Choosing a manicure as a wedding guest is a delicate balance. On the one hand, you’re not the bride, so you can get a little more funky, colorful, and fashion-forward. On the other hand, you may not want to pull focus on yourself with a fully blinged-out set of long tips.
Meet the Expert
- Brittany Boyce is a celebrity nail artist and founder of Nails of LA.
- Anastasia Totty is a nail artist, and an educator/ambassador for LeChat Nails.
“You don’t want to take attention away from the bride,” says celebrity nail artist Brittney Boyce. “It’s not the best time for a super flashy manicure with tons of 3D art like spikes or chains.” But even though spikes are off the table, that doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of other options.
Think about where you’re going, what type of wedding it is, and what you’re wearing—then match that vibe. A New Year’s Eve wedding is great for sparkle, metallics, and shine. A countryside wedding might be a wonderful time to lean into the floral nail art trend you’ve been seeing all over Instagram. And for a traditional Catholic Mass, well, a simple neutral manicure might do the trick.
Ahead, we’ve collected all the wedding guest nail inspiration you’ll need for every type of wedding.
A nude base with metallic decals is a subtle, but super modern, way to make a statement. Pro tip: keep the decals 2D as Boyce did here.
Diamond Accent Nails
Gemstones are a great way to add a little sparkle to your manicure, so long as it stays delicate. “If you’re going for a glue-on gemstone, make sure you use something small and tasteful,” says Boyce.
Nail artist Anastasia Totty loves a floral design for springtime outdoor weddings. “Pick a lovely neutral tone for the base that complements your skin. You can also add a little bit of glitter for dimension," she notes.
What better way to celebrate a wedding than to dedicate your manicure to true love? A classic French dappled in tiny red hearts is the perfect cheeky tribute.
You just can’t go wrong with neutral tones. Don’t get caught up in color-matching your skin—just choose a shade that complements it.
These overlapping geometric shapes are like a Piet Mondrian work of art for your hands. Try it with a color combo that matches your outfit.
All Shimmer All Day
If you’re doing your own nails and don’t have the steadiest hands, a solid color with a shimmery overlay is the perfect way to make a statement without needing art lessons. Alternatively, Boyce recommends a sheer chrome overlay—a super trendy way to add a bit of shine.
Why pick one color when you can have five (or ten)? Give each nail its own personality with a rainbow gradient of colors. These pastel hues are great for a more traditional wedding, but if you're attending a colorful fiesta, this style works just as well with saturated colors.
If you’re attending a more formal affair or are feeling a little stumped on manicure inspo, don’t stray from what works every time—a light, neutral pink. We know you already have a bottle of Essie’s Ballet Slippers.
Half and Half
We love how easy it is to achieve these vertical stripes of color at home. Paint the whole nail a solid base color (neutral or not), wait for it to dry, then use tape as a guide to create a straight line up the middle of your nail.
Pastel French Tips
French manicures have made a huge comeback. To jazz up this tried-and-true style, try multi-color tips in sweet pastel hues.
Boyce advises that a basic French manicure can become much more modern with a shade that matches your outfit.
Black tips painted on at two steep angles are a rock-and-roll take on the classic French manicure, and can suit just about any type of wedding.
The only time we’d recommend wearing white to a wedding is on your nails. It’s clean, it’s neutral, and it's subtle enough that it won’t break any rules.
Neutral with a little bit of whimsy, this swirly white and nude manicure is a great way to dip your fingers into nail art. Want this exact manicure? Good news: you can buy it!
Short and Red
A short, red manicure is like pizza. Even if it's bad (like if you sloshed on OPI Red in the car on the way to the wedding), it's still good.
A simple peach manicure on almond-shaped nails is an elegant way to add just a touch of peppy color.
A nighttime wedding or black tie affair would be the perfect occasion for black nails. We’ll never say no to a glossy finish, but black looks particularly chic with a matte top coat.
60s mod nail art is a fun way to add a little groove to your outfit, especially if you’re wearing a solid color. So get out your nail art kit...just kidding! This level of detail is best left to nail wraps, press-ons, or a nail artist with a ton of time to hang out with you.
Nail wraps or press-ons are a great way to do nail art if you don’t have time to go to the salon.
If you could swatch the color of a bubble bath, this would be it.
Solid Color Pop
A solid manicure is especially fun in an unexpected, vivid color like marigold, lime green, or periwinkle.
Not all manicures come with paint. Sometimes having clean, healthy nails is the chicest way to go. Exfoliate, trim, hit your nails with a nourishing cuticle oil, finish with a great moisturizer, and let those hands breathe.
80s Dance Floor
If you’re the kind of guest that’s always on the dance floor, this pastel, 80s-inspired abstract design will be the life of the party just like you.
Just a touch of color at a cheeky, irreverent angle. Try this with all one color, or pick several to alternate.
A wedding is a party after all. Start with a clear (and even black) base coat and layer on chunky, neon glitter like ORLY’s Party Animal.
Lined in Glitter
If all-out glitter confetti feels a little bold for your taste, a simple line around the border of your nails is a cool, minimalist way to add sparkle.
Every wedding needs something blue, so text the bride and tell her you’ve got it covered (just kidding, leave her alone). This powdery blue is just light enough that it’s almost neutral, and would be a great fit for a coastal wedding.
Totty recommends medium or short nail lengths as a wedding guest. Anything too long and you’ll risk upstaging the bride. But if you love your long acrylics and want to keep them for the wedding, stick to a neutral color palette.
You don’t need to be a part of the wedding to carry flowers. These tiny pressed florals are a great accent for any celebratory manicure.
Think bubble gum, cotton candy, and unicorns. Put that on your nails and you’ve got a sweetly irresistible manicure. Subtle enough for a wedding guest, but sugary enough to put a smile on everyone’s face.
Fine, minimalist lines are a great, modern way to add a little interest to a sheer manicure. Black and white will always work, but since the lines are so delicate any color will also do.
What kind of nails should I get for a wedding?
As a guest, you have a lot of freedom when selecting a manicure. As long as they aren’t too flashy and pull focus from the bride, you can experiment with nail art, color, or simply stick with neutrals.
Can you wear white nails as a wedding guest?
White nails at a wedding aren't breaking any rules. Your nails are a small enough accent that the bride’s white dress will still be the star of the show.
When should you get your nails done before a wedding?
The ideal time would be no more than two or three days before the wedding. Regular polish may chip quickly, and while dip and gel manicures last longer, they do grow out and leave a gap at your cuticle.