Our guide to wedding hats
Published date: 25th July 2019
At the outset we have to say that wedding hats are worn by gentlemen as well as ladies, though if sticking with the classic topper gents have it easy.
So ladies first. How to choose your hat? Or not, as the case may be – some brides let their guests know in advance that they don’t want hats to be worn at all, or they ask for ladies not to wear wide brimmed whoppers (which are considered vulgar by the way if worn in winter or the evening – the brim is to shade the eyes from the sun, and if there is no sun…).
There are some very general rules – or rather guidelines – about what shape of face goes with what style of hat. But before that consider your build. If you are short your hat should be relatively small. If tall, you can carry off something larger. Oval faces have pretty much carte blanche to go with any style, whereas longer and thinner faces tend to need something narrow and possibly tilted forwards. Round faces need the contrast of asymmetry, the hat worn at the side of the head or asymmetrical in itself – perhaps a trilby style. A square face can often suit the wider brim, adding a dimension to your looks.
But the real golden rules are take your time choosing, take a friend along to advise you (not a boyfriend or husband who will inevitably say everything but the worst disaster suits you, can we go now), and take care that it matches your dress in colour and in style – we’d say the fussier or more patterned the dress, the plainer the hat, and vice versa.
If only Princess Beatrice had taken someone sighted to check her famous fascinator out. Variously likened to a Teletubby, a TV aerial, reindeer antlers (with those teeth too) and an octopus, it was never a good idea, though it was eventually auctioned for a good cause for £81,100 so it’s not all bad news.
And here’s one tip for hat and dress – it’s not done for anyone but the bride to wear white or cream, do so and you are stepping on toes.
What can you expect to pay for a hat? With a bit of effort you could find a charity shop or vintage store bargain for £5, and the chain stores have recently been far better for hats, with the likes of Next having some smart jobbies for around £15, though the worry is there that someone else at the do will have bought the same item. At the top end of the scale – the bespoke creations by the likes of Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones – you may expect to pay £1000 to £1500. If you do go for custom made, give the milliner plenty of time, at least two months and ideally three – at the William and Kate wedding Victoria Beckham is said to have ordered her Philip Treacy number just three weeks beforehand, and it was still apparently being finished on the morning of the event, but it did look good.
For men it is simpler. If you are lounge suited, no hat is best. If morning suited, a topper is correct. Most of us rent them for the day. Colour to match the suit. We did say it was easier. Though there is a further rule to follow here – if any decoration is to be worn on the hat men have this on the left, women (who are far of course more likely to have a flower on their creation than men are) on the right.
There is an etiquette to wedding hats. Ladies do not need to remove them in church or at the reception venue, but if they are incommoding others it is only polite to do so. This brings in another pointer – never show the lining in public, so remove the hat with care and keep the inside facing your body or on your knees. This applies to men as well as women. And on the subject of removals, men doff, women don’t, and men remove their hats when in church, indoors at the reception, and when talking to ladies. More complicated than what to wear isn’t it?
For the photos, men should again remove their hats, ladies don’t have to but if they hide your face, or those of your neighbours, it’s de rigueur to remove them. And keep an eye on the bride’s mother when inside, when she removes her hat, so should the other female guests. Her hat, by the way, should traditionally be bigger than the groom’s mum’s choice, so a little coordination is in order girls.
Whole books have been written on caring for your hat, so we won’t bother, especially as they are often one shot specials for weddings. But two basic pointers: only brush a felt hat with soft bristles of the same colour as the hat if you feel the need to get a dust speck or two out on the day; otherwise leave it to professionals.