I love weddings but sometimes it can be tricky decoding dress codes and figuring out what to wear. And with weddings getting more and more creative with attire, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what to wear. Having navigated a fair few of them in my time, these are some of my simple rules for dressing for a wedding so all you to worry about is sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the festivities (or a champagne or two!).
Always follow the dress code
Usually the dress code for a wedding will either black tie or cocktail or it might be a more casual beach wedding, but whatever it is, you must always follow the dress code as a sign of respect for the couple.
If it’s black tie, it’s got to be formal and floor length. If it’s daytime go for lighter colours, if it’s evening then go for more darker tones. Most weddings I go to are cocktail which means a dress must be above or on the knee. If it’s a daytime affair it might be similar to what you would wear to the races. It also depends on where the couple is getting married. If they’re getting married in a church you want your outfit to be a bit more formal, and consider covering your shoulders and making it a bit more traditional. But if it’s a beach wedding then it’s definitely more relaxed. Just really look for the setting and judge it based on what the bride and groom are like.
No white, but you can wear black
It goes without saying that it’s the bride’s big day, so white is always a big no-no when it comes to wedding attire. Traditionally black was also a colour to avoid however the rule around this is a bit more relaxed nowadays. But just be mindful of the bride and her family – if she’s fine with it then go ahead however if the bride and her family is more traditional then you might want to steer clear of it.
Dress according to the season
For summer it’s all about light colours and materials such as silk whereas in winter it’s more suited to heavier materials such as wool and deeper tones. It’s a great idea to always take a little wrap or a jacket to pop on over our outfit, particularly in winter as it gets quite chilly in the evening. When shopping for a wedding outfit I love stores like Scanlan Theodore, Camilla & Marc and Carla Zampatti.
Make sure your shoes are appropriate to the location
Some weddings are a cocktail affair so if you’re expecting to be standing for awhile make sure you have a comfortable shoe that’s not too high or have a wedge heel so it’s not hard to stand all day long. If it’s an outdoor wedding then opt for a chunkier heel as you don’t want stilettos that are going to sink into the grass. For a beach wedding I think a long dress option is good if you’re going to go for no shoes – that’s why I wore a long dress to the to this beach party event. I love the silhouette of a long gown and being barefoot.
Where are your fave places to shop for a wedding outfit?
Whether it’s an exotic destination wedding or beautiful nuptials by the water, attending a wedding is undoubtedly all kinds of fun—and a great excuse to get all dressed up. With weddings becoming more and more creative affairs and the resulting dress codes to match it can be hard to decide on what to wear as guest. After all you want to stay true to your style, respect the dress code and also ensure you don’t take any of the attention away from the bride with your chosen attire. So here’s the key to nailing your outfit the next time you attend someone’s ‘I dos’.
Adhere to the dress code
No matter if the dress code says come in purple from head to toe or dress up in a pink ballgown, the golden rule of being a wedding guest is that you have to respect the couple’s wishes and stick to the attire they have stipulated. Generally you’ll find yourself in cocktail dress territory for most weddings but occasionally you’ll have to take it up several notches for a black tie affair or dial it down into something more smart casual. Whatever you do, follow the dress code to the letter.
Err on the side of conservative
Unless specifically requested, generally a wedding is not the time to go all out with something flamboyant or OTT as all eyes should be on the couple, particularly the bride. So if torn between outfits, it’s always better to opt for the more conservative option. Luckily midi length styles are hugely on trend right now, the same with classic looks such as a beautiful tailored suit.
Whilst you can get away with wearing black to a wedding these days, there’s definitely still one colour you should avoid. “It is still a little taboo to rock white at somebody else’s wedding” says Bec & Bridge founders Bec Cooper and Bridge Yorston, who have launched a wedding edit of their label. Instead they suggest, “Play it safe and embrace other colours.”
Go for colour
It’s a festive occasion so now is the time to go for vibrant hues or striking prints. I’ve done both yellow and red in the past, which I’ve found are great colours for such a celebratory occasion. But with so many beautiful bold hued dresses and suits around right now your options are endless.
Keep it simple
Whenever I attend a wedding I always go for something classic and simple. I’ll usually opt for a midi length dress, heels and pared back accessories. But most importantly, whether you’re attending a glam soiree or a relaxed ceremony in a park, you need to keep your look polished from your hair and makeup to your outfit and shoes. It’s all about respecting the dress code and looking nice but ultimately letting the couple take centre stage.
Whilst hanging out with my family at my parents’ farm in the Southern Highlands was great, the highlight of the week was definitely celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary with Luke. We married in one of my favourite places in the world, Taormina in Italy and it was without a doubt one of the best days of my entire life—I wish we could relive the entire thing all over again! I always like to reminisce on the day whenever our anniversary rolls around (if you want to check out photos from the day, I shared some of my fave snaps from my album here) and as the years go by, I’m so happy to have Luke by my side through everything.
Enjoying lunch with fashion designer Steven Khalil at Bistro Moncur, Woollahra
Steven Khalil is one of Australia’s leading designers, specialising in red carpet and bridal gowns. His creations have been worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Jenner, Kelly Preston and Jesinta Campbell. He also launched an e-boutique last month, and is launching a new perfume next month. Khalil, 39, chats to me about dressing celebrities to royalty, and shares his best advice for brides-to-be.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Sydney. I was raised by a single mother. I was the youngest of four children … I struggled at school because I was creative and I think back then they didn’t know how to deal with creative students. So I was always in trouble or never really connecting. I could never sit down and keep still. In the end, they had to keep paper and pen away from me because all I would want to do was sketch dresses in class. So growing up was a struggle, but I was a happy child and really positive and I think that’s what got me through.
Did you always want to be a designer?
Yes, I decided I would make wedding dresses at the age of six.
One of Steven’s wedding dress creations. Photo: @stevenkhalil and photographed by @yervantphotography
What influenced your choice of career?
I was watching Princess Diana and Charles’ wedding and I remember being really excited about the wedding and my mum was really baffled by it and she said, “Why are you so excited about this wedding?” I didn’t know why, and then when I saw the gown I said to my mum, “I’m going to make wedding dresses when I grow up”… I got my first sewing machine when I was 11.
What route did you take to pursue your dream?
I went through high school and did textiles and design at school, I was very drawn to all the creative subjects. And then the minute I left school I went to college and I studied design, fashion and clothing production and manufacturing, and I got my first real job when I was about 19: I was making flower girl dresses for a company. Then I … got head-hunted to go and work in a bridal boutique in Double Bay, called Mark Holt Bridal, when I was 22 years old, and I was living the dream, really. My gowns were on the covers of all the magazines and I stayed there for about seven years, and then I opened my own store.
You’ve dressed so many celebrities and influential people. What has been your biggest pinch-me moment?
When we dressed Kylie Jenner for the Grammys – it was very unexpected, although that dress was with Jennifer Lopez, so I was hoping she would wear the dress, but it didn’t fit her and so that dress was sent to Kylie.
You recently dressed the Crown Princess of Greece. How did that come about?
The next day after the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia show we received this e-mail [saying that the Princess Olympia of Greece] wanted to wear [a piece from the runway] for her 21st birthday.
Princess Olympia wearing one of Steven’s creations. Photo: @olympiagreece
What was it like to dress royalty?
Well, it’s a first for me … although it has been an ongoing dream for me to make a royal wedding gown because it stems back to the [Princess] Diana thing of me being so obsessed with her wedding dress. So to make a royal wedding gown would be the ultimate for me.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be?
I’ve always wanted to dress Cate Blanchett because she’s Australian and has done so well overseas.
What is the most expensive dress you’ve ever had to create?
We did a wedding gown for a client in Dubai and she paid $54,000 for that gown. She had seen something that we had done for somebody else, but she wanted a grander version of it, so a lot of it came down to the detail.
What do you love most about being part of a wedding day?
A bride is like the centerpiece of the wedding, isn’t she? The anticipation of her arrival, everybody waits to see her gown. So it’s really special to be chosen to make the gown, it’s such a special honour to do that. So I just love being part of that process.
How do you deal with “bridezillas”?
Over the years I’ve started to realise that it’s so much bigger than me and the dress … You put out the best you can put out… [but] a lot of it is just being patient and they’re under a lot of pressure from their families, [and] under financial pressure a lot of the time, to have this beautiful wedding. So you’ve got to really stop and think about what’s going on for the person and try to be as patient as possible.
What do you think the secret is for a woman looking great on her wedding day?
A lot of it is confidence. I know it probably sounds cliche, but I think if you feel good in something and you’re carrying that really well, you’ll give a good vibe.
What are the biggest fashion mistakes you see?
I think when you seen an image of somebody that looks amazing and you’re like, “I want that whole outfit,” but you always should make something your own. Don’t try to emulate what someone else is wearing because they might have a different body shape to you and the clothes might not fall the same way on you.
Have you got plans to open stores internationally?
I would like to, yes. So what we’re doing at the moment is just developing the brand more, creating more products so that we can then just open beautiful boutiques in chosen cities.
Some of Steven’s new jewellery line. Photo: Steven Khalil
How are you expanding?
We are adding more to the line, adding in jewellery, robes; we’re going to go into more beautiful lingerie as well … So we’re working on a new collection for that, because the first season of those christening gowns sold out so quickly… and we still have waiting list for them.
Tell me about the perfume.
The perfume is really gorgeous and it’s going to be launched in [early August]. We’re just finalising all the labels and the packaging at the moment. The fragrance consists of rose, patchouli and lily of the valley… I want people to come into the store and be able to buy various products, not just the dress. So it’s kind of following in the footsteps of Elie Saab, Vera Wang, to create a really beautiful brand experience.
If you hadn’t gone down this career path, what would you be doing?
You know, I have no idea because this was the only thing I wanted to do … when I was growing up, so many people were saying to me, “You can’t be a dressmaker, that’s not a real job.” What is a real job? So I thought about becoming a hairdresser or a lawyer.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
I love going out with friends to eat, I love Sunday morning breakfasts, I love being by the water. Yeah, I’m quite simple … I love to shop, I love beautiful clothing, I love going to art galleries.
Where do see yourself in five years?
I would love a concept store with sales people, beautiful products everywhere and just a really beautiful shopping experience.
Finding the perfect wedding shoes is high up on the to-do list of any bride. I spent a lot of time searching for the shoes I eventually wore on my wedding day but when I saw them I knew they would complement my dress perfectly.
One of my big tips is to not leave your shoe search to the last minute, not only for the practical reason that you’ll need them in order to get your dress hemmed but also to give yourself enough time to find a pair that you’ll really fall in love with.
When shopping keep in mind that you will be in your shoes for the entire day so make sure that they’re comfortable and that you won’t have any trouble walking in them. No bride wants to be hobbling around at the reception from pain when she should be dancing up a storm! Also think of the overall outfit before you settle on a pair of shoes. If your dress is quite ornate you want to opt for a simple pair of pumps to offset the intricate detail, inversely if your dress is quite pared back you may want to make a statement with your choice of shoes. It’s all about balance.
Here are some of the great options in footwear out there for every kind of bride…
You’ve got the dress, you’ve got your shoes but have you chosen your jewellery? Beautiful accessories are often the finishing touch of your entire look and finding the perfect pieces is key. Much like your dress your jewellery will largely depend on your style. Are you opting for a relaxed bohemian vibe or something modern and edgy? Do you want to go minimalist or go bold and dramatic? There are plenty of great pieces available at various price points so you’re sure to find something to fall in love with. Just keep in mind key things like your dress’ neckline (sometimes a dramatic neckline means you may be better off skipping a necklace); how you’re wearing your hair (for example bold earrings may sometimes work better with an up-do) and keeping your accessories consistent, for example having all dainty jewellery or opting for something that makes a bigger statement.
Whilst the ladies tend to have most of the fun as far as fashion goes at a wedding, let’s not forget about the gents! Once the groom and the groomsmen have picked their outfits often the little accessories that can help pull the outfit together can be forgotten about. So here are a few places to start to ensure your future Mr and his man squad look suitably dapper.
Check out some great style vs steal options below.
For more of our wedding series check out bridesmaid dress options here and wedding dress options here
There’s something about a pair of cufflinks teamed with a crisp white shirt and suit that can make any man look sharp. Cufflinks are to men what jewellery are to you so make sure to pick a pair that are classic and elegant for a day as important as your wedding day. A plain silver pair are always a safe bet but if your groom and his groomsmen are more on the adventurous side then one in a different shape or with a touch of colour might be worth exploring.
A simple tiebar is a small addition to an outfit but adds a certain level of polish to a look. It’s subtle so won’t be overpowering but it’s definitely a sophisticated way to accessorise a suit.
The pocket square
As far as men’s suiting goes a pocket square has become a great way to ‘finish’ an outfit. A crisp white pocket square is a no-brainer as far as wedding attire goes but with plenty of prints and colours to choose from, there’s definitely a perfect option out there for the more daring man.
A beautiful silk tie would be a great gift for a groom or his groomsmen. As far as weddings go a tie in a dark shade is a sophisticated option an can also be worn long after the big day.
If yours is a black tie wedding then a bow tie is a must. There’s something quite sexy/a little James Bond about a bow tie that needs to be tied but for those who would prefer for a hassle-free time there are plenty of great slip-on options too. There are even different textures to choose from such as the velvet and silk options below.
I remember when I was shopping for wedding dresses and trying on multiple options before finally settling on the first dress I tried on! That’s the thing with wedding dresses – you won’t be able to stop thinking about it when it’s The One. So whether you’ve got a Pinterest board full of options or have no idea what kind of dress you want all I can say is you’ll just know when you’ve found it. I’ve rounded up over 100 dress options for you from designer labels to up and coming brands to one as little as $263 so you may just find the right one for you… Good luck and happy shopping!
Bridesmaid dresses can often be a bone of contention for brides as it’s often tricky to find one style of dress that will suit an entire bridal party; that will work within your budget and complement the theme of the wedding. For my own wedding my bridesmaids (see below) wore neutral-toned Carla Zampatti gowns but they wanted to wear different heel heights so in the end I had them all wearing the same shoes for photos then supplied them with ballet flats that they could change into. Compromise is key!
Scroll down to read my top tips for choosing bridesmaid dresses along with bridesmaid dress options to suit every wedding style.
My gorgeous bridesmaids
When choosing a bridesmaid dress consider…
It’s important to choose dresses that will work with the style of your dress. So if your dress is quite sleek and modern, it might not work to have relaxed boho dresses as they’re two completely different styles. Ultimately you want your bridesmaids to complement your dress for a cohesive look on the day.
Consider the overall colour scheme of your wedding. If you’ve opted for soft pastel hues for the event it might look jarring to have dark coloured gowns for your bridesmaids as it may look a little too harsh.
The type of wedding you’re having
Make sure that your bridesmaids’ attire works with the style of wedding you’re having. For example if yours is a relaxed, rustic affair a statement gown in a show-stopping cut or colour might not work and you may be better to opt for a relaxed silhouette in a slightly more romantic, feminine colour.
Skin tone and hair colour
Your bridesmaids will all be quite different in terms of skin tone and hair colour so think of one unifying shade that will work for all of the bridal party. For example you may need to consider that some shades might not work with olive skin as well as it does with fair skin or that tones that work for blondes won’t work as well with redheads.
If you’re really having troubles with this you could consider having a tonal scheme where everyone doesn’t have the same shade of dress but simply in the same colour family, for example you could choose pink and have dresses in a dusty rose right down to a pale pink.
Your bridesmaids’ body shapes
It’s very rare that all the ladies in your bridal party will be the same shape or size. It’s important to be mindful of this to ensure that you choose a dress style that will be flattering to all. This is one of the trickiest aspects of choosing bridesmaid dresses as you want everyone to look great but at the same time you need to find dresses in the same style. Have all your bridesmaids try on as many dresses as possible to determine a style that works.
Alternatively if this all sounds like too much of a headache you could consider having your bridesmaids wear different dresses but all in the same colour to give it a unifying theme.
Your bridesmaids’ opinions
It’s ultimately your day so you will of course, have the final say but it’s important to factor your bridesmaids’ wishes in your decision making process. Allow your bridesmaids to voice their concerns and opinions (they could have lots of ideas that you might not have even considered yet) as you want them to be comfortable in what they’re wearing but ultimately they have to respect that it’s your decision.
If your bridesmaids are paying for their own dresses it’s important to consider their financial situation in the dress you choose. Yes, you may have fallen in love with a $600 designer dress but that cost will be prohibitive to most – you don’t want to stress your bridal party out unnecessarily.
If you’re paying then the decision on what you spend will come down to what your budget allows for. If you want to splurge then go ahead but know that there are plenty of beautiful dress options out there that are budget-friendly, too (see below for proof).
Find a bridesmaid dress to suit your wedding style:
After finding the perfect dress, I think most brides know that the pre-wedding beauty prep is key in looking beautiful on the day. Great skin is really important to me and I knew that I wanted my skin to be luminous and dewy on the day so I started by having regular monthly facials six months before my wedding. I usually have a blueberry facial at The Clinic in Sydney’s Bondi Junction leading up to big events so I booked myself in to have them once a month.
I also did some slightly more intensive treatments in conjunction with having facials. I have some pigmentation under my eyes so I did IPL rejuvenation to help lift it. I also did a few sessions of Omnilux at Zecca in Sydney’s Alexandria to help brighten my skin.
My dress had a really beautiful back detail so I knew I wanted to wear my hair up on the day. My hair was quite short in the lead up to my wedding so I had to grow it out. I was having minimal trims at Valonz in Sydney to keep the ends healthy while I was growing my hair and I was putting lots of treatments through it to keep it good condition.
In the lead up to the wedding I wanted to look and feel my best so I was exercising a lot. I was doing quite a bit of running and was doing Pilates twice a week. I was drinking plenty of water and just trying on the whole to be healthy as I think that shines through on your skin and on your hair.
Closer to the event I had a spray tan. I usually get a spray tan at Bronzalicious in Neutral Bay in Sydney but as I was getting married overseas I had a friend who was attending the wedding do it for me. It was very handy she was able to do it! I like to do my spray tans the day before an event because the colour is the best the next day. I think the secret is to make it a really light, minimal tan so it’s a slight enhancement rather than being overly obvious. I also left my manicure till right before the wedding. I had it done in Taormina but took the nude nail polish over with me as I was worried they might not have the right colour. I had a Shellac manicure as I didn’t want to have to worry about chipping nails on the day.
Ultimately I think the my wedding day was perfect – however it was made even the better by the fact that I was looking and feeling my very best.
What was your beauty regime in the lead up to your big day?