Is it Appropriate for Guests to Change Outfits Between the Wedding Ceremony & Reception?


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Attending a wedding generally means the chance to dress up in your very finest. Many people love getting dressed up and jump at the chance to wear their Sunday best to see those they love get hitched.

One outfit for the entire day for guests is the standard protocol, though the bride may change her dress depending on the nature of the ceremony and reception. However, guests sometimes change their ensembles as well. There is usually a specific reason involved, such as a morning wedding and an evening reception, or a reception that includes a pool party or other less-than-traditional event.

How appropriate it is for a guest to change an outfit between a wedding ceremony and reception remains a subject of debate because it is not always considered appropriate. If you are wondering about this very issue in light of an upcoming wedding, read on.

How Inappropriate Is It To Change My Outfit At A Wedding?

I have a wedding coming up, and I would really like to change my outfit between the ceremony and the reception. The wedding ceremony is at 1:00 pm and the reception is at 6:00 pm. We have to drive about 20 minutes to the reception hall and I am really not interested in sitting in a formal dress for several hours. Is it wildly inappropriate to change my outfit? I am already kind of miffed that there is such a gap between the ceremony and the reception.

Our Answer

Since you have considerable time between the wedding and the reception, it is not unreasonable to change your outfit. If you want, you can simply change back into your dress after bumming around for a few hours – this is an especially good idea if the reception is black-tie.

You do not want to show up wearing a cocktail dress at an insanely-formal reception!

Change Outfits Between the Wedding Ceremony & Reception

If you are unsure whether changing would be appropriate or not, ask the bride or a member of the bridal party. Changing outfits may be encouraged or eschewed completely depending on the nature of the nuptials.

Do your research so you do not show up in something inappropriate or otherwise annoy the bride and groom.

Since this wedding ceremony is so early and the reception so late, the couple cannot exactly expect you to wear the same darn thing all day unless you really, really want to. Again, you have to keep the theme of the wedding in mind, but if you change your outfit in the numerous hours between the ceremony and the reception, it is unlikely anyone will care.

Keep the formality of the event as well as general wedding etiquette in mind, and above all, have fun!!

Other Experts’ Answers

Couples who had their wedding guests change clothes:

Prince William & Kate Middleton

At the 2011 royal wedding, the post-ceremony reception buffet was hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace, and included just 650 of the 1,900 people who were invited to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

For this daytime portion of the celebrations, guests wore traditional royal wedding finery—military uniforms or morning dress for men, and daytime formal with hats for women. Attendees then took a break before the evening festivities, when just 300 invitees returned to the palace for a dinner reception hosted by Prince Charles.

For the black tie event, Kate wore a second ivory McQueen gown with silver embellishments, and William changed from his Irish Guards uniform into a tuxedo and bow tie. Pippa substituted her famous bridesmaid dress for an emerald green Temperley London gown, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall swapped her watercolor Anna Valentine ensemble for a cornflower blue tunic dress. – Town And Country

Change Outfits Between the Wedding Ceremony & Reception

Salma Hayek & Francois-Henri Pinault

Back in 2009, the movie star and the fashion CEO had a low-key civil wedding in Paris, followed two months later by a star-studded extravaganza in Venice. Festivities took place at La Fenice Opera House, where Salma wore a traditional white Balenciaga creation for the ceremony, and a fuchsia gown for the reception.

The bride’s best friend Penelope Cruz wore cobalt blue for the ceremony and black for the reception, and Charlize Theron transformed her slinky taupe floor-length gown into a mini-dress for the evening festivities. Thwarting guest’s hopes of traveling light, there was also a masked rehearsal dinner the night before. – Town And Country

The Etiquette Book

Ah, the wedding wardrobe changes… Hence the major advantages to having a reception which immediately follows the ceremony. Alas, especially with church ceremonies, this is not always possible.

Yes, it is perfectly acceptable for you to attend the ceremony dressed appropriately (and respectfully!) for church, then relax in the afternoon, and change into your formal attire for the evening’s celebration.

While many guests will opt for the single outfit, you certainly do have the option to change.

Change Outfits Between the Wedding Ceremony & Reception

For church, women may wear suits, daytime dresses or fancy pants with matching tops. Men may wear suits, slacks with button down shirts & tie, pressed khakis with a blazer.

The evening’s event is easy for the men as the invitation suggests black tie. If the man does not own and does not wish to rent a tuxedo, then a formal suit and tie will do. For the women, you may want to speak with the hosts to see if women will be wearing ball gowns or tea-length formal dresses. – Author Jodi R. R. Smith, The Etiquette Book, A Complete Guide To Modern Manners

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