Best Dressed Looks For A Country Club Wedding

Known as the destination for business deals, pastel polos, and plenty of midday cocktails, country clubs are upper-class suburban mainstays. There are well over 9,000 country clubs and golf courses in the United States alone, per Statista. However, that number is on a steady decline. As Golf Property Analysts' president, Larry Hirsch, explained to the Dallas Morning News, "[Country clubs] are not doing a good job of welcoming millennials, minorities, and moms." To revive dropping membership numbers, many clubs are making a concerted effort to appeal to younger patrons. "We try to cater our event offerings around [community], with things like paint nights — whatever I see on Instagram that's getting popular," Kristine Roberson, Woodbridge Golf & Country Club's membership and marketing director told Bloomberg

Today, one of the many benefits of being a club member is the discounted, or, in some cases, free, venue space. This is especially helpful when planning a wedding. "Generally, the venue rental fee is much more cost-effective than a regular event venue, if there is even a fee at all," wedding planner Reagan Kerr told Brides. Given the many perks, receiving an invite to a country club wedding this season isn't unlikely. However, there are likely to be expectations regarding appropriate wedding attire.

Stick to the dress code

First and foremost, always follow the dress code outlined in your invitation. For example, a black tie occasion may require a long evening dress — something like a glamorous silk gown — whereas you can pull out your favorite midi dress or pantsuit for a cocktail occasion, per Brides. However, as ILÈ Events CEO, Alicia Mae, explains to the site, the majority of weddings require "formal attire." When in doubt, it never hurts to ask for help. "I encourage people to embrace that awkward moment and ask for an example from someone in the wedding party, whether it's the bride, the groom, or the bridal party," lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann tells Cosmopolitan.

Consider your hemline

As noted by Brides, the country club's rules are expected to be followed even when it comes to private events. This means sticking to their dress code. For example, Florida's Grande Oaks Golf Club, the site of the 1980 hit comedy, "Caddyshack," has specific dress requirements when it comes to its patrons. Specifically, garments like "bathing suits, tank tops, gym/athletic shorts, jeans (denim), T-shirts, halter tops, cargo shorts (no exterior pockets)" are banned. Women are required to wear "appropriate length of bottoms." So, stick to skirts that fall just below the knees or farther — sadly, that means no flirty minis.

Pay homage to the spring in pastel florals

The plus side to booking a country club wedding is the automatically scenic backdrop, per Brides. Given workable weather, it's likely that part of the reception will be held outside. May marks the official beginning of wedding season, according to The Knot. So, reflect the beautiful spring blooms (and vivid golf course landscaping) by sticking to pink, green, and yellow pastels. You can embellish with subtle florals, and you are good to go. 

Opt for warmer hues in the fall

Though wedding season starts in May, the most popular month to say "I do" is October, according to The Knot. Specifically, 22% of couples choose to get married during spooky season due to palatable weather and (of course) vibrant foliage. As Dean Handspiker, the Vice President of Retail at Indochino, explains to Wedding Wire, "Shades that match the autumnal landscape, like burgundy, brown, and olive, are stylish seasonal options." So to nail your fall wedding guest looks, check out dresses in motifs that reflect the natural landscape.

Take care to select appropriate footwear

Plan your shoe choice around the venue. For instance, if you anticipate walking on lots of grass, opt for solid platforms rather than stilettos. After all, you don't want to get stuck in golf course dirt. "Shoes can be a statement piece used to accessorize the outfit," wedding industry educator Taryn Blake told Today. "Add a pop of color to stand out against a neutral dress, or [if you're wearing] a patterned dress, go with a complementary color. They should complement the overall look, but matching is not required!" Check out these Journee Collection pastel heels for a feminine twist or, Rockport Kacey Penny loafers for a boating aesthetic.

Do some casual sleuthing

For starters, look to your invitation to glean the color scheme. According to lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann, this will tell you what colors the bridal party might be wearing. "You can tell what the color scheme for the wedding is from the invitation or the wedding website, which gives an idea of what direction the couple might be going," she explains to Cosmopolitan. You don't want to be confused for a bridesmaid (unless you are one, of course). Understanding more about the venue will also clue you in on what to wear, explains ILÈ Events CEO, Alicia Mae. "As a guest, I would first think of the wedding location as the background that sets the tone," she tells Brides. You can always dig on the country club's website to find pictures of previous weddings.

Keep it classy in a tailored suit

Midi skirts aren't for you? No problem. "You should dress in whatever makes you feel fabulous and in line with the couple's requested wedding dress code," event planner Jove Meyer tells Brides. "This could mean wearing something masculine, feminine, androgynous, or a mix of all of them." If pants are more your speed, check out this statement suit from Banana Republic or an Anthropologie checkered blazer paired with a button-up and matching trousers. "Gender-fluid fashion provides a visual staging to imagine identity on a spectrum and the potential we can reach as humans, not categories," says Caroline Stevenson, head of cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion (via BBC). So, it's not simply about choosing pants over a skirt, but finding a combination of styles that makes you feel most yourself.

Fabric determines formality

Choose your fabric carefully. According to Brides, dresses made from silk or tulle typically have a more formal feel – check out this marigold fit from Silk Maison or this navy tulle midi from Lulus. During the colder months, velvet becomes the go-to formal fabric (via Marie Claire). Mix and match materials with this classy Reformation dress. Alternatively, chiffon and linen are perfect for outdoor spring and summer weddings with a casual flair. This Paige chiffon midi, for instance, can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Pair with platform sandals and simple jewelry for a breezy country club-worthy look. 

Steer clear of too much bling

Given that country clubs are often relatively-modest venues, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid too much glitz. "There's a difference between wearing a cocktail dress that's really cute for the club and wearing a cocktail dress that's [sic] meant for a wedding," says lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann, adding that "The outfit you select should not draw too much attention away from the couple" (via Cosmopolitan). Not to worry — you can always incorporate a hint of sparkle in your jewelry, nails, and makeup.

Experiment with a preppy aesthetic

According to InStyle, preppy has been reimagined for the 2020s, recently debuting on high fashion runways by the likes of Michael Kors, Burberry, and Versace (just to name a few). So, what does modern country club fashion mean exactly? There's an emphasis on subtle colors, vests, and knitwear. Make this aesthetic wedding appropriate by turning to practiced preppy retailers like Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Lilly Pulitzer — all brands you might find in bougie seaside towns (via Stylecraze). For starters, check out this Vineyard Vines floral midi or, take it up a notch with a pleated Ralph Lauren fit.

Layer a blazer over your dress

Oversized blazers are having a moment right now. According to The Zoe Report, everyone from Meghan Markle to Gigi Hadid is rocking the look. The unconventional blazer-dress pairing is even taking off (via Vogue). Put a personal spin on the style at your next country club wedding. Find a solid-colored option — something like a single-breasted black blazer from H&M – and wear it as added warmth (or to chicly cover your shoulders) during the reception. To go the extra mile, consider the country club setting and find a preppy blazer with trim like this classy look from Alice + Olivia. Ultimately, the oversized blazer is a contemporary take on opera shawls and dressy furs — best of all, you can repurpose it long after the couple says their "I dos."

Make a statement with your sleeves

Puffy sleeves are making a comeback (via The Guardian). Though some high fashion designs might resemble glamorous floatation devices, you can put a subtle spin on the trend this wedding season — keep in mind, you still need to adhere to the country club's modest dress code. Start by styling this romantic puffy-sleeved midi from Reformation or incorporate ruffles with a summery off-the-shoulder Free People design. Fashion psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen points to something called "mood enhancement dressing" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Perhaps we could be more inclined subconsciously to adopt '80s fashion because it's big and fluffy and more of a protective layer," Dr. Karen tells Mojeh. "The '80s to me were edgy and that's mood enhancement or dopamine dressing."

Personalize your look with accessories

"I hate feeling like I have to sacrifice personal style at weddings," designer Pia Arrobio tells Brides. "Obviously you want to remain classy and respectful, but feel like yourself." Part of "feeling like yourself" is incorporating personal touches with accessories. Whether your style is glamorous, classic, or whimsical, jewelry is a helpful way to let that shine through, literally. Etiquette expert Lisa Grotts recommends pearls for any dress code, but statement pieces like these spiral Urban Outfitters earrings can show off your quirky side. Ultimately, search the virtual shelves of Etsy for one-of-a-kind stand-out pieces. You can even try out a pair of evening gloves to accentuate a late-night cocktail look.

Err on the side of overdressed

When in doubt, always lean on the side of overdressed rather than risk appearing too casual. As lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann tells Cosmopolitan, "If you have to choose between being underdressed or overdressed, it's always better to be overdressed." As a rule of thumb, look to the wedding's start time when considering formality. "Simply put, a formal affair is after six o'clock and the words black tie or white tie are included on the reception card," Heidi Kallett, CEO of The Dandelion Patch, tells Brides.

Keep the necessities in your handbag

In preparation for the wedding, it's helpful to pack a few necessities. Martha Stewart recommends a light snack, sunglasses, makeup, and medication for seasonal allergies. After all, the freshly-cut golf course grass may make your nose start to run. You also won't want to forget your phone, wallet, and room key. Keep everything safely sealed in a stylish woven clutch from Anthropologie or store your essentials in a dress with pockets — yes, they do exist! Check out this design from Abercrombie & Fitch, or simply keep everything buttoned up in an oversized blazer.

Try out a subtle makeup look

Hold off on "Euphoria"-inspired makeup at your next country club wedding. "The ideal is glowing, lit from within skin, softly accentuated features, and colors that work together in harmony," makeup artist Carolina Dalí tells Vogue, advising guests to "Let the chunky glitter and blue lipstick sit this one out" so as not to distract from the bride. "I like to stick to bronzey, peachy, earthy, and pastel colors," she explains. Especially in a country club setting, a simple beauty look is your best bet. Don't forget: if you often find yourself getting emotional at weddings (or sweaty on the dance floor), waterproof eye makeup is your friend.