Ask Design Mom: What to Wear to a German Wedding

August 2, 2011

Question:
I am attending an outdoor wedding party in Germany in August. I have no idea what to wear. I think it’s a casual affair. The Bride and Groom were officially already hitched here in the states. So there won’t be a ceremony. Just a party to celebrate with the Bride’s family and friends at her family farm. I know I won’t fool anyone into thinking I’m European but I don’t want to look like a total FOB (fresh of the boat.) Can you please help me? Thanks Gabrielle! — Lauren

Answer:
A wedding in Germany? How fun! If I were getting dressed for a casual party/wedding in Germany, and I wanted a European vibe to my outfit, I would think: Layers. My observation is that Europeans seem to wear more layers than Americans. Instead of a tee with jeans, they’ll layer a button-down under the tee, top it with a light jacket, and top that with a scarf. Go for neutral colors — a great skirt, light blouse, sweater or jacket. A scarf (you can add color here!). Bracelets. And some fabulous summer clogs.

Chime in, Dear Readers. What would you wear to an event like this? Any Germans reading? Lend your advice, please.

P.S. — I love the images of Mysti and Dietrich’s wedding. Also. The Design Mom Discussion Board is going great! 23 topics already. Join in and you could win a Clarisonic.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anja August 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

To blend in a little bit with german women: no bright colors, simple make up, no big hair. And some kind of jacket. Summer hasn’t been what it ought to be yet over here.

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2 Annette Arndt August 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

When I lived in Germany I attended a wedding ( middle-upperclass) family. I was surprised to see that I was one of the better dressed. I wore a blouse with long sleeves and nice black slacks. The reception was at an expensive resort in the Bavarian mountains. Some men even wore acid wash jeans! ( this was almost twenty years ago). I have no reference for how the dress code would be now, but I would guess it would be on the dressy casual side.?

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3 Nicole K August 2, 2011 at 10:26 am

I’ve spent a bit of time living in Germany and have gone to a fair share of weddings there. I think Gabrielle is right about the layering. One little tip that might help you fit in a little more — the Germans always seem to favor “colorless” colors — greys, steel blues, earth tones. Hard to describe, but I would shy away from any bright colors. I’m sure you will have a great time — enjoy!

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4 The New Diplomats Wife August 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

Agreed, this isn’t the time to trot out the tropical unless that’s the personality of the couple or fam (though every German – european for that matter woman always owns a pair of “vacation pants” – capris with loud prints that they only wear on vacation rather than at home)
It really depends on style of the couple themselves but a pretty good solution would be to do a knee length shift dress in a light weight but good fabric, solid in a neutral like navy, tan, whatever looks good on you, but not black or white) or with a soft print, and have a cardigan or light jacket and sling backs – can add a fun brooch for color. Else, you can go “as the American” and so something like a seersucker shift dress or skirt and solid color cardigan to ground the print.

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5 bdaiss August 2, 2011 at 11:14 am

I have no advice to add…just that I’m jealous so many of your wonderful readers have been blessed to spend time over seas! Some day. Some day.

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6 Michelle Glauser August 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

I think it kind of depends on your age. The younger generations dress much like any American student would, with the current Egyptian-type sandals and flowery dresses.

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7 beyond August 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

yes, definitely neutrals, and no bright patterns (although it would be alright in a scarf). discreet and restrained might be words to keep in mind, which doesn’t mean you couldn’t rock something a bit more unusual like a maxidress, or metallic bangles…
(germans are definitely always a bit more ‘granola’ than the french… in my experience.)

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8 Jacqueline August 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

More important than what you wear is how you act. Don’t waste any food or drink in front of them. If you take food, take a small amount and make sure you eat it. You are welcome to take seconds and thirds, but they abhor waste of any kind. If it is a party at a home or if you are staying with someone, ask about recycling and limit your water use. As an American, the way I washed the dishes almost gave my German friend a heart attack.–She had the same reaction when I peeled the potatoes–too much waste. Also, be prepared for honest observations–the type that most Americans would not share. I hope that I did not offend any readers with this advice, this was not my intention. In my experiences, the food has always been outstanding–as in wishing you could lick your plate good. Have fun!

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9 Michelle Glauser August 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I agree. And try to talk quietly instead of the normal boisterous American way.

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10 Nike August 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Yes to a neutral tendency (we usually do not wear bold colours), layering, skirt/dress, jacket, colourful scarf and accesoires. No black for the ladies, no white. NO to the clogs. For a garden party ballet flats or sandals (or both, sandals by day, keep ballet flats with jacket in the car for when it´s getting colder in the evening). Be pretty but choose practical over artificial.
Have lots of fun !!! (In the end it doesn´t matter. Germans like to have guests from abroad and are interessted in other cultures. You would not be judged for beeing different.)
Nike

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11 Megan August 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’ve been living in Germany now for ten years (moved from San Francisco). Honestly, you shouldn’t worry so much. German style and fashion tends to vary drastically depending on age and where you’re from. Big city folks are fashionable, small town tend to be more conservative and practical – not much different than the US, really.

Take a cue from the bridal couple – are they dressy types or more casual? And keep in mind that you’re on a farm – spiky heels are probably a bad idea. You’ll most likely find the group is very mixed from appearance anyway. I just came back from a grand 40th birthday attended mostly by residents from Munich (known for being very chic) and we had the entire range from elegant evening gowns to jeans and blazer. If you want to blend in – and you don’t have to – then think a tick conservative and keep the hair, make-up, and jewelry simple. Manners are always different (ex. Americans tend to talk really loud in comparison to the rest) but if you’re sensitive to this you’ll pick what you need through observation. I suggest you just be yourself, relax, and have a good time.

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12 The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful August 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Just checked with my German friend Bettina. She says wear what you like, just don’t be a Jackahhhss!

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13 Ilse August 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I´m from the Netherlands and haven been friends for over twenty years with some dear German people. As a European girl, I would say, come and attend a German wedding as yourself! Whenever your wear that feels comfortable, and makes you feel confident, no one, Germans in particular, will think anything off your outfit. And I agree, in Germany it really depends in which region you are. Overhere, we sort of make jokes about the typical German sandal (especially men are wearing them during spring and summer), but I know for sure that you won´t see those on a wedding, haha. In Holland, a fine light dress in navy or taupe, or even with a happy flowery print combined with a cardigan or jacket and nice pumps or peeptoes and some matching accessories will do just fine. Too bad, it isn´t a Dutch wedding :-) Have fun!

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14 Melanie August 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Great answers so far! As a German I totally agree, unless it is a very formal wedding don’t worry to much about the dress code. If nothing is said in the invitation basically anything goes. For an outside party I would go for a pastel-colored knee-long dress with a cardigan and a nice scarf. Ballet flats or peeptoes are probably better than highheels. Have fun and good luck for the weather!

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15 Alexandra Gjurasic August 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

If she wants to be approachable (without being the loud American) I’d advise some sort of statement accessory such as jewelry, scarf or shoes. This gives other guests a chic conversation starter. And think of this statement item perhaps as uniquely American without being garish.

http://gjurasicpark.blogspot.com

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16 Kate The Great August 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm

The casual wedding receptions here in the States (that I’ve gone to, and I’m a Mormon) for girls means anything goes, but wear a skirt. Or a dress, and you can dress it up or down, whichever way you choose. But definitely something dress/skirt like. Dressy slacks might work too, but definitely dress that up.

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17 kelleyn August 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I think you should ask. While Germans do not go as far as wearing fancy hats like the brits. It seams like everyone was dressed really nice at my wedding. Germans while they do love nature and love to wear their birks also love to wear their fancy shoes. I would go with church attire! You can’t go wrong!

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18 Ulli August 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I am German, born and raised and the first question I have his:

Are the two people Germans?
What time is the wedding?
Is it part of a hotel/venue or backyard function?

Either way, the easiest way is to ask the people who invited you to give you some guidance.

And be YOU. I read a lot about “don’t stand out” , “don’t be boisterous”, “wear back slacks or pastel dress”.

Wear what you like and shine. For real. :) You are not German, so why dress or talk like one. That’s just silly.

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19 Lea Sophie August 3, 2011 at 2:32 am

I definitely agree with all those who say “be yourself and don’t worry to much about your appearance”.
As a German i can assure you that we care about our look but do not judge others by theirs (hopefully).
but since it’s an outdoor wedding and the weather hasn’t been exactly “summery” over here, take a cardigan, blazer or any other jacket. and i would wear no heels, rather something like ballet flats or oxfords to be more comfortable.
one comment i really like said “no big hair” and this is true. we Germans don’t tend get our hair done for such an event except the bride and maybe her bridesmaids.
i hope you have a great time here in germany and you’ll catch one of the sunny days :)

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20 From Belgium August 3, 2011 at 5:43 am

Look for the type of venue and the type of party. Don’t be shy to ask the bride or groom what they expect of their guests clothes wise.
Be yourself, be polite and whatever you do, do not mention the war.

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21 leslie August 4, 2011 at 4:37 am

” do not mention the war”? that’s silly!

my advice: be you. wear what you’re feeling comfortable with and go with layers. as many others said: it might get cold…:)

and i found it very humorous to read all the “german” things…we tend to be open to others and you might be the center of attention at one point, but we can be nice, really;)

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22 From Belgium August 4, 2011 at 8:14 am

Actually ‘do not mention the war’ was a reference to Falty Towers, where Basil always tells his staff to ‘not mention the war’ when they have German guest staying at the hotel only to insult them with war-references himself.
Sorry if it offended.

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23 The New Diplomats Wife August 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

You know, I re-read this today and read all the comments and I think most people are right about the thing I absolutely forgot to mention, which is to go as yourself. After all, there are lots of differences across the globe but it’s not “that” different – wear what you’re most comfortable in, but there are definitely “safe” bets (e.g shift dress, no black in daytime, no white at weddings, flats with you as back up) – but remember, you were invited because they want you to be there and that’s what’s most important. Have a great time – I’m sure it will be a fun party!

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24 Julia August 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Okay, definitely come as yourself. I’ m thinking maybe a nice Summer dress

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25 Anne August 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I have been to many German weddings. If the invitation does not state anything, anything is fair game.

Do not wear white, nor black, do not outshine the bride (which could happen if the bride goes for a simple style.

A simple summer dress (even a colorful one)would be great, flats or even heels are fine (no flip flops), a cardigan or shawl against the cold, a necklace, some earrings. Not too much makeup.

And last, if in doubt ask the couple or their families if you don’t know them any better.

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26 Lauren August 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Thank You. THANK YOU! I love that you addressed my question Gabrielle. Great advise. Dear readers, I have enjoyed your responses. I was so concerned with how I looked it never even crossed my mind to consider my manners. (That shows just how American I am:) I will be sure to pass on your suggestions. Especially the one about not being so loud. My family can be very loud. And if you are wondering, my American brother is marrying a German girl.

Thanks to your responses I feel more confident already.

Now does anyone have a suggestion of what to bring the bride’s parents from the states? I want a small gift that would be a token of gratitude. It can’t be over the 3 oz. airline limit as I am not checking a bag on the way over. I love everything European so I can’t think of anything that would be cool to bring from the US. Any ideas?

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27 leslie August 4, 2011 at 4:40 am

maybe something to eat?
i know many people being curious about the food someone is usually eating…or a cooking-book? something local is mostly appreciated, i guess…

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28 Megan August 5, 2011 at 11:08 am

As your brother marrying into the family, making this an extended part of your family, I’d suggest something personal. What about a book about where you’re from? Or a regional cookbook? Maybe your brother can give you some tips about something they really like. Over the years my mother has brought books about California, a teddy bear made by relatives, champagne glasses, etc. Oh, she also feeds my sister-in-law’s addiction for non-fat Ranch dressing, but other than local honey and jam most US food items these days can be found abroad.

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29 Lauren August 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm

P.S. Gorgeous garden wedding. Thanks for sharing that link. I especially loved the wildflower topiary. Beautiful. And the color palette is so refreshing. I’m in love:)

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30 Julia August 4, 2011 at 4:59 am

Dear Lauren,

I can so relate to your situation. I was invited to a German- English wedding in England. God, I was so nervous! Anyway, you got good ideas. Mine are: a nice summer dress (yes, definitely with a sweater/jacket. The weather’s been dreadful ever since July). If you want to wear heels, do so, but bring flats (I’ve seen so many poor girls who couldn’t walk because their heels sank into the meadow). I wouldn’t wear a hat to a German wedding – but mind you, I’ve seen an aristocratic German wedding where everyone wore hats. I wouldn’t wear white; but in Germany you’re fine with wearing your lbd to a wedding if you like. As it’s a mixed American- German wedding, you won’t be the only American there anyway. And please, please, please: just be yourself! Okay, maybe Americans are a little bit louder, but I’m more than sure people will love to hear you laughing. And don’t worry about wasting food or recycling at a wedding, please! It’s a party! Enjoy YOURSELF, be YOURSELF, wear what YOU like (okay, maybe not the short, extremely cleavaged white rhinstone Versace number) and make a day of it.
What to bring the parent’s of the bride: well, something typically American, I would think. A coffe- table book of American scenery maybe? Maybe including the area you live in? And some typical American sweets?

Anyway, I wish you the best of times at the wedding. Have fun!

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31 Marina August 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

Since I’m from Germany and I’m invited to a wedding in the US i really enjoyed reading this post. Everything you said about dress code on German weddings sounds good to me. Don’t outshine the bride, no white or black, bring heels and flats since a typical german wedding is often selebrated until doom (much dancing). Bring a jacket. No big hair, hats too are unusual. But you don’t really need to blend in, Germans are very open minded when it comes to other cultures, you won’t be judged by your looks :)
But what about a wedding in the US? Is the wedding dress code so different over there? Do I really need a hat?

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32 Julie August 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I’ve never worn a hat to an American wedding, but that may be different in the South or Texas.

For a day wedding, the above advice is appropriate. An evening wedding may be more formal, but I would hope the invitation will let you know that.

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33 lorraine January 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I have a wedding in June in Germany I am the mother of the groom what should I wear .

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34 Wilona June 19, 2013 at 12:42 am

A church wedding in Erbach im Rheingau, last weekend in Sept., at One O’clock. Bride(German) is wearing a long wedding dress, groom (American) and etc., are wearing dark suits. I do not know what style the bridesmaid or bride’s mother is wearing. As the mother of the groom what should I wear. I have been looking for something in grey or medium blue. I do not want a short (above the knee) dress. I am thinking tea length, with a light weight jacket. Not too fancy, but I am beginning to think there is no such dress. I understand weddings in Germany are not as big and over the top like they are in the states. I do not want to be over dressed or take away from the bride and her mother. What do you suggest?

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