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How to dress for a civil wedding as a guest? Read what to consider when picking you outfit depending on the time of the day and year, or stated dress-code. Get inspired by the photo examples.



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How to Dress as a Guest for a City Hall Nuptial

In Germany, the dream wedding month is May because it is the first real spring month with the first real warm days. The trees are green and the flowers, bushes and trees are in full bloom. Somehow couples associate May with sunshine and hope. However, actually, May is the rainiest month in Germany. When I told my sister, she switched her wedding to October. And yes, she had a sunny warm Indian Summer day on her wedding day.


groom and bride posing in front of the court house
Wearing a hat at our civil wedding.


In the US, June is the wedding season. Anyhow. Weddings need long planning. Let’s discuss civil wedding outfit ideas.


What to Wear to a Civil Wedding as a Guest

A wedding is a legal, official procedure. While they differ strongly by states and countries, it involves and officer. If the invitation states no dress-code, dress along the line of festive business casual, but leave your jeans at home. What’s called Sunday’s Best like a velvet dress would work too.

City hall wedding-guest attire means dress up.


fancy A-line dress with belt and colorful sandals as guest attire
Guest outfit idea for civil nuptial: Studio sandals, gemstone belt, and dress c/o Clara Sunwoo. Use discount code HLS10 for 10% off.



What Do Guests Wear to a Courthouse Wedding?

When the invitation says semi-formal, a cocktail dress with cropped jacket to cover the shoulders will work. If no dress-code is given, take a hint from the location, and time of the reception. Timewise, the later in the day, the more fancy the attire of the guests. More on what to wear to a casual afternoon wedding reception.


Tip: Follow the cultural wedding etiquettes. In the US, a LBD is ok, while in many European countries it’s a No-No. Avoid wearing religious jewelry.


3 outfit ideas for afternoon civil wedding guest attire for women over 50
Afternoon nuptial outfit inspirations summer and fall (right). Left: Victoria Victoria Beckham cat pleated drop-waist dress, Paloma Picasso sunglasses, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Bulova watch. Middle: Baby-pink sheath c/o Lookbook, unbranded studded flats, Hermes collier de chien bangles, and pearl necklace. Right: Burberry trench coat, Ellen Tracy sheath, Kieselstein Cord belt with 3 horses buckle, Anne Klein pointy-toe pumps, multi-color pearl necklace  c/o The Pearl Clasp, purse c/o Bellorita. This look is inspired by the colors of the purse.



4 examples of festive business casual suitable as civil wedding guest attire in the morning
Festive business casual suitable as civil wedding guest attire in the morning. From left to right: Winter guest outfit idea for an event in Germany with Adea top, Vittari blazer, pearls, Sienna Studio leather pencil-skirt, unbranded pantyhose, and pumps. Spring: Vittari linen blazer and skirt, D&GM sunglasses, GNW polka dot top, Anne Klein silk scarf, pearls, tophandle bag, and L.K. Bennett pumps. Summer: Liz Claiborne pumps, top-handle bag, coin-necklace designed by my late Dad, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and color-blocked dress c/o Ronen Chen. Banana Republic silk shirt-dress, Kieselstein Cord lizard belt, Gucci Dionysus buckle, Nine West pumps, Hermes collier de chien bangle, multi-gemstone cuff, Gucci ostrich bag.



Can You Wear Outerwear at a City Hall Nuptial?

When it’s a winter wedding, or a chilly day, wear a fancy coat. In summer, go for a fancy, matching cardigan. Coordinate the outerwear with your outfit because some photos might be taken outside as well.


wedding guest in dress with waterfall cardigan as outerwear
Shein dress, Ivanka Trump pumps, Hipstik pantyhose, Sam Edelman studded top-handle bag, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Ray Ban sunglasses, and cardigan c/o Coolibar.



midlife wedding guest outfit idea black shirt dress without and with coat
DIY 1940s-style black shirt dress, L.K. Bennett heels, Jaeger bag, Vittori leather coat, D&GM sunglasses.



Accessories for Wedding Guests

Dressing up means adding accessories. Looking sophisticated means to dress festive within the social expectation and cultural norm, as well as weather-appropriate.


Best Purse to Wear at a Civil Nuptial

Jewelry is a no-brainer. And sure, you need a purse. Avoid shoulder bags unless your coat/dress/jacket has stiff shoulder pads. Otherwise, the bag will create folds that let your dress, blazer, jacket, or blouse look odd. Of course, a fancy day clutch works, but a small, fancy top handle or wrist-handle bag is best. You want to have your hands free to greet people, hold a glass of champagne or take photos.


Prepare for the Weather

On a sunny day, you need sunglasses in the same vibe as your outfit. On a rainy day, an umbrella is a Must-have. Since the photos are a memory for the couple, make sure the color of your umbrella works with your outfit, and doesn’t clash with the color of the wedding party.


In the US Southeast, Great Britain, Add a Hat

In some regions, women wear a hat. This accessory makes the outfit very sophisticated (see above inspiration photos). Add a hat in the vibe of your outfit.


Be Aware – A Wedding Is a Sort of Family Reunion

Since weddings are also some sort of family reunion, you consider what to wear at a family reunion to not become the amusement of the freshly weds’ future kids at a family reunion down the road.


Further Related Reads

When your kid is marrying, you may also be interested in reading the 6 does and don’ts of selecting a mother-of the bride dress.

Did you know that you can find more tips and advice like in this post for all kind of events in my evergreen style book “How to Dress for Success in Midlife”?  Buy it now.


Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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  1. i GET not wearing religious jewelry. It’s bad form for a civil wedding by reminding folks of the alternative they chose NOT to follow! You’ve illustrated this article well, Nicole!