Get ahead on hat etiquette

Guide to Wearing a Wedding Hat or Special Occasion Headwear

The thought of wearing a hat to a wedding scares the living daylights out of some people. Many women are convinced that hats don’t suit them when the reality is that they haven’t found the right one for their face shape.

Except for a special occasion such as a wedding, the races or a royal garden party, wearing a hat is quite alien to us – unless you absolutely love headgear. But let’s face it, a hat finishes off an elegant outfit. When it comes to buying and wearing a hat, you need to keep your head about you to find out what works for you.

If you’re a bride thinking about women wearing specific headpieces to your wedding, you need to ensure that your guests are aware of the dress code at least six weeks before the big day.

Get ahead on hat etiquette

Turned-up brims more flattering

The number one style tip on the hat front is to remember that you’re wearing the hat and not the other way around. Choose a style that ultimately you’re comfortable with – one you’re confident wearing and that complements your shape and height.

If you’re tall, avoid tall hats and go for wider brims. If you’re short, avoid large hats and go for smaller structured creations such as hatinators – a cross between a hat and a fascinator – on a wide band. Brims that turn up are more flattering, give a softer frame to the face and avoid casting shadows, a particular problem on a sunny day.

Both mother of the bride and mother of the groom can opt for equally grand creations, although often the groom’s mother will not wear a big hat if the other mum is dressing more low key, for fear of outshining her. Whether hats are worn also depends on how formal or low key the celebration is. Some women use weddings to seize the chance to really dress up and complete their look with a stunning hat.

Get ahead on hat etiquette

Sunny day disaster

The right hat shouldn’t drown the head and shoulders in photographs and an astute photographer will ask guests to adjust hats for group photos so that you can see people’s faces.

A woman once told me of her experience of wearing a hat at a wedding on a very sunny day – a disaster, because you couldn’t see her face in the photos due to the shadow from the hat’s brim. She was in the main wedding party and the photographer should have spotted this straight away before taking the pictures.

To achieve the elegant tilt of the hat it has to be at the right angle; pushed too far back and it looks cringingly awful, a bit like a cowboy.

Usually, accessorised embellishments to hats or hatinators with feathers and flowers are traditionally on the right side – the opposite to that of men who usually stand to the left. It’s all about creating the perfect balance.

Get ahead on hat etiquette

Keep your hats on

Avoid an ill-fitting hat. If the hat is too big for the crown of the head, an adjustable hatband can be sewn in to correct this. Similarly, if the hat is too tight ¬and could give you a headache and terrible hat hair, find someone who can professionally stretch it.

Certain hairstyles look great with hats and hatinators so when you buy something you are happy with, take it to your hairdresser for advice.

Women’s hats at weddings are fashion accessories and a crucial part of their outfits so they don’t need to remove their hats when going indoors. Men, on the other hand, should do so, especially in religious buildings. That means no top hats in the church or inside the reception venue, even for photographs.

Take the lead from mother of the bride

An old rule – one, I’m sure, that nobody takes any notice of these days – is that it is considered rude for men and women to show the lining of the hat. When you remove your hat make sure the outside is only visible and hold the lining facing towards you otherwise the etiquette police will be after you!

Finally, the mother of the bride dictates when other women remove their hats, hatinators or fascinators. Until she removes her hat, other women guests are expected to leave theirs on. Often they are left on during the wedding breakfast.

Armed with a little knowledge, you can now get ahead with your hat preparation.