Being a wedding guest is one of the toughest gigs to dress for. But if you think I am about to let you off the hook with some bleeding-heart wear-what-you-feel-comfortable-in guff, you can think again. It is a tough gig, but it’s one that you need to nail. Because, assuming you’re a common-or-garden guest – not the bride or groom, not making a speech or looking after the rings – turning up looking excellent is the one job you have been given. Once you have your outfit on point and have found the venue and are waiting over the road with your gin and tonic, you are along for the ride. All you need do for the rest of the day is eat and drink, clap and smile on cue.
The least you can do is look good, frankly. But how to get the balance right between looking appropriate and being fourth-blue-lace-Self-Portrait-dress-from-left in the photos? Being a rule breaker is not the answer. I don’t think we need to spell out why a day on which your friends are honouring their solemn commitment to a socially ratified contract of monogamy is the day on which you need to tell the world what a free spirit you are. If the bride wears jeans and a T-shirt, by all means do the same, but if the bride is in a white dress, you need to look equally smart or you will get on everyone’s nerves. And consider the practicalities: weddings are long and often involve extended standing-around periods, so shoes that don’t hurt and a coat that enhances the look, rather than killing it off, are non-negotiable.
That’s the T&Cs covered; now for the fun bit. As a guest, the ceremonial function of your look is this: to bring the party. A summery, floor-length dress is to the weddings of summer 2016 what the cocktail jumpsuit was to last year’s: the look that brings just enough fashion to liven things up. I say floor-length deliberately, because the look I am talking about is halfway between a maxi dress and a gown. Not a maxi dress, because to me a maxi dress is something casual in jersey you wear in the evening on holiday for ankle-protection from mosquitoes, and not a gown because, as Justin Trudeau would say, it’s 2016. Get one. No excuses.
• Jess wears dress, £69, missselfridge.com.
Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Laurence Close At Carol Hayes Management.