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What To Wear To An Afternoon Wedding In A Tropical “Country Club” Setting

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My daughter’s roommate got married a couple of weeks ago. Cue mother-daughter texting and phone calls, and texting and emailing, and texting and online shopping. Because, what does one wear to a summer afternoon wedding in a “country club” setting? A mother should know.

I use those quotation marks because we’re talking about a deconstructed “country club.” Peel off the membership, a possible legacy of exclusion and privilege. Keep the sunlit ceremony with cocktails and dinner  outside, the nice indoor reception and rain default room. Add a layer of community and access because this is probably in fact a community center.

But it’s not a barn or a farm. And it’s not a winery, so, just a tick to the right on the rural-to-urban scale. Oh, add this: the coastal location is going to be hot.


  • Stay cool
  • Look pretty
  • Adhere to daytime suburban wedding conventions; not too white, not too black, not too naked including not too far off-the-shoulder
  • No connotations of lingerie – not sheer, no lace panels
  • Be “fun” (it took me a while to figure out that fun meant danceable, with movement, maybe a flounce, a non-sedate color)

She and I looked at dresses like these.

In the end, due to budget constraints, she ended up wearing a sleeveless pink cotton dress with a flounced skirt that I’d given her a couple of years ago, with these sandals in black patent I ordered in the heat of the hunt.

I couldn’t help wondering what I would have worn if the bride had been a daughter of a friend, or if I’d known the bride well enough myself to attend.

Parameters? (Note the higher budget, because I suspect that as the next generation’s weddings start to roll through, it will get a lot of use.)

Same is for my daughter, except, my idea of “fun” has changed over the years.

  • A color that I’ve learned always looks good on me
  • A silhouette that keeps me comfortable
  • A dress that makes a style statement I can endorse – simple, sophisticated, understated, elegant, a little edgy, unfussy

Possibilities. BTW that silk DVF also comes in a blue version that is very fetching. Size 12 on sale.

Oh and I might still want to dance. What would you wear to a similar occasion?

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21 Responses

  1. I love the Von Furstenberg dress, but not at all sure it would work for me. But, what a fun dress!!

    I’m going to a large church wedding this coming Saturday night—with a big hotel reception afterwards. The wedding is not black tie. I’m wearing a somewhat versatile dress that COULD be black tie or not. It’s black (I know) with beading and crystals (!) and feathers (!) around the neckline. It’s actually very low key with just a bit of sparkle. I know the idea of feathers on a dress is outlandish, but it’s a conservative Lafayette 148 dress I’ve had for a NUMBER of years. I did not want to go out and shop for another dress.

    1. @Susan D., I think black is totally fine for night weddings, and feathers are not outlandish they are high fashion and fabulous! I’m sure it will work.

  2. Honestly, I’d probably wear any of the dresses I’ve worn as Mother-of-the-Bride-or-Groom in the last few years. Weddings in our family have all been casual enough that your parameters fit mine very closely. (although I had to go shoeless for this last one, so I’ll probably have to find a perfect sandal to go with, less utilitarian than the Birks I usually resort to!)
    Did your daughter report back on the success on the Fun Factor Front? I’m sure a good time was had by all ;-)

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, You have been a very active MOBG;). And Birks are my love but, for a wedding, I agree I’d probably go for something strappier or heeled a bit. Daughter said dress was perfect, and only wishes she had a full-length photo available to confirm that for you guys!

  3. I’m going to a wedding on Fire Island (a gay/queer beach community) this weekend, with a dress code of “relaxed and beachy.” I’m probably going to wear a Marimekko oversized cotton shift dress in a blue and tan floral pattern, with a teal belt and these shoes (except the body of mine are teal, not black):–size-37

    The shoes and dress are both thrifted. Still need to figure out a jacket; I assume it’s actually going to be quite chilly with the wind and recent NYC weather!

    1. @Sara Eileen Hames, Oh man that sounds like a fantastic outfit – and perfect for Fire Island. Which, I was familiar with – it was famous in the 70s and 80s when I lived in Manhattan!

  4. I was recently invited to a bridal tea at a similar type setting. Pretty much everyone had a degree of elegance to their outfit. The DVF dress is fab. I’m certain your daughter looked gorgeous, black patent always elevates the outfit.

    1. @Coleman Susan, Black patent does have special powers! And I think people put “tea” on an invite to encourage that, a degree of elegance. (Daughter did look gorgeous from the snaps I’ve seen;).

  5. I’ve gotten some good wear out of Lands End ponte knit sheaths, including for my own son’s wedding. I’m currently trying to decide whether I want to do it again for a barn wedding in Wisconsin on Labor Day weekend. I’m told temps will be 70-90 degrees. I may want something lighter weight, but then again, I’m lazy about shopping.

    1. @Cathy, If it works, it works. For 70 I’d stick with ponte. For anything above 85, ooooh, I’d probably have to look for something lighter.

    1. @lauren, Totally a community center. But in order to imagine what to wear at it I had to first imagine a country club, then deconstruct.

  6. I’ll take the Dolce and Gabbana dress. All of a sudden, I’m loving prints!

  7. how about the ST John’s black jumpsuit, The one with the blouson top, not the sequined strapless. After all, I’m 81 so I’d probably have to add a jacket if I did the strapless. That’s what I’m planning for my grandson’s wedding and a few other events this summer and fall. Agree the old taboo of no black no longer holds for an evening wedding. So much more fun to have options than in the “olden days” when so much was defined for us.

  8. I love weddings! I haven’t been to one for ages. I was invited to a wedding in Shanghai in October but will be having a baby in Sept, so didn’t think it’d be a good idea, sadly.

    My best wedding buy was a dark purple silk dress with a swirly skirt and tight bodice. Surprisingly useful with different jackets/ boleros/ accessories.

    1. @Eleanorjane, Congratulations on the baby-to-come! Yes, probably too much airplane for a little one. And I can imagine that a purple dress with swirly skirt would do yoeman’s service at many wedding.s

  9. I love DvF dresses,especially lately with J.Saunders as designer (I was not so familiar before,but noticed the change to more silk and natural fabrics and over knee lenght dresses )
    Some of D & G dresses are really fabulous although they tend to repeat themselves ( but I like it)-but it is in the price range only for MoG dress for me
    All my friends kids had very informal or intimate weddings-so something like silk long skirt or wide silk trousers were just fine
    I’m sure that your beautiful daughter looked fabulous

  10. No weddings on my horizon. I do have an afternoon tea fundraiser coming up later this month. The venue is indoor and garden/outdoors. Hats required. I will wear one of my St. John dresses. Probably the Indigo knit sheath with my patent leather, 2-inch height chunky heel, with ankle strap shoe. I attended this tea last year and everybody was dressed beautifully. Even men wore summer suites and/or jackets with pastel colored shirts, even some bow ties! For a wedding, I might wear the same outfit or one of my other St. John knit dresses. Your daughter’s pink dress with her lovely red hair sounds striking, very fem. Dance the night away, pretty.

  11. I LOVE the DvF dress – wish I had another wedding to attend. Recently attended the wonderful wedding of the daughter of very dear friends. I decided I didn’t want to buy another dress that I would not wear much, so I found an adorable bright navy jumpsuit from Trina Turk. So Cute! I dressed it up with fun, extra long pearls and I got so many compliments during and for days after the wedding. And talk about comfortable. Fantastic. We danced the night away.

    After the wedding, I styled the jumpsuit more casually for a lunch and shopping date. Again, loads of compliments. I think this is one of those pieces that I will get a lot of wear out of – which at this “off career” time in life is of utmost importance to me. :)

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