Being invited to a wedding is one of the highest honors you can receive as a friend or family member. And while the celebration should solely be a time of joy, for nonbinary folks, it can be a time of stress. That’s because figuring out what to wear to a wedding as a nonbinary or genderqueer guest can feel impossible. Traditional formalwear retailers typically have strictly defined (and often stereotypical) options for men and women only, explains Jeanne Foley, co-founder of SuitShop, which makes the shopping experience hard to navigate for nonbinary people.
Meet the Expert
- Jeanne Foley is the co-founder of SuitShop, an inclusive suit brand that focuses on breaking the binary in fashion and everyday life.
- Jove Meyer is the owner and creative director of Jove Meyer Events, a Brooklyn event planning company that specializes in LGBTQIA+ weddings and advocates for marriage equality.
- Courtney-Rose Dantus is the founder and principal planner of Dantus & Co. Events, a D.C.-based wedding planning company that specializes in inclusive and queer events.
Simply put, nonbinary individuals identify beyond the identities of “man” and “woman,” and they express themselves as they feel best, shares Jove Meyer, owner and creative director of Jove Meyer Events. Nonbinary is an identity and umbrella term that encompasses a multitude of genders. While gender is different from presentation or expression, style is one way nonbinary people communicate their relationships to their genders and the gender binary.
It’s important to note that not all nonbinary people identify with masculinity, femininity, or androgyny or express any masculine, feminine, or androgynous parts of themselves via wardrobe, but those that do may find it difficult to find formalwear pieces that are tailor-made for them, notes Meyer. The lack of inclusive wedding and formal attire makes it extra challenging for someone to find an outfit that fits both their body type and their gender expression, and with very few fashion brands making clothes for a variety of bodies and expressions, it's easy to see that any gender non-conforming guest would be at a loss when picking a celebratory look.
That’s why we’ve talked to wedding experts who specialize in LGBTQIA+ fashion and events, to make finding a wedding guest look as a nonbinary person a little less frustrating and a little more fun.
What to Wear as a Nonbinary Wedding Guest
Since clothing and identity are so intertwined, there’s no one way a nonbinary guest should dress for a special event. As with any outfit, your wedding attire should reflect how you want to be seen and what makes you feel good. “The seemingly simple act of selecting a silhouette that feels true to you (pants versus a skirt or vice versa, for instance) and getting the perfect fit can be radical and liberating,” Foley says.
And while you should feel empowered to wear whatever makes you feel your best, the only thing you (and every other guest!) should keep in mind is the couple’s desired dress code, explains the founder and principal planner of Dantus & Co. Events, Courtney-Rose Dantus.
“A great host will provide examples of clothing and outfits that fit the venue and anticipated weather for the event,” she says. “As a nonbinary wedding guest, if you find yourself considering wearing something you would never wear in your day-to-day life...scrap it and stay true to your style. Whether the host is a family member or friend, they will want you to show up in whatever way feels most true to you.” Though, safety as a gender non-conforming person should come first.
The good news is that there are plenty of gender-neutral and affirming looks to consider when dressing for a special event. In addition to the standard wedding dress code options every guest should keep in mind, here are a few more ‘fit ideas from our pros:
The most upscale of dress codes, white-tie events require either a formal floor-length gown (that covers the ankles) or a black tuxedo with a French cuff dress shirt and white bow tie, explains Foley. There aren’t really any exceptions here (other than you can pick whichever option feels best for you). If you find a floor-length gown or skirt that pairs with a tuxedo jacket, you could give the look a try, but be sure to confer with a seamstress, if possible, to ensure a flawless fit and to help the whole look come together.
Floor-length gowns (that cover the ankles), elegant pantsuits, dark suit jackets (paired with formal floor-length skirts or gowns), and tuxedos are all fair game for black-tie affairs. Any color and lapel style tuxedo—with a tuxedo shirt or French cuff shirt—will work, Foley notes, but it’s also a good idea to consider the season. A white tuxedo jacket is acceptable at summer weddings, but wear a darker hue for spring, fall, and winter nuptials. And don’t forget the black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes, if you have access to them.
As the name suggests, it’s optional to wear a tuxedo at this event. If you decide on a tux, stick with the rules above (vest, bow tie, and patent shoes) but also consider a less traditional style. If you want to ditch the tux concept, you can instead opt for a black suit with a dress shirt and tie, a formal gown (ankles covered), a dressy pantsuit, a suit jacket with a long dress or formal skirt, or a very elegant cocktail dress with heels or fancy flats.
Similar to black-tie optional (and sometimes used as a synonym), a formal dress code indicates that the event will be dressy. Foley states that a well-fitted suit with elegant accessories is a great option, as are formal midi or maxi dresses, formal midi or maxi skirts with suit jackets or blazers, and formal pantsuits.
A step below formal, but above casual, cocktail attire is extremely popular and blends formal with comfortable and contemporary. Picture an outfit you’d wear to a fancy restaurant or show, and you’ll be just fine. A well-fitted suit with a tie, dressy jumpsuit, or knee to midi-length dress is perfect. You can also pair a suit jacket with a tea, knee, or midi-length skirt or dress. Just steer clear of floor-length gowns, as that might be too elegant for the event and can overshadow the couple of honor.
This is a newer dress code we love, and it essentially means cocktail attire with an added twist. A festive dress code means the couple wants you to lean into your unique style by opting for fun colors and patterns, bold accessories, and playful details. “Think velvet pocket squares, jewel-toned shirts, a bit of sparkle, and more,” Foley explains. If the event is taking place during a holiday or if the couple is playing off a specific theme, let that guide your outfit selection.
While a casual wedding means the couple wants you to feel comfortable, that doesn't mean you should throw on a t-shirt, jeans, and gym shoes. Instead, consider summer sundresses, knee-length skirts with dressy tops or sports coats, and suit pants or khakis with a collared shirt. As for footwear, understated heels, wedges, dress shoes, loafers, and elegant sandals or flats are all perfectly acceptable. Foley says even boots and dressy sneakers can work—just be sure to check the venue since oftentimes casual events take place outdoors, which might not be conducive for some boots or heels.
A destination wedding is part vacation and part celebration, and the couple wants you to embrace that laid-back vibe while still dressing up for the occasion. Depending on the venue, you’ll want to either dress in casual or cocktail attire, but keep the weather in mind. These events are often warm, so light fabrics, light colors, and sun hats are a great idea. You can also consider working in patterns, woven accessories, and lots of sunscreen to really dress the part.
Best Places to Shop for Gender-Inclusive Wedding Guest Attire
As the world is breaking away from the binary, more and more brands are offering gender-inclusive fashion options. And while there’s still a long way to go, we personally love the below brands. Just remember: “You should dress in whatever makes you feel fabulous and in line with the couple’s requested wedding dress code,” says Meyer. “This could mean wearing something masculine, feminine, androgynous, or a mix of all of them.”
Keep reading to learn about a few great options that are nonbinary-friendly and absolutely wedding-worthy:
- SuitShop: Devoted to being size and gender-inclusive, SuitShop has a wide variety of suit styles at budget-friendly prices. “With items sold as separates and each of our suiting options open to all, we can create any combination of items, fits, and cuts to get your most authentic style,” Foley explains. “Our website, ordering process, and showrooms are all designed to make everyone shopping for a suit feel welcome and represented.”
- Kirrin Finch: This Brooklyn-based company’s mission is to meet the demand for gender-neutral fashion, and create clothing that challenges what is traditionally seen as menswear and womenswear. The retailer delivers by offering everything from formalwear to casual attire and accessories.
- Wiederhoeft: Offering eclectic bridal and formalwear, Wiederhoeft is a brand that embraces bright colors, mixed textures, and over-the-top embellishments—in order to create custom, made-to-order designs that seem straight out of your dreams.
- Bindle & Keep: Bindle & Keep is the place to go if you want a custom suit. Not only do you get to pick out every detail of the look, but you get to work with a stylist one-on-one to ensure you find your perfect fit.
- Wildfang: This online retailer specializes in fashion-forward, size-inclusive clothing that is unfettered by the gender binary, ranging from casual to ultra-fancy. They also tend to have great sales, so be sure to peruse the clearance section before checking out.
- Queera Wang: It doesn’t get more glam than Queera Wang, a label dedicated to celebrating individual silhouettes. The haute couture designs are meant to fit your body—not define your gender—and you can find plenty of original skirts and jackets, as well as dresses and jumpsuits fit for the most formal of occasions.
- Big Bud Press: Sustainable, ethically conscious, and vintage-inspired, Big Bud Press is home to casual and dressy unisex clothes and accessories. The company also has a wide range of sizes, fits, and silhouettes to fit everybody and every body type.
- Only Maker: Fantastic heels for men, women, and nonbinary folks can be found at Only Maker, and we love their large selection of options for larger feet. Choose from flats, pumps, stilettos, sandals, and more to complete your wedding guest look.
- Tomboy Toes: When trans founder Benjamin Craig couldn’t find dress shoes to fit his smaller feet, he created Tomboy Toes, a size-inclusive formal footwear company. “We love Tomboy Toes to complete a suited look,” says Foley. “These masculine shoes come in smaller sizes, opening the doors for a wider range of genders.”
How to Help Nonbinary Wedding Guests Feel More Comfortable at Your Celebration
For couples planning a wedding, it’s important to keep your language and expectations in line with your guests’ identities. “Asking people their names and pronouns allows for the opportunity for nonbinary people to share that with you,” explains Meyers. “This way you can address them correctly and create stationery that reflects their gender identity so they can feel as part of the wedding as everyone else.”
Dantus also adds that if you plan to use honorifics or titles on your invitations or paper goods, reach out to guests to confirm. “Some nonbinary people choose to use Mx. (pronounced “mix”), while others may opt for a title of their choosing or no title at all,” she explains.
Finally, when you set your dress code and post the specifics on your wedding website, steer clear of gendered language and parameters. “It gets tricky when couples assume certain wardrobes are for certain sexes and have gender dress codes on their website and or invitations (like saying ‘women in gowns, men in tuxes’),” Meyer says. “This limits guests to wear outfits on the binary.” Instead, Meyer suggests urging all of your guests to wear what they feel great in (while adhering to your non-gendered dress code, of course) instead of calling out your nonbinary guests. “Encouraging everyone to express themselves authentically is empowering and inclusive,” he adds.