The 10 rules of packing for a wedding

Posted on
Apr 12, 2010

I suspect that even people who rarely travel will end up taking a  trip or two because they need to attend someone’s wedding. After all, people generally like to get married in some crazy, out-of-the-way place that has sentimental value only to them (Ashland, Oregon, anyone?). Personally, I find that to be awesome. After all, your wedding is probably the only time in your life you can get your friends and family together in one place of your choosing. And usually, no one can complain a  lick, because it is, after all, your wedding (note: this wasn’t true in my family, of course. But that’s another blog post).

I have no problem traveling for people’s weddings – and, in fact, actually love to do so. We went to two weddings last month, and had to travel to vastly different places for each. I had a blast. There’s something wonderful about being in a place that’s new and different, but finding yourself surrounded by familiar faces. It’s like a field trip for grown-ups.

But, sweet merciful heavens, do I hate having to pack for a wedding. It’s near impossible: you need extra shoes, a dress, and all the accoutrements that go along with dressing up. This usually means a lot of space taken up in your suitcase by stuff that will only be worn once, plus knowing that regardless of how much you pack, you will inevitably forget something really, really important that you’d rarely otherwise need (for me, it’s usually a dressy cardigan and a clutch purse. However much I try, these are always left on my dresser).

As of late, though, things have gotten easier on the packing-for-wedding (and any other formal event) front. I’ve been creating a list of rules in my head, and they’ve proved so useful, I figured I’d pass them on to you …

  1. You deserve comfy feet. Yes, yes, you should look nice for the wedding, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear six-inch stilettoes in which you can barely walk. Plus, if you allow a few days to explore a city, you’ll need well-rested, blister-free feet before and after the wedding. Pack something you can safely dance and move in, and you’ll be much, much happier. Sofft and Gentle Souls are my favorite brands for comfy, dressy shoes.
  2. Pack a spare. This piece of advice seems absolutely crazy, especially given the new trend of packing absolutely nothing for a trip, but I stand by it. My mother always says it’s a good idea to bring a spare dress (or dress shirt) – in case something happens to the one you planned on wearing. A spare doesn’t take up that much room, and if you suddenly have a change-of-heart at the last minute, you’ll have options.
  3. Bring a semi-dressy outfit, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told about a last-minute dressy brunch or party before the wedding, only to find my suitcase contains one dress, and a half dozen t-shirts. Lately, I’ve been tossing in another semi-dressy outfit just in case (after all, I’ve already taken up space with dress shoes, an extra purse, and other accessories, so a spare dress doesn’t actually take up that much more room). I almost always end up wearing it, and it can double as my spare dress.
  4. Bring a sweater. I seem to forget that, on our planet, at least, as the night progresses, the temperature drops. I’ll pack a perfect dressy outfit and neglect to bring any sort of warm cover-up. If you’ve shivered your way through a reception (like I have), try packing a simple cardigan (that you can wear throughout your trip) or a pashmina wrap (that can double as a scarf later). They take up hardly any room, and they’re worth it.
    Notice my shoulders are not bare, and consequently I am less likely to steal someones jacket.

    Notice my shoulders are not bare, and consequently I am less likely to steal someone's jacket.

  5. Make sure it’s travel-proof. Ah, yes, the paper-thin silk dress you’ve got is gorgeous, but it’s going to look disasterous after it’s been crammed into your suitcase for a few hours. And hotel irons are so unpredictable, you run a good risk of ruining your dress (see: what happened to me in New York the week before last. R.I.P., blue ruffle dress. I hardly wore ye.) Try packing something that can withstand a good folding: thicker fabrics, cotton-synthetic blends, jersey-material, and anything with a lace overlay has worked great for me in the past.

    This dress is completely comfortable and wrinkle-resistant. I'm pretty sure none of the fabrics used to make it derive from natural products (unless you count dinosaurs).

  6. Try it on beforehand. There’s nothing worse than digging out a dress or outfit you haven’t worn in a while and discovering that it doesn’t fit … it’s even worse when that happens 20 minutes before the event-at-hand. Give your outfit a trial run (even if it means wearing it around the house for a bit) or a the very least, try it on a few weeks before the event. If it doesn’t work, you’ll at least have time to pick something else.
    This photo isnt particularly flattering, but it made me laugh like hell.

    This photo is horribly unflattering, but it made me laugh like hell.

  7. Don’t forget the accessories. One of my most difficult trips was the one where I forgot my jewelry roll. I literally felt naked for a week, as I wandered around sans earrings, necklaces, or even a headband to keep me company. Make sure you’ve considered all the accessories you’ll need for a dressy outfit: not just jewelry, but a wrap, a clutch purse, hair barettes, stockings, etc.
    After all, youd hate to have to buy something last minute ...

    After all, you'd hate to have to buy something last minute ...

  8. Don’t check it. I once talked to a bride who had traveled to Vegas to get hitched, and promptly had her suitcase stolen off the carousel. Fortunately, as she explained, she had her dress and her husband’s tuxedo with her: “Never check what you’re going to wear,” she said. And she’s absolutely right: whether it’s a wedding, bridesmaid’s dress, tailored suit, or other item that can’t easily be replaced, be sure to carry it on.
  9. Think about what goes underneath. I am, weirdly enough, the sort of person who wears a strapless bra regularly (what? I have nice shoulders. Shut up). So I usually remember to bring one with me on trips. For those less inclined to wear tube tops (I said, SHUT UP), don’t forget to consider what sort of underwear you’ll need for your dress: whether it’s a bra sans straps, one of a different hue, or those enigmatic stick-on thingies.
    ... or just bring a friend who will tell you when your bra straps are showing.

    ... or just bring a friend who will tell you when your bra straps are showing.

  10. And if all else fails … and you end up looking insane (or a little disheveled), don’t worry. Before my friend Laura’s wedding (in which I was a bridesmaid) I took a vicious fall while hiking, and ended up scraping my leg, my arm, and bruising my entire right side. I was worried how she’d feel having Frankenstein for a bridesmaid, but Laura couldn’t care less. She passed on one of the best (and most relieving) pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received: “It’s not like they’ll be looking at you. They’ll be looking at me.” Duh – of course they’ll be looking at the bride. So quit worrying.

And if you’re a bride who’s taken a spill, or looks otherwise amiss? Well, trust me, they’ll say you look beautiful, anyway. And believe me, you will.

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