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Wedding Hat Etiquette: Can Wedding Officiants Wear a Hat to the Ceremony? What about Guests?

Published Monday, Aug. 2nd, 2021

This season is positively brimming with stylish wedding hat options… But are there rules for wearing certain hats, and if so, which ones should officiants and guests follow? 



Sun hats the size of flying saucers. Beanies permanently affixed to hipster heads. Peacock plumes and faux florals that would make a Kentucky Derby debutant blush. There are top hats, baseball caps, bowlers, and boaters, Stetsons, pork pies, fezes, and trappers. Even a couple raspberry berets make it into the mix… 


There’s a hat for every occasion, and every taste. But what’s the etiquette when it comes to wedding hats? Is it really rude to wear one? (Even if it pulls the entire ensemble together?)


Well. Look. 


We don’t take much interest in stuffy etiquette rules. (Especially “rules” that haven’t been updated since the 1950s…) We love brides in pantsuits, grooms in gowns, pastels year-round, and mismatched metallics from dawn to dusk.  


But, we also know: It’s an honor to attend or officiate a wedding! 


And one of the best ways to show your appreciation, gratitude, and respect for having been asked to participate in a ceremony, is to dress well for the occasion.


So let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts of modern wedding hat etiquette… for couples and guests, and especially for wedding officiants! 



A bride and groom wear cowboy hats outdoors in their wedding clothes, there are trees behind them and the sunlight shines through it, golden and green



The Wedding Couple


A couple can get away with wearing whatever they want at their wedding. It’s their day. We shan’t debate it. 






Guests have a lot of leeway when it comes to hat fashion… As long as you aren’t blocking anyone’s view of the first kiss, or stealing any of the couple’s spotlight, things will probably be ok. 


We know there are some very specific rules out there -- the mother of the groom should never wear a hat larger than the mother of the bride’s; women should adorn hat bands only on the right, men only on the left; etc. etc. -- but we’re not overly concerned with those. 


Here are some general hat tips for wedding guests: 


  • Choose a style you feel comfortable in and make sure it fits well. 
  • Stick with something small if folks will be seated behind you. 
  • Choose a hat color and style with your entire outfit in mind.
  • Hats should coordinate with your accessories and shoes.
  • Baseball caps and beanies are considered very casual, and generally speaking, are inappropriate for most weddings.


Traditionally, women aren’t expected to remove their hats indoors. Men are expected to remove their hats indoors as a sign of respect… These are cultural and gender norms to be aware of, that may or may not appeal to you. 


Follow your heart (and any requests from the couple). 



a stylish couple stand outdoors during a wedding, the man is in a hat



The Wedding Officiant


Wedding officiants are not just another guest, which means they need slightly different guidance! 


As an officiant, you’ll be at the front of the room, center stage, next to the couple for the entire ceremony. You’ll also be in nearly every ceremony photo… No pressure, but what you wear during a ceremony matters.


If you don’t need a hat, convention says to go without. Especially indoors.


When might you need a hat? During an outdoor ceremony with unpredictable weather: Stylish brimmed hats make sense in bright sun and light rain. And warm hats make sense (and might even be necessary) when it’s cold or snowing. So unless you have to contend with the elements, you probably don’t need one. 


Still not sure? Ask the couple what they want, and do that. 


As with other parts of the ceremony, the dress code -- including hats -- is up to the couple. 


Some couples will love the look of cowboy hats on the wedding party as they walk down the aisle, but will expect them to come off before the vows start. Some couples will only approve of hats that are part of a military or professional uniform. Some couples will insist on hats (the bigger, the better) as part of a big country wedding, a high-glam cocktail theme, or costumed event. 


But other couples will recoil at the very thought of someone wearing a hat indoors… especially the officiant. (Gasp!)


As always, when in doubt: Ask the couple!




If the couple doesn’t have an opinion about hats, consider these tips: 


  • If you don’t need a hat, convention says to go without. 
  • Consider the weather: Stylish brimmed hats make sense in bright sun and light rain; warm hats make sense when it’s cold.  
  • Consider the theme: If it adds to a theme, such as a pirate or medieval theme, go for it!
  • Consider the level of formality: Don’t wear a baseball cap to a black tie event! (Please!)
  • Consider the full effect: Choose a hat color and style with your entire outfit in mind.
  • Choose a style you feel comfortable in and make sure it fits well. 
  • Only wear hats that look clean, well-kept, and intentionally chosen.
  • Hats should match your accessories and shoes. 


sun hats handing on a line attached by clothes pins



Note: Religious head coverings are not hats. 


People of many faiths incorporate head coverings as part of their traditional clothing. These might include a dastār, hijab, tichel or mitpaḥat, kippah or yarmulke, bonnet, and others. As part of a person’s faith, they show respect and care, and are always appropriate to wear to a wedding ceremony! 








Wedding hats for everyone!​​​​​​




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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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