Wedding Guest Etiquette - What are the Rules?

01/08/2012 17:00 BST | Updated 01/10/2012 10:12 BST

To say I've been to a lot of weddings in the last couple of years would be a major understatement... I've been to A LOT of weddings in the last couple of years!

And while I'm ever so grateful to be invited and they are always a hoot... They do inevitably bring about a bit of fashion fear in me as the dreaded what to wear question rears its ugly head.

What starts as an excitable "ooh what shall I wear?" before the first wedding you attend quickly turns into more of a panicked groan of "what the bleedin' hell am I going to wear this time!?" when you reach the fifteenth.

If like me you have already entered what I call 'the phase' (a period of about two years where every single friend, foe and sisters, best friend's nanny seems to be tying the knot and you seem to be top of the guestlist every time) then you will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Predominantly you will end up seeing the same groups of people over and over therefore you can't risk wearing the same outfit twice. And nowadays with at least five paps/photographers pointing a SLR in your face and everyone carrying an iPhone/iPad (yes, I have experienced this) /portable camera on a keyring around with them, you can be sure that the snaps will be on Facebook before you have even managed to kick your hangover, meaning it would be fashion suicide to even attempt it.

You see weddings aren't the relaxed affairs that they used to be, they no longer consist of a few friends down the church/registry office followed by a bevvy in the local pub and then everyone back to your parents house for tea and cake.

No. Weddings are now full scale, organised-with-military-precision events, sometimes five years in the making, and whether laidback or lavish you can bet your bottom dollar that your Sunday best just wont cut the mustard anymore.

I've been to weddings of both the lavish and the laid back type, I've seen the frugal and the flashy, I've been one of 50 guests and one of 500.

I've watched nuptials outside, inside, in churches, hotels, registry offices, courtyards, gardens, renaissance rooms, castles and manors. I've eaten three course dinners, buffets, picnics and canapés. I've danced to DJs, live bands, ceilidhs, and Irish jigs. I've stomped to both Flower of Scotland and God Save the Queen. I've been a bridesmaid at one, a friend at four, a plus one at five and a complete nobody at at least two. I've shaken hands with too many proud parents that I don't know and I've seen enough ribbon-tied chair covers to last me a lifetime.

And what of the outfits? I've bought so many new dresses I could have helped Rapunzel down from the castle about three times over. I've worn high street, designer and vintage, I've found dresses in charity shops, borrowed dresses from my boyfriends mum, scoured for online discounts and frequented sample sales. I've done floral, printed, patterned and plain, long, short and midi, short sleeved, long sleeved and strapless, and accessorised with cardigans, pashminas and blazers.

I have planned ahead, sometimes choosing an outfit months in advance, and I've panic bought three different options the night before only to wear none of them in favour of something I had in my wardrobe all along.

Quite frankly I have completely run out of ideas. I have exhausted the floral summer dress market and I have nothing left to give in the pretty yet smart, cute yet not-so-cute-that-it-becomes-sexy department. I have tried every trend in the wedding guest outfit file and I can do no more to maintain wedding guest etiquette.

So this weekend at my third wedding of the year and 12th in the last three, I threw in the towel and put on a pair of trousers, something I wouldn't have dreamed of doing at the first few. I just couldn't face wearing another dress or skirt and top combo, I was unsure what the weather had in store and I didn't want to hold my stomach in all day. But why had I thought this was such a no no before? They were silk (dressy) tailored (smart) and mint green (summery) and when jazzed up with some accessories were just as acceptable if not more so than any of my dresses.

So what are the rules these days? Are there any? Or have I been stressing myself out unneccesarily all this time?

Lets take a look at the rules which used to always apply and rewrite them slightly...

Don't wear White - Well this is mostly still true but it's not completely out, I've seen a few little white lace numbers so I guess unless you wear a long white gown you should be ok.

Don't wear red - While this used to say vamp now it just says hot summer wedding. Red was most definitely a favourite amongst many of the weddings I've been to.

Don't wear black - Same as above. Black is somewhat sophisticated at a winter wedding.

Don't wear the same colour as the bridesmaids - This can't always be helped and as long as you don't wear the exact same dress you will probably be forgiven.

Don't wear anything too short/too revealing/too crazy - I wish this one was still true but I've seen too much cleavage over dinner to know it's not.

Don't outshine the bride - Well of course this one is a no brainer but really when you think about it, you would have to go to a lot of trouble to outshine someone in a flowing white gown, so let's not fret quite so much.

So as I am now a self-confessed expert on wedding guest outfit etiquette (I'm available for a book deal FYI) here are my own self made rules, which from now on I will be sticking to...

1.If you buy something new to wear (which let's face it you probably will) buy something you can wear again. - Too many of my dresses have been hanging aimlessly in the wardrobe ever since their debut just waiting for their next outing.

2. Don't always wear a dress - If you want to wear a skirt, trousers or even a jumpsuit then go ahead. Judge it on the type of wedding/the venue and the weather- a dress isn't always right!

3. Don't worry about playing it safe - Today's weddings are a different ballgame. Once grandma has had a few sherries she wont mind nearly so much about your thigh split.

4. Wear red, wear black, wear any colour you like - You are more likely to stand out from the sea of florals and pastels.

5. Don't always match your shoes to your bag to your jewellery to your nails - This is a trap I fall into often, but it's cool to clash don't you know?

6. Don't outshine the bride - Still a no brainer!

I'm sure after all of my friends read this article they will deem me unfathomably ungrateful and I'll never get invited to another wedding again... But to be honest that's just fine by me. And that way my own wedding, whenever it happens, can be exactly how I want it - no more than 10 guests sitting on the top of a hill in the North of Scotland getting drunk on tinnies and dancing to an acoustic guitar.