Welcome to Bridal Week on ESSENCE.com. We’re kicking things off with our special five-day coverage of all things weddings with the ultimate guest guide. D.C. wedding planner Jeannelle Muhammad of Jeannelle Muhammad Designs helps us break down what to wear and bring to every type of wedding, and pitfalls to avoid.
The Couple: Well-to-do sweethearts hosting an upscale wedding.
What to Wear: A floor-length gown is ideal for this evening and elegant affair. Black is also appropriate. “If the ceremony is in a church, a shawl for your shoulders is vital,” Muhammad adds.
What to Give: For this couple who has it all, a gift card is the way to go. Do your research as American Express is said to have more fees than Visa for cards with cash.
The Couple: A spiritual duo whose ceremony begins after service.
What to Wear: A skirt and blouse are the way to go. Feel free to rock a hat, but don’t block anyone’s view and leave the black at home.
What to Give: Along with a nice item for their new home, add a thoughtful book or CD that merges romance and spirituality, like Creflo Dollar’s “Marriage Enhancement Resources.”
The Couple: They’re proud of their heritage, from the Caribbean, West Africa and beyond.
What to Wear: “Only if you’ve done your research should you dress in traditional dress,” Muhammad shares. If not, a nice dress appropriate for the time of day is perfect.
What to Give: Rare African art is a wonderful way to go, she adds.
The Couple: These socialites are the center of attention.
What to Wear: Breakout your cocktail dress and get ready to hit the dance floor. “Most important is that your outfit is not too tight or revealing so you feel comfortable and can move,” she says.
What to Give: This buppie duo may appreciate a gift certificate for his and her spa treatments or exquisite crystal. A Louis Vuitton card could also be hit.
The Couple: Breaking from tradition is nothing new for this pair
What to Wear: Get in the tropical spirit and go for bright colors. Leave your shoes behind if on the beach and grab kitten heels or snazzy flip-flops for cement. “Be mindful of ribbons or sashes that may blow in the wind,” Muhammad shares.
What to Give: Cash is king, but if you do purchase a present, mail it beforehand to their home to avoid extra luggage, possible taxing and customs.
The Couple: Surprise! This couple has been together for years and are finally tying the knot with a small gathering at home.
What to Wear: Put on a sundress or pants suit, and remember no all-white. Carpool as much as possible because parking may be scarce.
What to Give: These two probably have all they need for the home, so focus on something fun such as a gift certificate for water sports or an exotic dinner on their honeymoon.
The Couple: They go to the beat of their own drum, including their special day.
What to Wear: “Let the invitation tell you and get ready for some fun,” Muhammad points out.
What to Give: Concert tickets to their favorite band or a rare movie find could touch the hearts of these free spirits.
The Couple: Hopeless romantics who are all about setting the mood
What to Wear: Flirty sundresses are the perfect fit along with a straw hat to block the sun. Leave the stilettos that may sink in the ground and wear kitten heels. Gloves are a nice addition if later in the day.
What to Give: “Lots of candles if you know the bride’s fragrance taste or a fabulous dinner filled with wine,” Muhammad advises.
Whatever the theme, the most important accessory is your smile and the best gift is still love. And if the recession has you stressed over a present, remember guests have a year from the wedding to give (though our expert says shoot for six months). Let the good times begin!