Wondering what to put in that tiny carry-on for a quick weekend wedding? Check out these quick tips and tricks and you'll be perfectly turned out all weekend! Cheers!
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This is a big year for us! 5 weddings and 1 baptism, all scattered across various cities throughout the country! We're lucky to have friends all over the place, after going to a number of different far-flung schools, and with my husband's extremely large family, we spend a lot of time traveling for quick wedding weekends!
After all this time, I'm fairly sure that I've finally got packing down to a science! So grab your carry-on bag, keep the computer open, and let's start packing!
How long should I be in town as a wedding guest?
Unless either my husband or I is in the wedding, we generally leave home on an early or mid-afternoon flight Friday, depending on how far we're going, and return sometime Sunday afternoon. If the destination is far, sometimes we'll leave as early as Wednesday evening.
If one of us is in the wedding, then we normally leave mid-day Thursday, to ensure that we don't have any travel mishaps that prevent us from attending important events!
Wedding guest 101: Take pictures of all relevant documents
First things first! For weddings that are out-of-town, you want to make sure that you know where you need to be, and (equally important) when you need to be there!
Lately, I've been finding this one of the more challenging parts of weddings - most couples send information in the physical invitation that you receive in the mail, and often there's lots and lots more information on the wedding website. How to remember all of this - and make sure I have it on hand when I need it on the actual weekend?
Take pictures of all of the relevant paper documents you've received - invitations to the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and reception (including that little card that has the reception details), brunches, golf outings, bridal luncheons, and anything else. That way you won't have to carry all the invitations with you across the country and risk losing some vital piece! Additionally, make sure you've gotten a picture of the URL for the wedding website, including a password, if there is one. I've found that passwords for wedding websites are becoming increasingly common and I have to admit I did once find myself unable to access the website to find out where I needed to be.
You'll be your friends' and families' favorite guests at the wedding when they realize they don't know the name of the breakfast place where brunch is!
Wedding Guest Packing List
Alright, we're ready for the main event! How to make sure you have all the different outfits you'll need for the various events throughout the weekend, as a wedding guest!
Wedding guest packing tips: Casual outfits for the non-ceremony activities
Weddings often include a large number of varied events aside from the rehearsal and ceremony/reception, including (but not limited to!) brunches, luncheons, baseballs games - you name it!
If you will be attending any of those events, make sure you have all the right attire you'll need - and don't plan on wearing the same thing too many times, as the attendees will likely be almost 100% overlapping. It's normally only very close friends and limited family members that are invited to these types of events, and the bride's Aunt Maureen is definitely going to notice if you only brought one casual dress that now has a Cabernet Sauvignon stain.
For me, I'm of the opinion that you can't go wrong with Lilly Pulitzer for summer wedding events. Lilly will get you through brunches, luncheons, and even a baseball game. The dresses are memorable, but then again, part of Lilly's motivation in designing them was that they could hide stains from her juice stand! How much do we love the print (and ruffle) on this stunner? I also love these sleeveless shirts from J. McLaughlin - no matter what you end up doing at the event, no one will be able to see any sweat stains!
Or, conversely, if you aren't going to be attending these other events, then in addition to the clothes we'll discuss below for the events themselves, you'll need something to change into when you arrive on Friday afternoon and wear for dinner, and casual clothes to wear Saturday during the day, assuming the ceremony is the afternoon/evening. You'll likely also want a third outfit to wear home on the plane, though for me this is often some repeat of what I changed into Friday night and wore briefly out for dinner. I love casual, machine washable pants from Eileen Fisher - they travel well and they can easily be worn a few times, while still looking fresh!
Rehearsal dinner dress and shoes, if you're attending
If you're lucky enough to have scored an invite to the rehearsal dinner, that may also mean that you're in the wedding and attending the rehearsal. Both events are generally not as formal as the wedding, but the invitation may have a discussion of dress code, or a clarification that the rehearsal dinner is a barbecue, or something out of the ordinary.
If the rehearsal dinner is at a country club or restaurant, I normally wear a cocktail dress and heels, both of which are clearly different from what I'll be wearing the following day, so that no one thinks I'm wearing the same outfit. Also, while you can certainly wear the same heels to various events, I'd be sure to pack a second pair, both for sore feet, and in case of accidents. I didn't follow my own advice a few weeks ago and pulled my trusty wedding shoes out of the bag, only to realize that they had a tear in the leather...
I try to keep the dress fairly simple for the rehearsal dinner - such as this option from Nordstrom. If you're looking for something a little more exciting.
What to wear to the wedding ceremony and reception, as a guest
First rule of thumb: play it safe. For two reasons, I always pack two dresses that are appropriate for the ceremony/reception, though I generally do not change between the two (more on that below). Back to the rationale, first, there's always the risk of some sort of spills or catastrophe, either in your suitcase or in the hotel. Thus, you could always wear one to the reception if there was a catastrophe. Second, the weather is unpredictable. And third, and much more significantly, at least for me at 30, is the fear of looking like a "wanna be" bridesmaid. If you're close family/friends but not in the wedding, it is always super awkward to be wearing the same color as the bridesmaids. In this case, I always ask one of the bridesmaids at the rehearsal dinner what color the dresses are, and, if needed, I make a last-minute switch on my attire plans for the next day!
For the vast majority of weddings, cocktail dresses are my mainstay, unless there's an unusual dress code (which would be on the invitation) or if it's going to be outdoors. As far as actual examples of dresses go, I find that I generally opt for blues, including this Blue lace option. For me, one of the scariest dress codes is "black tie optional" AKA you "should" wear black tie, but you don't "have to," which translates into...chaos. Generally, I find that people very close to the bride and groom abide by the dress code, and it's a bit all over the place for everyone else. Take your direction from the reception venue - if it's a super high-end country club or a New Year's Eve wedding, you should probably get the husband to tux-it-up. If you're worried about black tie optional for ladies attire, one option is to compromise with a high-low dress, so you won't feel out-of-place, regardless of what the other guests are wearing.
Depending on the timing of the ceremony and reception, there may be a significant gap between the two events. In some cases, if there is a large gap and the reception has a black tie dress code, you'll likely wear a different outfit to the ceremony and then change into the evening attire during the gap. This is unusual (not the gap, but the change in dress code), and even in the event that it does happen, many guests will go ahead and wear the black tie attire to the day time ceremony, for fear that they won't have time to change.
Frequently asked wedding guest question: Can I wear white to a wedding?
If a white (or white-based) dress strikes your fancy during your pre-wedding shopping, you will hear your Grandmother's voice in your head "don't wear white to a wedding." And then you'll think, it's the 21st century! Those rules don't apply anymore...right? Right? Right?
Wrong. Unless you are attending Kim Kardashian's black and white-themed wedding or it is a wedding for which it is otherwise appropriate to wear white (such as a cultural norm), don't wear white as a guest to a wedding, unless you are the bride.
Not only will you stand out (let's be real, there's ALWAYS ONE woman wearing white at a wedding), but someone will be offended. It might be the bride, it'll more likely be her mother, or it'll just be the other ladies in attendance, but just avoid the situation all together an don't do it. It sends the impression that you are trying to draw attention to yourself. There are plenty of dresses in the world, and you can wear your white dress another day.
Packing for an outdoor wedding, as a wedding guest
Outdoor weddings offer unique challenge, even for the attendee. To make my life easier, if the wedding is outside on grass, I like to keep my high-heels from sinking into the grass with heel protectors.
No one wants to ostentatiously look like they're preparing for rain, but just in case (especially in tropical climates...or England), I slip a very, very, very small umbrella into my purse, that can remain hidden unless it's absolutely needed.
And finally - the chance of cold! Or, frankly more likely for a summer wedding, the chance that the AC will make sitting in an indoor venue unbearable! I like to bring a very light-weight wrap. I invested in a cashmere option that I can use for everyday life, or at weddings, since it's not too formal. Having this on-hand is also convenient in the event of an unanticipated modesty requirement at a religious ceremony. I was once at a ceremony where a friend ended up wrapped in some random lady's scarf because she didn't know there was a pretty strict dress code for the venue.
Practical items for the wedding guest: Packable steamer for wrinkles
Of course the reality of travel is that you're likely going to have at least some wrinkles to contend with upon arrival, no matter how quickly you unpack all of your fanciest garb. I always pack our trusty steamer, available here, to get the wrinkles out before the big event. Best part - as long as it doesn't have water in it (and why would you want to travel with it leaking water everywhere), it can fit in your carry-on.
Wedding guest etiquette: Don't pack the wedding gift
While I am aware that this may vary by culture/regional tradition, for the vast majority of weddings in the U.S., the bride and groom would prefer that you do not bring the gift to the reception. Though there is often a table for them at the reception, sometimes there is not, and you may be stuck with it. Additionally, the bride, groom, and their families have a lot going on - they do not want to have to deal with gifts and cards, which also, sadly, often get lost in the shuffle. We had several gifts which got their cards pulled off and we had to call the stores from which they were sent to figure out who had given them so that we could write thank you notes.
Well, that's all for now! Don't forget to drop your tips below! xx
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