Are you attending a wedding in Spain and not sure what to expect? Don’t worry, I’ve got the tips to help you be the perfect wedding guest! After attending numerous weddings over the years (including my own), I’ve collected a list of the top 10 rules that every guest should know before attending their first Spanish wedding.
If you’ve got additional tips to share, questions, or if you found this post helpful—please let me know in the comments below. 💖
1) Most weddings are semi-formal
I have never seen or heard of a ‘casual’ wedding in Spain. No ma’am! If you showed up to a Spanish wedding in casual attire you’d likely be severely underdressed. When in doubt go with a semi-formal look. You can always double check with the bride or groom to be sure.
Men typically wear a two-piece suit including a matching jacket + pants, shirt and a tie. If you’re attending a day wedding you may see close friends and family of the couple wear a morning suit (three-piece suit featuring a jacket with long coat tails).
Women usually wear a nice dress or jumpsuit with heels. Keep in mind the appropriate accessories will depend on the time of the ceremony and the season (see rules 2, 4 and 5 below).
image: Vogue España
2) Understand day vs. night wedding attire
You can determine if you’re attending a day or night wedding based on the time of the ceremony.
- Day wedding: The ceremony takes place around 12 – 1pm followed by hors d’oeuvres and lunch at 2 – 4pm.
- Night wedding: The ceremony takes place after lunch, around 6 – 7pm followed by hors d’oeuvres and dinner at 8 – 10pm.
The general rule is: day wedding equals short dress and night wedding equals long dress. Keep in mind this rule is not set in stone and I’ve seen women wear long dresses to day weddings and short dresses to night weddings. In fact, the most common fashion faux pas committed by wedding guests are normally due to the inappropriate use (or over-use) of accessories and colors—not the length of their dress.
image: Spanish fashion blogger @angelesydiablillos
3) Be careful with colors
Fun fact, Spanish brides wore black wedding dresses up until the late 1800’s as a symbol of devotion to their husband till death do them part. These days however, black is not an appropriate color to wear to weddings. The same goes for white. The only person who should be wearing a white dress at the wedding is the bride. 🤨
Spanish wedding guest attire is all about colors. I’ve seen every color worn to weddings throughout the seasons. There seems to be no specific rules when it comes to color, but I’ve noticed deep, rich tones are worn in autumn and winter while vibrant, bright colors and floral prints are popular in spring and summer. Pastel shades are appropriate for weddings year-round. The key is to pair your outfit with the right accessories based on the season which I’ll explain below.
4) Adhere to hair accessory protocol
My favorite wedding accessory is a tocado, or “fascinator” as they’re called in English. Fascinators are normally worn to day weddings but can be worn in the evening too.
Fascinators come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they should match your dress or other accessories (purse, shoes, color accents in dress, etc). This accessory is typically worn tilted to the right side of the head, but you can switch it up based on your hairstyle if necessary. Fascinator prices usually range from 10€ to 100€ and you can have one custom made to match your outfit. In Sanlúcar for example, there are quite a few shops that create custom fascinators for around 30€ – 50€.
Image: Spanish blogger & accessory designer @debodaconmaron
Pamelas, i.e. broad-brimmed sun hats, are also a popular accessory but should only be worn to day weddings. If you’re attending an outdoor wedding you can remove your hat following lunch as guests make their way to the dance floor. If it’s very sunny and you’re not sure when the right moment is to remove it, you can keep an eye on the light outside—it doesn’t make sense to wear a hat when the sun goes down. Another fail-safe plan is to simply watch other guests to see when they remove theirs. Keep in mind if the reception is held indoors you should remove your hat following the ceremony, immediately upon entering the enclosed space.
Image: Spanish fashion blogger @invitadaperfecta
5) Other accessory tips to keep in mind
I love the variety of accessories women wear to Spanish weddings. Check out some of the most popular options below.
Purses: Women usually bring clutch purses to weddings. I’ve seen large and small clutches, cloth + metal materials, sparkles, studs and everything in between—basically anything goes as long is it looks nice with your outfit and is a discreet size. I always use a clutch that has a long strap inside, just in case I want to keep my purse with me while dancing and need my hands for holding cocktails. 😜
Image: Spanish fashion blogger @chini&chufa
Coverups: I usually wear a shawl (chal) to all the weddings I attend—they’re perfect for covering up during mass (if you’re attending a ceremony in a church) and still look formal if you get chilly later on in the evening. It’s not mandatory to cover up, but you’ll notice other women wearing shawls inside churches. Shawls work for day or night weddings and you’ll be able to find them in the same shops where fascinators are sold.
Some other coverup options are stoles (estolas) and capes (capas)—this year cape sleeves are a popular trend for fall/autumn weddings too. Women also wear boleros and toreras, I’m not sure if there’s a literal translation for these words in English but they’re essentially high-cut sweaters or jackets that covers your shoulders.
Image: Spanish fashion blogger @lamasmona
High heels: This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but women wear heels to weddings. Wearing wedges, flats, or super thick platform shoes could be considered tacky or poor taste. I hate wearing heels but the good news is I’ve got a secret weapon…bring roll up flats in your purse or stick them in your man’s jacket. You can change shoes once guests hit the dance floor after eating. By that time everyone has taken tons of photos and nobody is looking at your feet. 😉
Gloves: Gloves can add an elegant touch to any outfit, but the key is to know when and how to wear this accessory. The rule is: the shorter the sleeve the longer the glove should be and vice versa. Gloves are normally worn to winter and spring weddings when the weather is chilly. Gloves can be worn any time you’re outside and should be removed during meals and ceremonies, hidden away inside your purse. Don’t forget the right-hand glove should be removed when you first arrive to the wedding as you greet people (shaking hands, etc.) and held in your left hand along with your clutch purse.
6) Wear something new
There’s an unspoken rule about not wearing the same thing twice to weddings. I always buy totally new dresses and accessories for each wedding I attend and so do my local friends.
If you don’t want to buy a new outfit for each wedding you can check out services like Rental Mode that let you “rent a look” for the weekend. It costs around 60€ to rent an outfit and one of their stylists will help you choose your look including any accessories you might need. These stylists know the fashion “rules” for Spanish weddings so you can be confident in what you’re wearing.
Image: Spanish fashion blogger @lamasmona
7) Consider hiring a hairstylist
It’s very common for women to get their hair and makeup done for weddings, even if they aren’t in the bridal party. Spanish weddings tend to be large with 100+ people so guests definitely want to look their best. If you plan on wearing a hair accessory bring it when you meet the stylist so they can recommend a hairstyle that will work best or it. In Sanlúcar getting your hair styled costs between 10€ – 40€ and makeup prices range about the same—just keep in mind prices can vary depending on where you’re located.
If you don’t have the budget for hair and makeup you can research DIY hairstyles and makeup tutorials online.
8) Money makes the best gift
Money is given to newlyweds 99.99% of the time. Nowadays couples live together before getting married so the use of wedding registries isn’t common. Normally the couple’s account details will be included in the wedding invitation or you can ask them for the info. Money transfers are sent within the two weeks leading up to the wedding.
The amount of money gifted should range from 75€ – 150€ per person, which is about how much catering costs per guest for a nice wedding. The more expensive you expect the wedding to be, the more you give if you’re able to afford it. If you’re invited to a wedding as someone’s date they should be responsible for your part of the “gift”.
By giving money, guests help the newlyweds cover wedding costs and can even help pay for the honeymoon too. It’s understandable that not everyone can afford to give such an expensive gift, especially if you’re traveling overseas to attend the wedding. In this case you should try to give an amount of money within your means or choose a different gift instead.
Javi and I got married in Sanlúcar in 2015
9) Pace yourself with the drinks
Spaniards love to party and weddings are no exception. A Spanish wedding usually lasts at the minimum 5 hours and it’s not uncommon for the fiesta to go on for 10+ hours. To give you an idea of what to expect, my wedding ceremony started at 1:30pm and the bar closed at 12am. Our friend’s ceremony started at 7pm and we got home at 7am the next day. The point is, if you’ve got 5+ hours of celebrating ahead then you should watch it with the alcohol…you don’t want to get wasted before the first dance! I pace myself with wine or beer during hors d’oeuvres and the meal. Later on in the evening I’ll switch to copas (cocktails) once everyone starts dancing.
10) Enjoy the experience
Weddings are very special events in Spanish society and culture. You can expect plenty of fashion, food and fun. While there may seem to be a lot of ‘rules’ don’t worry about them too much…the most important thing is that you’re there to support the couple getting married. I’m sure the fact that you’ve traveled to attend their wedding is a very special gesture in itself.
Don’t be afraid to try something new and if this is the first time you’re attending a wedding in Spain, chances are there’s a lot of other “firsts” happening right now—open yourself up to this beautiful country and enjoy the experience!
With my mom and mother-in-law at my Spanish wedding—it was the first time my mom ever wore a fascinator and she rocked it! 😉