The Woman’s Guide to Dressing for a Fall Wedding

We tend to think of weddings as a spring or summer occasion, but more and more often, people are planning weddings for fall. The rich colors of fall create a gorgeous backdrop to any celebration and there is a sense of celebration as the holidays approach. As a guest at a fall wedding, you have a perfect opportunity to abandon the traditional spring and summer wear, to make a unique style statement. So, where do you begin to decide on what to wear to your upcoming fall wedding?

  • You want to find something that shows how important this very special occasion is for you but you don’t want to draw attention away from the wedding party - especially the bride. You want something festive, fabulous, appropriate to the occasion and season, and most of all, you want to have fun!

    As with any special occasion, take your cue from the invitation. In most cases, a wedding invitation will call out the appropriate attire, whether the event is white-tie, black-tie, formal, cocktail attire or casual. In addition to what is explicitly stated, you can also get a lot of information from the design of the invitation, the venue, and the guest list. Depending on how well  you know the bride, groom, or the bridal party, you may also have information about the theme, event design, and bridesmaids attire.

    While some terms are specific such as “black-tie” or “white-tie,” others may be less clear. Here is a quick guide to help you decipher them.

    Wedding Dress Formality Cheat Sheet

    • White tie. The men will be wearing cutaway jackets with tails and white tie, so you will always wear a formal gown.
    • Black tie. A dinner jacket or tuxedo is most appropriate so you may still choose to wear a gown, but it could also be a little less formal than white-tie and doesn’t necessarily need to be floor length.
    • Black-tie optional. It’s safer to go with “black tie” rather than with the “option.” Making the choice to dress up is a way to pay respect to your hosts and express that you are honored to be included in the guest list.
    • Cocktail attire. You can still opt for a floor length dress, although a little less than a gown, or you might prefer to show off your legs and a great pair of shoes. But be careful here, because there is a difference between cocktail attire and club wear.
    • Festive attire. This is a term that is becoming more frequently used and it can mean that the couple is inviting you to dress as you would for an evening out clubbing, or perhaps they are hoping for a seasonal-theme approach. It’s probably best to contact them directly and ask for clarification or you can always opt for “cocktail attire” which would also be appropriate here.
    • Casual or informal. These are probably the least well understood terms for a wedding. Unless it is a beach wedding or a barbecue, you still want to find something that would be appropriate for business or church. In all situations, it is best to be a little overdressed rather than underdressed.

    Once you know how formal you want to go, now you can look for the best attire for you. Before you begin shopping, you might also want to check out How to Dress for Your Body Type. Now it’s time to go out and have some shopping fun!

    Wedding Colors for Fall

    There are so many gorgeous colors associated with fall. It’s the season for deep, sumptuous colors; think romantic dusty rose, or mysterious moss. Forest green, burgundy and rust all evoke the changing foliage and deep gold is both sophisticated and neutral and it works beautifully for fall. If you are looking for a conservative choice, don’t overlook navy. it is a classic neutral that blends well with any color and will look wonderful on you, no matter the background or wedding theme. 

    Fall Fabrics

    There are some lush textural fabrications available for fall such as Mikado satin, velvet and devore. At a fall wedding you can also play with style statements like leather. Leather mixed with more delicate fabrics such as chiffon is super chic, sophisticated and fun. Pair a leather jacket with your party dress for the ceremony and then slip it off when the dancing begins. 

    The Warmth Factor

    Another very modern trend is to wear a white fur or faux-fur capelet or wrap over your dress to add warmth and a little medieval-inspired romance. Wear a tall boot or a cool shoe boot and tights with a cocktail dress. It’s a stylish - and warm - variation on a party look that’s perfect for fall. Check out Adrianna Papell’s jackets and wraps for some great options for keeping the chill away in style.


    There are many stunning (yet fun) jumpsuit versions in the market today that are designed for evening wear. They are not only a great style-statement, they are easy to wear, flattering to all body-types, and perhaps best of all, no matter how you shake your booty, you don’t need to worry about your skirt flying up. Check out Adrianna Papell’s jumpsuit collection to find the perfect one for your fall wedding.

    Special Occasion Dresses Don’t Have to Be Just One-Time Outfits

    One thing we don’t often consider when we are buying a special occasion outfit is whether we will ever wear it again. Special occasion wear is a considerable investment so it makes sense to find something you will love to find in your closet for that impromptu New Years Eve invitation.


    Ah, yes, don’t forget the accessories. Do you ever wonder why models and movie stars always look so amazing? Yes, of course, it helps that they are beautiful, but mostly it’s because they have stylists. And stylists know that accessories are the difference between looking nice and … wow! A statement earring adds sparkle to your eyes as you dance your way through the evening, a crystal bracelet or pendant completes a look and makes it uniquely your own. A pashmina shawl embellished with sequins or beads draped gracefully over your shoulders adds warmth as well as style. Check out Adrianna Papell’s accessories to find the perfect addition to your outfit.

    Shoes and Boots

    Of course you wouldn’t attend a wedding without your shoes, but for many people, shoes are an afterthought - which is a recipe for disaster! Of course you want your shoes to be stylish, show off your outfit and amazing legs, but remember that you are planning to wear these shoes for several hours - much of which will be spent standing and hopefully dancing, and the last thing you want is to be thinking about how much your feet hurt! So unless you are very accustomed to wearing stilettos, consider opting for something you feel comfortable wearing.

    A beaded or metallic-leather flat is an elegant and glamorous choice. If you feel you really need the extra height, there are many new shoe designers today making interesting, beautiful, comfortable shoes. Remember to consider all aspects of your event when choosing your shoes. If any part of the ceremony or celebration will be held on grass or sand, you don’t want to wear stiletto or spike heels and spend your time fighting to keep your heels from sinking into the dirt.

    Because you are dressing for a fall celebration, consider wearing a cool boot or bootie. It’s a great style statement either in soft suede or embellished with lace or beaded details, paired with a delicate party dress and you won’t have to worry about having cold feet while trekking back and forth between multiple venues.

    While we’re on the subject of shoes, always, always, wear your special occasion shoes at home, on the carpet for a few hours before your special day! You may think they are fine when you try them on, but until you have worn them for a few hours, you never know if that small discomfort in your left toe is going to become agonizing torture after a few hours. Check out Adrianna Papell’s women’s dress shoes to find the perfect wedding choice.

    What NOT to Wear to a Wedding

    Although you may feel this is common knowledge, no discussion of what to wear to a wedding can be complete without mentioning what is not appropriate for a wedding.

    To Sleeve, or Not to Sleeve; What’s the story on sleeves?

    Sleeves are often a dilemma because a wedding is usually two events in one. The wedding ceremony is a joyous occasion, but it is also a reverent one and frequently held in a church or under the auspices of the church. You want to dress appropriately for the ceremony but still be ready to loosen up and party at the reception. Weddings mean dancing so you may be thinking you would prefer not to wear sleeves. If you want to wear a sleeveless, off-the-shoulder or spaghetti-strap, you will probably want to wear either a jacket or a wrap for the ceremony. In fall particularly, you’ll find having a jacket or wrap comes in handy when you want to step outside for some fresh air or perhaps a little romance of your own. Another great option might be ruffled sleeves which provide both warmth and style. Check out Adrianna Papell’s dress options by sleeve type:

    Can you wear white to someone else’s wedding?

    This one may appear to be obvious, but a guest at a wedding should never wear white or cream. The exception to this might be the current trend toward white parties and white weddings, but unless otherwise specifically requested, white and cream are reserved for the bride.

    Can you wear black to a wedding?

    The answer to this question depends. The rule of thumb about wearing black at weddings is that it is appropriate if the wedding begins later than 5 PM. However, if the wedding couple or their families are particularly conservative, you might want to consider one of the many other gorgeous options that are available.

    Can you wear jeans to a wedding?

    Jeans - even for a casual wedding - are always a no-no. Although jeans are now welcome in many environments where they were previously forbidden (such as casual-Friday wear for work), they are ultimately for everyday wear. But a wedding is a special occasion, so leave your jeans at home, wear something special and have fun.

    Avoid looking like a bridesmaid

    Unless you are a bridesmaid, you certainly don’t want to look like one. So when choosing your dress, it’s best to avoid exact color matching to the bridesmaide’s dresses - if you know what they are. In most cases you can probably find out by phoning the maid of honor or one of the bridesmaids. 

    Avoid anything too short, too low cut, or too sexy

    If you go looking for what to wear for a wedding on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest, you may find some very contradictory information. There are often images from celebrity and social-influencer weddings showing the attendees in very low-cut, short, and attention-grabbing styles. But unless you are attending the wedding of a super-model or celebrity, you will probably just look and feel out of place in these styles. It’s much better to aim for elegant stylishness and save the decolloté for a night out clubbing.

    Remember that your style is your own

    Above all, be comfortable, showcase your own style, and have a great time!