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Wedding guest dress & conservative faiths

post #1 of 114
Thread Starter 
A recent wedding at my Orthodox parish brought a question to mind. Virtually all of the guests were not Orthodox, which means not members of our parish. The majority of the women were dressed what in many would consider inappropriate for a church wedding, especially in a conservative faith - enormous amounts of skin showing, extreme cleavage, very short skirts, bare bellies/backs, etc. I've been at a lot of weddings of various Christian denominations over the years, some in more "liberal" congregations/denominations, and I've never seen so much skin exposed before.

If you are in a faith/congregation that tends to dress more conservatively, do your clergy ever bring up and/or enforce the issue of modest dress (for women) for wedding/baptism/other special religious events that will bring a number of people who are not members of your faith to attend? Request a note to be included with invitations?
post #2 of 114
The only way I've seen it addressed was for my cousin's wedding which took place in Vatican City. They included a separate note card in the invite that said something like "Vatican City requires all shoulders be covered during our time there. We would hate for our guests who are travelling so far to be with us to be turned away for their dress. Please let us know if you have any questions."
They also had information on their wedding website and in the packet of travel information/accomodations/etc. that they sent to everyone attending.

At the few Orthodox Jewish weddings I've attended, the mother of the bride made sure to call the non-Orthodox guests a few weeks prior to let them know the dress restrictions and the particulars of those ceremonies.
post #3 of 114
My experience is only with conservative anabaptist groups.

I have been to weddings and church services as a guest, and never once has a dress code of any kind been issued. I wonder though if people are more aware of their standards and thus aware that they're supposed to be "respectful" in how they dress?

I dress modestly anyway but when I visited Rome it was amazing to me how many people seemed stunned and confused at being turned away in the Vatican because of wearing short-shorts and halter tops. And I wasn't even Catholic.
post #4 of 114
Faith - it varies. Congregation - I honestly don't know. Most people are just pretty aware that wandering into a mosque in a strapless minidress is probably going to be frowned upon, you know? I've never really seen it come up. I can imagine someone showing up as such either being taken aside or just being gossiped about mercilessly. And because people don't consider mosques to be as much a part of the "we already know everything about it" landscape as a great many people would consider churches in the U.S., more often than not when I've known non-muslims to plan on attending they have themselves asked what's appropriate. Often with considerable obvious nervousness about offending.
post #5 of 114
Thread Starter 
Hmmm. Thanks. I know some Russian Orthodox parishes here in the States have signs posted at the entrance that women must have their shoulders covered, and some require headcoverings for all females. Pants a huge no-no. Friends who have visited Russia and the Holy Land in the past year or two report that if a woman attempted to enter a church dressed inappropriately (no headcovering, bare shoulders/arms, shorts, short skirt, cleavage) would be given a scarf for their hair, a long wrap-around skirt (in some places) and a large scarf to cover shoulders.

In my previous parish (Orthodox), if a regular member dared to come to church dressed inappropriately, you'd be given a large scarf to cover bareness on top - not much you can do about a short skirt or way too tight pants. In fact, the priest would often give the woman something to cover up himself. In all the weddings he officiated, whether at his parish or elsewhere, he REQUIRED a note in the wedding invitation saying something along the lines of, "The wedding is taking place in the House of God. We require modest dress to respect that. No cleavage, no bare backs, stomachs, or bare shoulders. Head coverings are encouraged for all women." Mind you, this man was an absolute control freak, and even required that bridal showers and bachelor parties be conducted in a certain way! Needless to say, this is a major reason why I'm no longer at that parish!

I'd forgotten previous priest's wedding guest dress requirements until the recent wedding at my current parish. Current priest is rather laid back. He strongly suggests no cleavage to brides, but bare shoulders are OK. Bride had a classy strapless dress that showed no cleavage. But I'd never seen so many people without a sense of decorum for a formal church wedding. Not only were most of the women scantily dressed, but there were men who came in ratty t-shirts, jeans, and dirty sneakers. And this for a wedding with a reception at a fancy country club!

I simply don't know what it was with the friends/family of this particular couple that made so many of them dress for partying, rather than a church wedding.
post #6 of 114
Wow, that's kind of sad. Maybe they just weren't aware?

Although our church has no formal dress code whatsoever, people's lack of decorum/awareness is certainly a problem enough that they provide shawls so that at least ladies wearing short skirts won't end up flashing the preacher when they sit down, or so the women who are in choir on stage won't be displaying themselves for all to see because of a skirt that's too short when they're sitting down. :
post #7 of 114
Thread Starter 
CM, was talking with groom's mom today, and she said that her new DIL's family are all regular churchgoers (Lutheran). When she told me that, I thought, "Then why didn't they dress more appropriate for a church?" Of course, I didn't say anything to her.
post #8 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
CM, was talking with groom's mom today, and she said that her new DIL's family are all regular churchgoers (Lutheran). When she told me that, I thought, "Then why didn't they dress more appropriate for a church?" Of course, I didn't say anything to her.

I am a Lutheran, have been my entire life, and in general no one would ever be turned away from a service because of their dress. Many people attend services immediaely after work - I have even seen people who work in construction come to a Wednesday even service in their jeans and work shirt. While most would not attend a service in overly provocative clothing no one is ever turned away from worshiping based on their attire.
post #9 of 114
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TCMoulton View Post
While most would not attend a service in overly provocative clothing no one is ever turned away from worshiping based on their attire.
I don't know if you read the entire thread - this was a wedding where 75% of the women dressed very inappropriately - very provocatively - for a wedding in a church.

You'd think (or hope) that folks with experience of regular church-going would not do that, particularly for a wedding of a denomination they'd not have experience with before.
post #10 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
I don't know if you read the entire thread - this was a wedding where 75% of the women dressed very inappropriately - very provocatively - for a wedding in a church.

You'd think (or hope) that folks with experience of regular church-going would not do that, particularly for a wedding of a denomination they'd not have experience with before.
Yes I read the entire thread - I only responded because you specifically mentioned Lutherans in your post that I quoted.

Just because a person's attire was inappropriate for your church does not mean that goes the same for their church. I can understand how someone might feel comfortable attending a wedding in a church in clothing that they might wear to a weekly service. My point was that I am sure they meant no disrespect in their choice in clothing - if a individual church is so strict in their dress code then, as mentioned above, specific instructions really need to be included in the invitation.
post #11 of 114
When I was married in a ROCOR parish/convent, I spoke with our younger guests and my groom's family personally (we kept it relatively small - <100 total) ahead of time to make sure that people knew what to expect. BUT... that was over 20 years ago.

Having said that, I have been to numerous religious ceremonies including weddings, baptisms, bris, bar/bat mitzvahs and been completely shocked at the attire. What amused me, though, is that the last bat mitzvah I attended, the mother made a point of (repeatedly) telling me how to dress. (Yes, it annoyed me a bit, as I told her repeatedly that our "dress code" was the same, so I knew how to dress appropriately.) The only ones who dressed inappropriately were members of HER family (and they were the ones who insisted that she had to serve kosher) - who showed up in shorts and tank tops. And then proceeded to get tanked at the after-party.

I have, however, been at services where people have been requested to leave due to their attire. Mostly women wearing slacks in the winter. They were asked to return when dressed appropriately, while the women with form-fitting skirts (*nothing* left to the imagination) were welcomed to stay.
post #12 of 114
ime - most the women I know dress for the party afterwards & really don't think at all about what would be appropriate for the church part. I don't dress provocatively but I have attended a lot of weddings with bare shoulders. I agree that if a parish is particularly strict about dress code it should be indicated in the invitations.
post #13 of 114
One thing that strikes me about those who show up in ratty clothes - it used to be well known that the formality of the wedding was determined by the formality of the wedding party. So if they are in tuxes and gowns, it's black tie for the guests too. (Think Four Weddings and a Funeral - I hated the movie but the dress etiquette was correct.)

I think this has been forgotten because brides want fancy clothes, and the guests in most situations don't have a lot of black or white tie outfits, or morning suits, in their closets. They wouldn't come if they had to all dress up that much. And the wedding industry likes it because they make more money.

But it's too the point now that there is no connection to the formality of the event and dress for some wedding guests.
post #14 of 114
I've always covered my hair, arms and legs for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish events I've attended, out of respect. That's really not a very great sacrifice, I think.
post #15 of 114
As a guest I'd appreciate being given a head's up about dress regulations in a place of worship I didn't attend.
post #16 of 114
My mom's wedding invitation included a note to those invited that the church has a dress code and all guests were asked to avoid short skirts, low neck lines and speghetti straps. No one seemed to mind in the least.
post #17 of 114
In some traditions weddings take place in church buildings but they are not church services. So people don't think about it as dressing for a church service they think about dressing for a party. Also, it is really difficult to find cute stylish dresses for young women that are not revealing. I bought a new dress for a wedding recently and I must have tried on at least 30 dresses before I found one that my cleavage fit into without showing too much. Then I had to buy a cropped short sleeve jacket to cover the spaghetti straps. It was a lot of trouble. And of course many at the wedding were dressed in more revealing things. I always appreciate it when the invitation gives me an idea of how to dress, but it shouldn't be rudely worded or overly detailed. And I'd keep some extra shawls on hand and someone who has the tact to distribute them without making the guests feel bad.

I do not personally like turning anyone away from the house of God because they did not know how they were expected to dress. In most cases the guest will realize that their dress is out of place and come more appropriately attired in the future. The place for dealing with inappropriate dress, in my opinion, is after a relationship has been formed with the community which is certainly not during the first visit. The idea of a church having the dress code posted on the door seems antithetical to being welcoming to the outcast in the way that Christ was welcoming to prostitutes, tax collectors, and other outcasts of society.
post #18 of 114
I would hope if it were my wedding that the focus would be on *ME* rather than on what other guests are wearing. Everyone's version of what is "provocative" or "immodest" is different. YMMV
post #19 of 114
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by indie View Post
In some traditions weddings take place in church buildings but they are not church services. So people don't think about it as dressing for a church service they think about dressing for a party. Also, it is really difficult to find cute stylish dresses for young women that are not revealing. I bought a new dress for a wedding recently and I must have tried on at least 30 dresses before I found one that my cleavage fit into without showing too much. Then I had to buy a cropped short sleeve jacket to cover the spaghetti straps. It was a lot of trouble. And of course many at the wedding were dressed in more revealing things. I always appreciate it when the invitation gives me an idea of how to dress, but it shouldn't be rudely worded or overly detailed. And I'd keep some extra shawls on hand and someone who has the tact to distribute them without making the guests feel bad.

I do not personally like turning anyone away from the house of God because they did not know how they were expected to dress. In most cases the guest will realize that their dress is out of place and come more appropriately attired in the future. The place for dealing with inappropriate dress, in my opinion, is after a relationship has been formed with the community which is certainly not during the first visit. The idea of a church having the dress code posted on the door seems antithetical to being welcoming to the outcast in the way that Christ was welcoming to prostitutes, tax collectors, and other outcasts of society.
Indie, there is rather a large difference in someone attending a church wedding by invitation/at the request of a family member or a friend and someone who is searching for a spiritual home. If someone who is attending a wedding, as an INVITED guest, can't be bothered to put out the bit of extra effort to dress appropriately for the ceremony, then perhaps they ought to skip the ceremony and go straight to the reception. Or perhaps just stay at home.

If a woman has a revealing dress, she can buy/borrow a shawl (many people I know have one they don't wear much). It's surely going to be cheaper than the jacket you ended up purchasing. I have a thin dressy shawl I bought at Target for $13 last fall. She can keep that over the revealing top of the dress during the ceremony. Upon leaving the church, she can take it off and show all to the world.

A man, instead of showing up in a ratty t-shirt, jeans, and dirty sneakers, surely has one basic button front shirt, non-jeans pants, and clean shoes. Heck, even a polo shirt and khakis are much better.

It's a matter of showing respect and consideration for both the event, as well as the couple who are getting married. If someone can't do this, it begs the question of if they show up dressed appropriately for a job interview or work.

And as for the "too many details on how not to dress" in the invite, well, given what people ARE wearing, they obviously need specific instructions on what NOT to wear. I even see that in the dress code in my office. Some women are frankly almost totally clueless about what's appropriate for an office and have to be told specifically, "You can't wear this, but you can wear that."
post #20 of 114
In houses of worship with specific requirements for dress, it needs to be included in invitations if there's a possibility of offending people. I think Liquesce makes a great point, too, that people typically feel comfortable with other Christian churches if they're Christian. They probably didn't think about asking. I know that for me, while I know what to wear to a mosque, I'd have to ask if I were planning to attend a Jewish ceremony because I don't know as much about requirements for women at a synagogue. If I were invited to a Christian service, I'd be much less likely to ask. I wouldn't show up in a miniskirt because I don't wear them, but I'd never think a thing of wearing a sleeveless dress to a service.
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