When it comes to an engagement party, you can take a lot of the necessary dressing cues from the invitation. Not only will it tell you the where and when, but the style of the invitation itself can reveal a lot about expectations for the event. Engagement parties can range from a backyard barbecue to a banquet hall celebration, so tailor your outfit accordingly.
If the event is being hosted at the happy couple's home, casual dress is a safe assumption, but resist the urge to go too casual (favor some tailored khakis and a polo shirt or a fun skirt and sandal combo over jeans and a T-shirt). If the couple has rented a hall for their event, it shows increased effort and the expectation for semi-formal attire. Gents should sport a shirt and tie (jacket optional, depending on the venue cues) and women should wear a cocktail dress.
Prep tip: Try scoping out the venue before the event itself so you know if it's inside or outside and get a sense of its style. This can help you dress accordingly—think layers for outdoor venues—and prepare for the evening ahead of time.
Although the focus of the rehearsal dinner is on making sure things go smoothly for the big day, you still want to make sure you show up looking well-dressed as a member of the wedding party.
If the location's more formal, consider a dressy silhouette, paired with subtle accessories to accent your ensemble, while making sure you fit in with the overall aesthetic. Bridesmaids can layer delicate rose gold jewelry or pearls, which work well for a summer wedding look (try to avoid statement pieces for this occasion). Dapper gentlemen can stick to the classic suit and tie, with some cuff links for a nice touch. For a more casual dinner, you can loosen up a bit; ladies can go with either sundresses or breezy blouses and culottes while fellows will look sharp in a dress shirt/blazer combo.
Prep tip: If you're traveling to a destination wedding, pack your clothing with care; place them in a garment bag to keep them in mint condition. Also, while you are busy toasting the couple in your rehearsal outfit, don't forget to make arrangements to have your wedding outfit steamed or pressed before the main event. Entrusting a dry cleaning service with this task means you can relax and enjoy the pre-wedding celebrations.
Similar to reinventing casual pieces for a black tie affair, you can update formal ensembles for more laid-back events. Consider dressy separates for the post-wedding brunch, where you can take advantage of the opportunity to play with textures. Lightweight materials that are also luxe—think lace, eyelet details or chiffon in pastel or neutral palettes—work well on a skirt/blouse combo for women. Men, dress up your chinos with an oxford shirt, blazer optional.
Prep tip: Be prepared for anything from champagne spills to an accident with the amuse-bouche. Keep a travel-sized stain remover in your purse or clutch for immediate treatment, but after the brunch, head to your dry cleaner to avoid any permanent damage.
As a wedding guest, you'll attend many events. Show your support for the happy couple by dressing your best—and that includes keeping your clothes spotless.
Our cheat sheet makes dressing for wedding-related events a simpler process. For more style tips, consult our guide to deciphering the wedding dress code.
Photos: Sweet Ice Cream Photography, Clem Onojeghuo, Thomas Martinsen, Brooke Larke