to avoid – and an awareness that as photographers will be all over the place, you don’t want to look a disgrace in the wedding albums.
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To enjoy the day, comfort is a priority and if you are unused to flamboyant millinery, hats are best left to the MOB (mother of the bride), the MOG, or the racecourse. A friend who wore a Philip Treacy affair to a wedding last year which came unstuck when she was reading from the altar will never ever wear one to a wedding again. “I was a laughing stock”, she recalls bitterly. Bear in mind that if rain threatens, a good umbrella is necessary, hat or no hat, and not one with half its spokes broken. Not a good look.
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Some people are very experienced at this. Stylish Dee Breen is a seasoned “goer” who in one recent year attended 14 weddings. “I had to invest in a wardrobe”, she says. “I tend to go for tailored below the knee dresses – I wore a Vivienne Westwood to a couple – but you have to be selective within different groups of friends.
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“So, I invested in about four or five dresses and wore them with a great pair of shoes and a little fur wrap or a black lace jacket that I could wear during the day.
“Shoes are a good investment because they will look good with everything and will stand the test of time,” she says. Great shoes don’t have to be stilettos; lower or block heels can have the twin advantages of comfort and wow factor, like these zany polka dots by Dolce & Gabbana.
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Former model Sonia Reynolds says that what she wears depends on where the wedding is and the dress code; whether it is formal, extremely glamorous, rock ’n’ roll or alternative (she gets around).
“If it’s outdoors, I definitely won’t wear high heels and there’s nothing worse than seeing women in heels they can’t walk in – you can’t carry off a beautiful dress with uncomfortable footwear,” she says.
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She likes pretty frocks with little jackets or cardigans, occasionally she will wear trouser suits, but dislikes what she calls “the manicured, coordinated look”, the standard uniform of the Irish wedding.
Given that wedding invitations are issued usually six weeks in advance, many savvy wedding goers advise looking for what to wear long beforehand – if your invite is guaranteed. “I would look online to see the sort of thing I wanted and then try to find something similar,” said one, cautioning against waiting for the sales, when what is desired may disappear.
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Others warn against wearing white or cream, vying with bridal colours, unless embellished with colour or jewellery. Bags should be small, crossbody or clutch and shades essential. A buttonhole with seasonal flowers or a corsage can set-off a jacket.
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Some tips: black is practical and a bit safe but lends itself to bold, colourful accessories such as a canary yellow bag or shoes. If worn together, dresses should be the same length as coats. Sometimes decorative hair jewellery, flowers or bands like those made by Laura Kinsella can be stylish alternatives to hats. Fascinators should be avoided – many look simply silly – and for a sophisticated look, dresses that are too short, too revealing or too tight are best avoided.
Separates that can be remixed are proving popular this season, according to wedding columnist Sarah Geraghty, who attended 11 weddings last year. “People are getting away from dresses and more into skirts and tops that they can wear again and also because weddings are less formal than before. I recycle bridesmaid’s dresses,” she says.
There is also the fun element, and if you’re happy in a zany black and white ensemble and it reflects your bubbly, offbeat personality, why not be different?
A final word: Irish boutiques and Irish designers come into their own when it comes to weddings since limited edition special occasion wear and personal service is where they shine. The high street can be a minefield when what you have chosen from Zara, let’s say, is also the choice of someone else, who may cut more of a dash in it than you. That happened to me once. So stay comfortable, confident, and have fun.