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Wedding Photographer Dress Code: What To Wear While Shooting A Wedding

By Hanssie on August 27th 2013

The first question I asked my mentor when I was invited to shoot at a wedding with him was, “What do I wear?” (Yes, that was one of my priorities).

His answer, “Dress as if you were  a guest.”

If that were the case, I would’ve shown up in my hot pink strapless party dress and some stilettos. I ended up going with the safe choice of black slacks and a black blouse.

There are many opinions out there for what a photographer should wear while shooting a wedding. For some, the choice is almost as important as which lenses to bring. The general rule of thumb is: DON’T STAND OUT. And, while I agree with this rule somewhat, I believe that it’s okay to stand out a little bit. I’m a firm believer in dressing to match your brand. Now, I’m not going to come to shoot a wedding in a leopard print cat suit, but if my brand tended to lean toward the more “wild side,” (pun intended), I may add leopard print shoes or a leopard print cami just to put a little flair into the basic wedding photographer ensemble.

Here are some other guidelines on what to wear while shooting a wedding (in case your leopard print leotard is at the cleaners or something).

5  Dress Code Rules For A Wedding Photographer:

1. SHOES: Invest in a good, comfortable pair. It sounds pretty obvious, but I’ve seen videographers show up in a pair of flip flops to a wedding, so I figured I should point it out. Each wedding season I pick up two pairs of sensible (but cute) black or red flats and put them through the wringer. Not only do I have to stand on my feet for 8-12 hours that day, but I’m usually climbing and crawling through fields, sand, rocks, you name it. And of course, I’ve found myself from time to time, on the dance floor with my brides showing off my awesome rhythm-less dance skills. Stay away from the sandals, flip flops or sneakers.

This bride asked all guests and vendors to wear all white with cool shoes.

This bride asked all guests and vendors to wear all white with cool shoes.

2. LOOK GOOD: You are a walking advertisement for your brand. If that means wear all black, then by all means wear all black. After shooting too many 100+ degree weddings in the middle of summer in the desert, I added more gray and beige dresses to my collection. I also like to add some flair, maybe pair it with a pair of cute tights or some bright jewelry. My clients appreciate my personal style, not just my photography style. But very importantly, look sharp. A wrinkly, stained shirt and pants that are too long speaks volumes to your clients and their guests. After all, you not only want to make a good impression of your brand to your clients but to possible future referrals from guests and other vendors as well.

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[Rewind: The bag above is by UNDFIND Designer Camera Bags | Shop UNDFIND on SLR Lounge]

3. WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK: There are instances where your couple may have religious or cultural requirements for attire. Make sure you discuss these with your clients if you are unsure. In some cultures, the color white symbolizes death and you may greatly offend your clients if you show up in a white shirt. In my client questionnaire, I always ask if the wedding is formal, semi formal or casual with a definition of what each of these terms mean to me.

4. SUNBLOCK: There are many times I forgot this and was sorry the next day. Safety first, people. Safety, first.

5. YOU SHOULD ONLY FLASH PEOPLE WITH YOUR CAMERA FLASH: Ladies, make sure that you are covered. Low cut tops may grab the attention of the groomsmen, but doesn’t give the greatest impression for everyone else. And when wearing a dress to a wedding, make sure you can maneuver, stoop, bend and squat without giving everyone up the aisle an eyeful. I also advise you to carry an extra outfit in the car with you! I second shot a wedding once with my mentor and while bending down to fix a bride’s dress, split his pants completely through!

Many times you'll find me laying down. So all my dresses are usually knee length.

Many times you’ll find me laying down. So all my dresses are usually knee length.

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To some, what you wear may not be a big deal, but I believe that everything you say, do, and even wear is an extension of your brand.

What do you wear to shoot weddings?

(via @PictureCorrect)

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jezreel Colangoy

    thanks so much! looked this up coz I have a shoot tonight at a cocktail party. Black it is. LOL 

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  2. Erika Arango

    I’ve gone through so many shoes and I can’t seem to find nice dressy flat shoes that are comfortable. I have back problems as it is, I love my sneakers but when it comes to weddings, I leave with a terrible back ache and feet ache :(

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  3. Laura Hinrichsen

    Wear the exact same colour grey as an 18% grey card. No need to worry about light bouncing off a white shirt onto your subjects, no colour cast bouncing off coloured clothing, and no worries of wearing black to a wedding which would be insulting in most cultures. Can’t lose.

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  4. Nelson Santos

    My rule number 1 when it comes to shoes is: They MUST be silent! There is nothing worst than hearing the “clacking” of shoes inside a church.
    I like to year something fashionable that goes with my modern photographic approach. I like to had “spice” to my photographs when photographing couples, pose then in a more sexy way, make them feel like models. I want my couple and guest to look at me and know thats my style of shooting, even before they look at my photographs. I want people to look at me and know that im the kind of guy who will be joining the action at the dancefloor, that will get the party going, etc… My essential pieces are my HoldFast MoneyMaker leather camera straps (either burgundy, chestnut, mahogany), and “matching” leather shoes. These straps are super confortable, they are stylish, and look way better than any other camera strap. The matching color shoes just shows you know how to match things. I always wear a vest as well, most of the times black, sometimes tan, or gray. Pants and shirt are usually black or gray. I do not wear a tie as i think its just too much. Believe me, first impression is extremely powerfull and reality is, the first impression i give is that im not gonna be a boring photographer. Remember, ITS A CELEBRATION!!!

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  5. patel

    Pressed shirt, black pants, and black underpants just in case

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  6. Charlotte

    I think a few too many guys have commented this and misunderstood the post. I think it’s aimed at women to be honest! It’s pretty easy for a guy to work out what he’s wearing because “dress like a guest” is basically just a suit and if you don’t fancy that you can always go with a shirt and tie or even a smart polo shirt that promotes your brand… women however… Do I wear a dress? Do I wear a comfortable dress or a smart weddingy dress to fit in with guests? Or do I wear pants? If so do I go for smart pants and blouse? Or a nice top? Will that make me look too casual though? Shall I go full out photographer and wear black skinny jeans with a tight black t.shirt and look like Lara Croft with my camera clip etc? The weddings I’ve shot have all been for friends so I’ve always dressed like a guest but I wouldn’t want to seem inappropriate dressing like that for a different client’s wedding! Great post, really helpful! :)

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  7. Ben

    I find that dressing less formal helps people to open up to you on a shoot. My general attire is patterned shirt with cuff-links, fitted Lee jeans and Chuck Tailors or Onitsuka Tigers. The shoes are the most important as I’m standing, running jumping for up to 14 hours some days. I found that dress shoes only get horribly scuffed up when you kneel too.

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  8. Jason R. Johnston

    Frankly, considering how much I move around while covering a wedding, I always dress comfortably (and inconspicuously casual) considering the general formality of such an event. I prefer loose black slacks (or jeans if it’s 90% outside), puffy black socks that will absorb a lot of walking punishment, very comfortable black shoes with rubber soles that don’t squeak or leave tire tracks, along with a moisture-sopping black polo and a very comfortable black camera bag – not unlike what the gentleman in one of this article’s photos is wearing. Suits and ties are out. Jeans and sneakers are for scenarios such as “outdoors in the mud” or “beach wedding” but I’d never want to wear shorts and a tee to a wedding, not even near salt water. For beach weddings I DO, however, generally pack a change of swimwear in the off chance the bride decides to “trash the dress,” as they say. I do enjoy getting dirty for a photo whose juice is worth the squeeze, but I’m not sacrificing my Nikes doing it…or, maybe I will…

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  9. Jessica jay James

    Thanks for the fast reply! I don’t know if you skimmed over my comment but I am going to be the photographer at this wedding, not the makeup artist. I do makeup part time.

    I want to look classy, but I’m afraid I might look a little too sexy.

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  10. Jessica Jay James

    I am a young photographer just starting out my business. I have two second shooters at my next upcoming wedding. We are all wearing black. I normally have us wear royal blue, or black. We always get dressed up.

    Now, I am also a makeup artist. I am wondering what the appropriate makeup would be? As well as hair? I consider myself to be a very edgy and stylish person, so I don’t know if my style would be appreciated or looked down on at a wedding.

    I plan to wear a black knee length dress, stockings, one inch pumps, and gold jewelry. My hair in curls and up, and dark eyemakeup. Does all of this seem too showy? Or does this come along with my brand when hired? I do a ton of self portraits, so check my style out on my website if you have the chance.

    I appreciate the help.

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    • Deacon Tyler

      Many of the younger makeup artists I see here where some pretty edgy outfits. Makeup artists can get away with a bit more of a casual look but personally I think black slacks (or possibly even nice jeans, since you aren’t staying for the whole wedding), blouse, or even a skirt ought to be alright.

      I’ve seen many with midriff or cleavage showing, which I think is a little much, but I can’t see anything wrong with what you have listed.

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    • Deacon Tyler

      autocorrect…WEAR, not where >_<

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  11. Deacon Tyler

    Shirt, tie and jacket is not going to happen in Las Vegas – it gets into the 120s lol! It amazes me that people still hold that sentiment in the year 2013.

    I have a harness with two cameras, brackets, flashes, spare lenses, etc. That would look utterly ridiculous with a suit…Plus, there’s a significant chance that something would get caught on the tie and choke me to death.

    In the digital age, people are a lot more risky and adventurous with their wedding photography and you’ll likely find many wedding photographers rolling around on the ground to get that cool angle. You don’t do that in a suit.

    Black polo shirt or a button down sans tie, photo vest and black trousers (WITH A REINFORCED CROTCH…I won’t recall the story of the last time I wore suit pants) are completely and totally acceptable attire for a modern wedding photographer. Clothing that is comfortable, non-descript, doesn’t rip too easily and can be replaced easily is critical.

    Suit and tie…lol.

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  12. RADU

    I wear just my NIKON cameras ! Is not enough ?

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  13. Mimi

    Sorry, but I don’t agree with wearing black to a wedding. Traditionally, black belongs at funerals and wearing black to a wedding has a very negative connotation. Wear ANYTHING but black. Dressing professionally but not in stand out clothing is appropriate.

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    • Randall_D

      Mimi,

      That might work in your market but here you would be shooting very few weddings, and have NO referrals from a previous shoot.

      I suggest shooters research their local market demographics, factor in climate, add one’s own personality, tweak for the client, remain comfortable enough to shoot all day and evening with style, and watch sales, referrals, and income climb.

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    • Deacon Tyler

      There are logistics reasons for wearing black

      – light colored clothing acts as a reflector and can great a glare in your subjects’ eyes, making them squint if their backs are to the sun. Or it could simply bounce too much light back onto your subject, or in the case of wearing a vibrant color, it could create a color caste.

      – Black clothing hides stains accumulated throughout the day very well

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  14. Howard Kuflik

    my rule of thumb is never look better than the client…

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  15. Dan G.

    I did a wedding where the bride only hired me for my photo booth and I was horrified to see that the photographer she hired was strolling around in cut-off khaki shorts, low-top Chuck Taylors and a wrinkled black polo. If I could attach pictures, I would attach a picture I took of the photographer.

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  16. Deneka

    When I used to shoot weddings, I always wore a black button down, black pants and comfy Aerosoles with optional blazer for churches. My clients were generally referrals from friends who knew I shot more edgy stuff so being in all black was never an issue. But how are you shooting in a skirt or dress? That seems very limiting?

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  17. Luis

    I’m a big guy I wear Black slacks with nice black comfortable (clarks) shoes and my Black or white Polo shirt with my Logo embroidered, if they ask me to wear a tux/smoking or a suit to a wedding a simply don’t take it.
    I don’t know that’s me, by the way my assistants wear the same attire, so we really look like a team, they immediately know we are pro’s!!!

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  18. Jose B

    Though I never “did” weddings as a photographer, but always as a guest/photographer (doesn’t pay), my belief is that a photographer should be as invisible as possible. So be the grey mouse, even if that is not you in life. At any event like that it is most important to be as unnoticeable as possible so people do not start “acting” in front of the camera. And already that is not always easy if you are wearing a big ass cam…
    At least that is my approach : be the fly on the wall and see it all…

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  19. Bobby

    I agree with most of the comments here. Dress slacks, Comfortable Shoes, a dark colored button down shirt generally works for me. At 6’1″ and 280 Lb I don’t blend in anywhere except a football game. Take the tie off after the ceremony. It’s HOT in Florida. People are going to notice the cameras anyway and I do not stand still so people notice movement. My rule is to dress nice, not flashy.

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  20. deb

    I hate the all black, I guess it works for some brands/some people but in my opinion it is outdated, old school, good if you are working on a film set or theater or going to a funeral but not a wedding. If my second shooter gets in my shot I want him to just blend in. Wearing all black says “oh there’s a photographer in that photo.” I don’t want that and wearing all black also makes the photographer more noticeable (unless the room is very dark) and I prefer to blend in as well. I agree “dress like a guest” just one going to a wedding not a funeral.

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  21. Kyle

    As an artist who is expressing his style and aesthetic through his photographs, I also believe in expressing that same style and aesthetic through my clothing and personality. I also believe that as photographers in a crowded market, we need to differentiate ourselves in every way possible. In my experience, the vast majority of working wedding photographers wear black or neutral tones. No offense, but it’s kind of boring, and wearing black doesn’t necessarily mean your “blending in”. That has more to do with your personality, your social awareness and your mannerisms. I think you can look good in a neutral palette for sure, but it’s not particularly interesting. Personality and style are a huge selling point to clients, and wedding guests will (for lack of a better term) think you’re cool if you have good style, and they may even consider hiring you that thought in mind. I wear gray slacks and a vibrant blue, grey and black plaid dress shirt (or something similar) with my sleeves rolled, accompanied by a black tie and belt. I also keep my hair and beard well groomed with a trendy cut. The tie usually comes off and the dress shirt often comes untucked during the reception when the guests start dressing down themselves and I get in the mix. Now that could be seen as unprofessional, but my clients and their guests know that I’m working my ass off, and they appreciate that I’m down-to-earth, approachable, personable and that I want to be a part of their event. That might just be the type of clients I attract, but they’re also the ones I’m trying to attract. You’re dress needs to be a reflection of the clients you want. If I knew I was working a super traditional wedding or a ballroom wedding, then sure I’d wear a suit and get really formal about. But I’d still work some color in there because that’s just who I am, and the suit would be bad ass and well-fitted. In short, if you want to express yourself and you want to attract clients of a similar mindset then just be yourself.

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    • CS

      I’m with you Kyle. My ideal clients tend to be on the young, hip and successful side so wearing black would age me and have me mistaken for the wait staff (true story). I’ve found the Express Photographer pant to be the perfect fit for me as they are slim and well cut. From there, a sharp well fitted shirt, some comfortable bucks and a tie and I’m ready to roll. A pop of color in the socks or tie top off the look. We are indeed walking reflections of our brands, and aside from being asked for my card, I appreciate the sensible guest who would also like to know where I purchased my shoes.

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  22. Merrick

    I think the key is not to stand out in any way, you are not a guest and will typically be walking around all day with heavy gear. So it really depends on your shooting environment, wearing a suite and tie in the Caribbean shooting destination weddings every week will have you suffering from heat stroke in no time. A nice button shirt (short or long sleeves) and dress pants with comfortable shoes is a must here. No point passing out looking sharp. Formal wedding in a cool environment is a different story.

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  23. Amal Ibrahim

    Great article with great tips. I was wondering about this very thing. I feel a little better now that I have a clue.

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  24. Mark

    I’ve usually just worn black or kaki pants with a white button shirt and tie. Sometimes I would find out what the color theme of the wedding is and wear a similar color tie or shirt so that people know that I’m the photographer.

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  25. Rona

    I have a few different outfits depending on the weather or if outdoors/indoors. It is very hot in Arizona – so everything needs to be comfortable besides professional. I have a black knee-length skirt, that is actually a split skirt for the summer, with a black/white sleeveless blouse (another tank under), with this skirt I can also wear an off-white dressy sleeved top w/tank under. I also have black slacks that can be worn with either blouse. I have also included a black knit long skirt – again with either blouse. I have also included black v-neck type cotton tops – that could be considered a t-shirt – but are not. Shoes, are comfy, either a white full flat sandal for the summer, a black clog shoe or a black slip-on sandal – all of them have very cushy insoles and bend with my foot (when I squat or kneel down). I don’t typically wear a full on shoe – because of the heat inside of the shoe, and I don’t usually wear socks or stockings. I am considering some khaki/beige light-weight split skirts and slacks for this new wedding season. I try not to do to much black on black in the summer, especially outdoors.

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  26. Ron

    What about a beach wedding? I typically have jeans on with black or white button up.

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  27. Robin

    I usually wear dressy black slacks, a black jacket, dressy black flats that are comfy. A blouse that has some subdued color, so I don’t stand out. My blouse has a slight sleeve so I can take my jacket off when it get warm and not flash my pit…pits are not attractive. I always wear a cami under my blouse, tuck your cami in your slacks so you don’t have to worry about flashing anything from the back side while bending over. I have tried to wear a dress and that is hard when trying to crouch to get the shots of the little ones or when fixing the dress.

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  28. Philip Goetz

    I wear black and whatever wicks moisture. 100% of my work is in Texas.

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  29. Carri Roman

    This is great! I have been learning to wear skirts for style and to keep cool. I have figured out how to gracefully “lunge” so as to not expose anything but my last wedding I guess I did it the entire time. My left quad was in pain for the next three days. haha I normally dress neutral but classy and rarely ever do all black. I think all black sometime makes us stand out more. It is great if you happen to be “in the shot” and can blend in the still picture but it is so obvious to me when vendors are walking around in all black. But that is just. Stay neutral and classy…with a touch of flare sounds fun too!

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    • Kelli

      Have you considered wearing shorts under your skirt/dress? That’s what I do if I wear one…usually a dark skirt and a pair of spandex black shorts so that, in the event I fall over or the wind gusts or I decide to a crazy ninja move to get a shot, I don’t have to worry about flashing a crowd.

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  30. grimmywest

    I subscribe to the thought that your dress sense is an extension of your brand and that your being booked for a job has to do with more than your work but your personality and style. I dress how I feel and this is usually quirky and will almost almost always stand out.

    I’ve been approached and complimented on my style on many occasions. I consider myself part of the “wedding details”, and in my experience dressing the way I do helps people open up to me and relax.

    I already stand out, I’m a young black guy shooting indian weddings. If I wear a black jacket or any formal attire, people would hand me their empty glasses and etc. It has happened before.

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  31. michelle

    hey! those red boots look very familiar! that was the only time i ever wore white to a wedding and i went home w black streaks (no thanks to that stupid cake). i look less frumpy in skirts than i do in pants so it’s always a skirt option for me.

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  32. Cate

    I always feel like part of being a photographer at an event is to stay as invisible as possible. For me, most often that means I’m wearing black all over. I can slip in and out of situations must easier than if I am dressed in “normal” attire.

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  33. Matt

    As there’s often bridesmaids at weddings, I like to look my sharpest anyway.. suit, tie, tie taken off after dinner and before the dancing..

    Ask at the initial meeting what the bride and groom would like you to wear, they’re paying you.. there’s no ‘one-rule-fits-all’

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  34. Victor

    I think there’s nothing wrong with a pair of inconspicuous all black sneakers..

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  35. Rich

    My friends photographer turned up in a dirty tracksuit…. that was certainly a talking point!

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  36. Dan

    I used to wear colourful polo shirts and jeans when I was an assistant and even upto the point when I would second shoot. Now that I am a principle shooter, I always wear an interesting combination of black pants, brown/gray shoes, gray jacket, and a colourful shirt/tie combination. I think you can rock this look even in a nice comfortable pair of sneakers. You just have to have the attitude and personality to back up a look like that!

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  37. Jason Lessard

    I’ve never gone wrong with well fitted grey shirt, black tie and fitted black pants. It’s a professional look that is also comfortable and blends.

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  38. Jim

    I’ve photographed weddings for years. And there is a simple rule as far as dress goes. What are the guests wearing. I can think of only one occasion in almost 30 years where I wore, at least, something other than a suit and tie. That was a farm wedding and barn dance. A black polo shirt is simply inappropriate. We’re supposed to be professionals and should dress as such. And honestly the black shirt and vest thing, doesn’t work either. We aren’t waiters!

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    • Allan

      Yes but you are not a guest, and in today’s day and age, you will always get guests with a DSLR, so what is different between you and them. I wear a black polo shirt and black trousers and see nothing wrong with it. I’ve also worn the kilt, comfort is the highest priority, so I’m obviously inappropriate :/

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    • Allette

      In Texas a full suit is not practical, nor are traditional mens dress shoes, so I have my assistant wear a white, black, or gray dress shirt, tie, black vest, black slacks, and his black vibram 5 fingers. He looks Sharp!

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    • Dale Barber

      After 35 years of doing weddings I whole heartedly agree with you. We are professionals and should dress and act the part. We do not have to give in to the current “G.E.” culture. G.E. stands for “good enough”.

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