We Reveal: What to Wear to a Winter Wedding

Winter weddings challenge us to keep warm while looking stylish and festive. What to wear to a winter wedding? Here’s what.

The bride decides – that’s the rule. It has always been the rule and it always will be.

That doesn’t mean the bride is always right. The plain truth is that brides sometimes get it wrong.

Years ago I attended a distant cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding in a small harbor town in Maine. I remember that gusts of wind mussed my hair now and then in the drafty social hall that that hosted the meal and the reception. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The bride chose to hold the ceremony outdoors in a gazebo overlooking the frozen harbor.

Fairy lights transformed the ice-crusted gazebo into a winter wonderland. The lace of the wedding dress made my cousin look as if she’d been dressed in snowflakes. The groom’s black tuxedo was a stark contrast, establishing a dramatic black-and-white palette. I don’t see how it could have been any more romantic.

That’s what the bride remembers about the event. We guests remember shivering and hugging ourselves in the freezing New England night, stomping our feet to keep blood flowing to our frozen toes, hoping against hope that the ceremony would soon be concluded. We didn’t notice how romantic it was. We were too busy fighting off frostbite.

Winter weddings present a particular challenge for the bride and groom, the bridal party and the guests. Most brides don’t opt for ceremonies in the snow, but the winter wedding can still be a shivery affair if you’re not prepared.

Preparation is key. Flexibility is critical. Here are some ideas to help you decide what to wear to a winter wedding.

Winter’s Challenge

Every woman reading this article knows how to dress fashionably, to choose a chic outfit and accessories. We all know how to dress for cold weather. And we all know how to put together an outfit for a festive occasion. Winter weddings are a challenge because we’ve got to achieve all three of those goals with a single outfit.

Heavy leggings, wool knitwear and long sleeves don’t scream “festive occasion.” But it is possible to stay chic and stay warm at a winter wedding. Here are some simple ways to capture an effortless look and translate it into the cold winter months.

Choose Something Structured

Many of us go über-feminine at weddings. Why not? It’s a great opportunity to doll ourselves up in ruffles and flowing fabrics.

The materials that make up such girly confections are generally quite lightweight, however. Although they look fantastic, taffeta and lace leave you exposed to the wind. It will be whistling through your dress in no time at all. You will be cold and uncomfortable. And blue lips are rarely a stylish fashion accessory.

Say no to lace. Opt instead for a more structured look. A dress coat, trouser or skirt suit can be elegant and stylish. Jumpsuits have made a comeback too. A stylish jumpsuit is an excellent choice that makes you stand out in a room full of cardigans over dresses.

Mix it Up

Sweater, pencil skirt, leggings…yes, this look is working. And how!

You aren’t limited to structured outfits. You can still wear soft, feminine clothing to a winter wedding by combining and layering.

You can choose a structured style that has been created out of a super-feminine fabric or you can mix feminine pieces with more structured ones.

Try pairing a structured wool peplum top with a lace pencil skirt. Or maybe a tuxedo jacket layered over a silky draped dress. What about a crisp white cotton shirt under a strapless dress?

The flirty, feminine aspect of the combo look allows you to retain your girly identity, while the structure provides contrast and added warmth.

Try a Tea-Length Skirt or Dress

When temperatures are below freezing and the thought of baring your legs, with or without tights, seems more than you can handle, consider dropping your hemline.

A high-waisted tea-length (full midi) skirt looks elegant, keeps you covered and has a wonderfully retro appeal.

Try pairing yours with a silk blouse, a body-conscious long-sleeve crew-neck top or a fitted button-down cardigan for best effect.

Accessories Are Your Friends

Rock a collar like that and you’ll be warm at the coldest winter wedding.

Shopping is fun, but your winter wedding outfit may already be in your closet. Beautiful gloves or a vintage hat can give your look a dash of retro-inspired glam as it adds a protective layer between you and the weather.

You can’t go wrong with a detachable fur collar. You can get one in real or faux fur, and it adds a touch of sophisticated luxury to your appearance as it holds ice-cold breezes at bay. I wish I’d had a fur collar at my cousin’s wedding.

Shoes Matter

Your outfit may call for open-toed shoes, sandals or slip-on mules, but winter weddings dictate more-sensible options. You’ve got to keep your feet covered. Open-toed shoes and sandals look out-of-place in the winter anyway, even if the reception hall is warm. Just walking from your car to the ceremony could give your toes a frozen feeling that lasts all night long.

So leave your open-toed pumps at home. You can still by stylish. When you choose shoes for a winter wedding, feel free to play with color, pattern and texture. Be sure to avoid anything too matchy-matchy in the process.

If your outfit is heavily embellished, printed or colorful, choose a quieter, more neutral shoe. If your dress is more neutral, solid and architectural, have a bit of fun with the color, pattern and texture of the shoes.

Have a Dance With Jack Frost

A bit of thoughtful preparation can help you rise to the winter wedding’s challenge. Take a look in your wardrobe – you probably already have a few pieces that can be transformed into a perfect ensemble with the layering, combining and accessorizing strategies we’ve covered here.

Use these simple styling tips the next time you receive an invitation to a winter wedding. These time-tested strategies really work, and they leave plenty of room for personal style and creative expression.

About the author

Kristin Buchholz-MacKillop

Kristin is an American writer based in the Scottish Highlands. She is a saxophonist, an obsessive tennis player, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, and holds a Master's degree as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. She is the author of the online style blog highlandfashionista.com

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