Ms. Married Lady on Wedding Etiquette, Attire, and Wearing White


Illustration by Brittany Christine

What is the etiquette for taking shoes off at weddings? By the end of the night my feet are always killing me. How early is too early? —Well Heeled

Dear Heeled:

You might not like my answer: My instinct is to never take my shoes off in public for many reasons, the first of which is tetanus. But I rarely wear high heels, so my opinion may be immaterial to you. If you simply must take off your shoes because your feet really, really hurt, then read the room first. You probably don’t want to be the first one going in barefoot, unless you’re known for that sort of thing. In which case, go nuts; that’s probably one of the reasons you were invited and you should earn your keep. If you’re still unsure, please at least wait until after dinner, when the food has been cleared away and the dancing really gets going. And I mean really gets going—like jackets have been removed, ties have been loosened, people are swinging babies around, and so on. At that point, anybody who cares can just go home. Finally, if you take away one piece of advice regarding bare feet, let it be this: Please watch out for your toes, especially among other people who are still wearing their own heels. Because ouch.

Is it still really bad to wear white to a wedding? If not, how much is allowed? If it’s a summertime wedding, does that change the rules about colors? —Already Have a Dress

Dear Already:

Have you ever had that dream where you walk into a room and people are staring and pointing at you and maybe even whispering about you? Was it a good dream or a bad dream? Because that will for sure happen if you ever wear white to pretty much any wedding ever. Even if it’s summertime and you’re all on a beach somewhere and there are flip-flops in a basket and the bride and groom are the chillest people ever who don’t care about old-fashioned wedding rules, there will definitely be a great aunt or someone who will be shocked (SHOCKED!) that you even dared. You might just make her night.

That said, a little white is fine, and frankly nobody’s business. So like a floral dress with white in it? Sure! Polka dots? Do it. Black-and-white stripes? Always. Lace? In moderation. As with most things, moderation is always a good idea. Just don’t wear an actual wedding dress—floor length or otherwise—to someone else’s wedding, and you probably won’t be the subject of scrutiny for guests with nothing better to talk about.

Because even though such chatter is often more about mean-spirited gossiping than anything else, it actually is based in a useful idea: The main goal for any well-behaved wedding guest should always be “don’t steal attention away from the couple, even by accident.” That means don’t be late, do turn off your phone, don’t object during the ceremony, try not to choke on your dinner, and by all means don’t propose to your girlfriend during the best man’s speech. And as far as clothing goes, skew moderate just to be safe. If you’re worried about your dress having too much white, it probably does, and you should probably just wear something else.

Am I allowed to have bare legs at a winter wedding, or do I have to wear tights or panty hose? I don’t want to be cold, but panty hose bum me out. —Feeling Leggy

Dear Leggy:

More attire-themed questions! I’m in. Let’s just go ahead and make this a clothing-themed Ms. Married. That said, I’m annoyed. Have you ever noticed that most wedding attire “rules” apply to women? Wedding clothes for ladies is a major issue! A minefield! There are so many ways to incite indignation! Ms. Married is not here for that. Anybody who says you “have to” wear panty hose can get in their bossy old time machine and go back to 1995. Unless they are literally The Queen, they don’t get an opinion about exposed legs that aren’t theirs (and even then I’m not so sure). Same goes for tights, though those are slightly less granny, since it’s at least possible to make them look attractive and somewhat contemporary.

If you wear tights to a winter wedding, do it because you don’t want your legs to be cold. Would you rather not, because you can’t find any non-ripped ones or be- cause they’re simply cramping your style? Then by all means go barelegged. If it is indeed winter, then that wedding will hopefully be indoors anyway. If not, go ahead and wear your parka and ear muffs, etiquette be damned. PSA: Don’t wear tights and your shoe choice will be much easier though, since there are a finite number of formal shoes that actually look good with them.

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