What to wear to a summer wedding

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Dressing for someone else's big day needn't be a nightmare, says Naomi Atwood. Just obvserve the rules: no white, no black and don't forget the hat

The cardinal rule of dressing for a wedding is not to upstage the bride. This in itself doesn't count as a fashion dilemma; it's a euphemism for "don't be too tarty" – sound advice on any occasion. There are, however, several highly pertinent issues involved in choosing a wedding-ready outfit, but they tend to be of a more practical nature.

The most familiar concerns include how to eat a three-course meal plus cake in a skintight dress. Answer: go for a stretchy shift or blousy tunic. Then there's how to dance till midnight and beyond in your brand new heels. Answer: wedges or gel inners are your friend. Must you necessarily invest in a pashmina or wrap? No. Sleeves, either on your dress or in the form of a posh jacket are a better option. Are trousers ever going to look smart enough? Why not – especially if you splash out on some of this season's super smart printed silk ones,many of which are currently making a splash at a designer sale near you.

The key to dressing to impress on this particular occasion is not to equate formal with uncomfortable. For a city wedding or civil ceremony a smart shift in a single colour with a patterned jacket or vice versa will cut a dash, especially paired with bold heels and costume jewellery.

For a country event, something softer, or a long hemline is highly recommended. For Tuscan hillside or exotic beach nuptials, the heat is a perfect excuse to go, if not more casual exactly, then more comfortable. Pick a printed maxi dress, some spangled sandals and a suitably jazzy clutch. The latter gives rise to its very own dilemma, incidentally: how's a girl to remember exactly where she last put it down after seven-odd glasses of chilled champagne?

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