Lisa Everett
Family & Pro-Life Office
February 9, 2017 // Perspective

What is appropriate wedding attire for church?

Lisa Everett
Family & Pro-Life Office

Every bride wants to look beautiful on her wedding day, and every bridesmaid hopes to wear a dress that is both fashionable and flattering. Beauty, after all, is one of the attributes of God, and women in a special way bear witness to the power of beauty to attract our attention. But part of the allure of beauty lies not only in what it reveals, but also in what it conceals, and this is where the meaning of modesty comes in.

Consider this beautiful description from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. … Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love.” — Nos. 2521-2522.

In a nutshell, then, modesty means dressing in a way that is attractive but does not draw attention to one’s sex appeal or arouse sexual desire in another person.

When planning a wedding, it is important to take into consideration the fact that many bridal fashions today are much more revealing than in the past, and are not always appropriate attire for church, which is a holy place — the house of God. In this regard, many Catholic churches take their cue from the dress code that is strictly enforced at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which specifies that clothing should cover the shoulders and knees for both men and women.

If we apply this standard to wedding attire, it means no plunging necklines or dresses that fall way above the knee. And while the majority of wedding gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses marketed today are strapless, it is possible to find some that are not, and some local retail bridal shops are able to add sleeves or wider straps to any of their offerings.

An alternative is to accessorize with an attractive wedding bolero, shrug, shawl or jacket, which are all over websites like Etsy.

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