Getting married through civil ceremony

How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: March 23, 2022
How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests

Formerly, there was a big difference between dress codes at a civil wedding and religious weddings. The religious ceremonies were considered much more formal and therefore at these events the bride and groom and the guests were more luxuriously dressed. Today, wedding protocols are becoming more confused: it is increasingly common to see brides in long, elaborate wedding dresses and elegantly dressed guests in civil weddings.

Are you a guest at a civil wedding and are looking for outfit ideas? In this oneHOWTO article we'll share the best tips on how to dress for a civil wedding.

You may also be interested in: How to dress for a daytime wedding

Steps to follow:


What colors can you wear to a civil wedding?

White is banned. As is the case at a religious wedding, white is reserved for brides. You should not wear white to a civil wedding if you want to respect the bride's spotlight.

On the other hand, don't wear black. If you are invited to a civil wedding, black is not the most appropriate color. In the Western world, black is associated with mourning: it's best to choose another color and avoid black. If you are among the groom's party, you can wear a black suit to match his. However, ask him beforehand.

Black can be worn to a civil wedding when it is balanced out by other colors. For instance, you can wear a black dress or suit with colorful accessories such as a tie, shoes, a handbag, a chunky necklace or a shawl.

How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests - Step 1

Ideas for a daytime civil wedding:

If you are attending a daytime civil wedding, you'll need more laid-back attire than what you'd wear to an evening occasion. As a guest, we recommend semi-formal attire. As always, ask the hosts for specific dress codes and themes.


The obvious choice for a guest at a daytime civil wedding is a dress, as we discussed in this article. A classic semi-formal outfit is the knee-length cocktail dress, either just over the knee or under it. In this article we discussed how to find a cocktail dress that suits you perfectly.

Patterned dresses will look great, especially if the wedding is in spring. Most types of necklines will be fine, but don't go for something too daring: remember that it's the bride who has to be the center of attention. An A-line or New Look cut will add the perfect vintage touch to your cocktail or midi dress.

You can also go for a long jumpsuit, although you should bear in mind that those that look best for daytime weddings are those in pastel colors and that are shin length instead of true long jumpsuits. A long pair of chiffon trousers will also look great with an elegant shirt or matching top. If you go for this look, you can accessorize a bit more.


Usually the choices in menswear are much more reduced; most guests to civil weddings opt for a suit and tie. However, you can tone down the serious look of a suit by not wearing a matching blazer and pants but combining two different colors instead.

For a daytime wedding, guests can choose light colored suits in beige, brown, pale gray or a wide range of blues. Instead of a tie, you can wear a bowtie. Combine the color accents with the blazer or accessories. For more ideas, here you can get some retro outfit tips to get a vintage look.

Folding up the hem of the trousers is also a good idea to give the outfit a special touch if the wedding is not very formal - but take care when choosing your socks.

How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests - Step 2

Ideas for an evening civil wedding:

If you are a guest at a civil wedding ceremony that will take place in the evening or even at night, you can dress up a bit more. Still, remember that the spotlight should be on the people who are actually getting married.


If you're looking for a night civil wedding dress, our advice is to opt for a long, maxi dress. Monochrome dresses in luxurious fabrics such as silk or satin will enhance your figure, but don't go for anything excessively tight or revealing either. Wedding parties can last for hours, so make sure you're comfortable.

If it is a more informal wedding, you can also wear a knee-length dress or a maxi skirt or long trousers with an elegant blouse or shirt. Again, a jumpsuit will also be a good alternative. For an evening wedding, go for a full length, wide-legged jumpsuit in a fine fabric such as satin: you'll look amazing.


Yet again, the options for menswear are the usual suit and tie. If you are a guest at an evening civil wedding, you can combine a blazer with a different pair of pants. For a winter wedding, for instance, you can wear a plain pair of trousers with a velvet blazer. Here you can learn more about the different types of formal suits for formal attire.

How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests - Step 3

Hairstyles and accessories for a civil wedding:

Accessories such as picture hats and headdresses are also welcome in a civil ceremony if it is held in the morning, although it will depend on the type of civil wedding - you will look completely out of place at an informal wedding in a royal-looking hat. You should avoid standing out too much with your look so as not to take the spotlight away from the marrying couple.

If you have long hair, your best choice for a civil wedding is a braided up-do, like a bohemian braid. This kind of hairstyle will look formal and spontaneous at the same time. Don't miss our article on how to style your hair for a daytime wedding guest.


Outdoor civil weddings:

For the summer, fresh and elegant fabrics like silk, linen or frill-line dresses with floral prints are very suitable for civil ceremonies. In the case of menswear, the suit and tie can be adapted to lighter fabrics such as linen.

Let's take a closer look at different type of outdoor weddings that you may want to prepare for.

Beach wedding

Wearing light colors is staple at this type of wedding. Cotton or light fabrics are also vitally important too. Remember to bring sunglasses and a hat that matches your outfit too. Make sure you ask the bride and groom about the dress code, because in some beach weddings people are asked to all wear white, such as in the case of Ibizan weddings. Last but not least, make sure you keep your feet well cared of, as you will probably attend the ceremony bare-footed.

Country wedding

In the case of country weddings, there are other things you should take into account. Don't wear shoes with very thin heels, as you will probably get stuck on the ground at some point or other. Make sure you also get hold of a shawl in case it gets cold at night.

How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests - Step 5

Now you know what to wear if you're a guest at a civil wedding, you may want to know how to apply makeup if you're a guest at a wedding, how does a civil wedding ceremony work, or how to plan a civil wedding.

You might also be interested in the following articles:

If you want to read similar articles to How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests, we recommend you visit our Weddings & Parties category.

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How to Dress for a Civil Wedding - Ideas for Guests