A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (2023)

A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (1)

Getting dressed for a wedding is no easy feat. If you haven't been to many, you might not know much about acceptable attire. If you've been to a lot, the formality has likely varied at each, and even if it hasn't, you probably don't want to wear the exact same thing to every party. Before you start stressing, rummaging through your closet, or committing to a shopping spree, read through this handy guide. Whether you need the common dress codes decoded or just want some ideas for diversifying your look, you've come to the right place.

For a rundown of the basics and some outfit recommendations, we spoke with etiquette expert Suzanne Pollak. We also consulted Alexis Corry, who owns menswear, womenswear, and bridal boutiques. Together, they shed light on appropriate wedding ensembles, and define the terms that you'll likely need to know.

Ahead, find out what white tie, black tie, casual, and more mean in the context of weddings and guest clothing. Keep in mind that not everything's covered, though. While these rules are a great starting point, the expected attire at every celebration varies based on certain circumstances, including but not limited to the season, time of day, and venue. While you can always consult a professional (like a clothier) for guidance, when possible, we recommend going directly to the source. Some couples provide detailed descriptions in their invitations or on their wedding websites. If your couple hasn't, it's always best to ask them directly for clarification.

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White Tie

A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (2)

White tie is as formal as it gets, and it isn't very common these days. But, if you're invited to this type of event, dressing the part is imperative.

For men, the dress code is strict: a black tailcoat, a white vest, a formal white shirt, a white bowtie, "and white gloves if you're feeling fancy," says Corry. For your feet, wear black pumps (a.k.a. opera shoes).

For women, opinions vary, but it's safest to stick with a long, formal dress. Pollak suggests considering the size of your gown, though, because large, poufy dresses can be hard to sit in. Heels are preferred, but make sure that you can walk in them. It's better to wear a shorter height than to stumble around all day.

(Video) Wedding Guest Outfit Ideas | ULTIMATE Guide to Wedding Guest Attire!

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Black Tie

Evening wear is most appropriate here. For men, this typically means a dark tuxedo, a white dress shirt, a coordinating bow tie, a cummerbund, and suspenders (optional), says Corry. Dress shoes, like oxfords, are suitable.

Women can wear either a long gown or a dressy cocktail dress. Again, heels are preferable.

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Black Tie Optional (Formal)

A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (4)

When in doubt, stick to black tie, but if you'd rather dress a bit more casually, you can. According to Corry, men can wear a dark suit instead of a tuxedo and a conservative tie instead of a bow tie.

For women, "a chic cocktail dress is perfect," says Corry. Dressy separates are okay, too. Footwear can be slightly more fun.

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Creative Black Tie

A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (5)

Both Corry and Pollak note that they rarely come across this dress code, but just in case, here are some tips.

"For a guy, it means have fun," Pollak explains. This might entail wearing personality-infused accessories (think: unique ties, cufflinks, or even socks) or menswear (think: a jacket in a unique material or color).

It's the same idea for women. "Take yourself less seriously and have fun with your outfit," Corry reiterates. Statement jewelry, shoes, handbags, and more are all game (though Pollak emphasizes keeping comfort in mind).

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Semiformal (Cocktail)

A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (6)

According to Corry, the name says it call. "On the spectrum of wedding attire, semiformal falls somewhere between formal and casual." In her opinion, men's suits can be worn with or without ties.

(Video) Men's Wedding Guest Attire | Explained: Menswear For A Wedding

Pollak deems semiformal "fairly dressy," but admits that, again, women have a lot of flexibility. Cocktail dresses or dressy separates almost always work.

06of 09


A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (7)

Casual attire really varies, and can depend on things like location and time of day. At its most formal, it entails a sport coat. Button-downs, sweaters, and relaxed pants (chinos, khakis, etc.) are usually fine. At its least formal, men can get away with polos and shorts. In all cases, footwear's less restricted (boat shoes may be worn, for example).

Ladies can wear a "less-dressy dress," says Pollak (think: a sundress). More casual shoes, like sandals or flats, are appropriate here.

07of 09


A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (8)

In some cases, you may be asked to wear attire that aligns with a certain culture's customs. For example, a couple having a traditional Indian wedding might ask women to don saris. In these instances, do your research, ask for help when needed, and always dress respectfully.

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08of 09


A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (9)

In today's day and age, anything's possible. We've seen couples send color palettes in their wedding invitations, which their guests were asked to dress according to. We've seen others make Pinterest boards of outfit ideas to inspire their attendees. "Our wedding dress code was upscale-casual, and we asked our guests to be inspired by the Tuscan landscape for their attire," shares Corry, who's pictured above at her wedding in Italy. Most of her celebrants showed up in neutral hues, like these.

Other examples include calls for "festive" attire (clothing that fits into a certain theme) or "beach chic" attire (clothing that's formal enough for a wedding, but suitable for a sandy setting). When faced with imaginative instructions, embrace them, and ask for clarification when needed.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire (10)

(Video) Every Wedding Guest Dress Code Explained from Black Tie to Casual

No indication of what you're supposed to wear, anywhere? If you're having trouble getting answers from the couple, you have a few other options. You can look to the wedding's specifics (the weather, where it's being held, etc.) and dress according to those. Or, you can ask other guests what they're planning to wear. If you know a member of the wedding party, even better—their designated outfits might clue you into what's appropriate.


A Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Guest Attire? ›

Traditional wedding attire wording:

Semi-formal (suit and tie and cocktail dresses) Cocktail attire (suits and party dresses) Beach or garden party attire (summer suits and summer dresses) Casual (button down shirts or polos and summer sundresses or a skirt or pants with a nice blouse)

How do you answer is there a dress code wedding? ›

3. What should I wear?
  1. “The wedding is casual, so please feel free to wear whatever you'd feel best in!”
  2. “The wedding is semi-formal, so we encourage you to wear cocktail attire [for evening events] / Sunday best [for daytime events].”
  3. “The wedding is formal, so we encourage you to wear black tie attire.
Oct 2, 2019

What to tell guests about wedding attire? ›

Traditional wedding attire wording:

Semi-formal (suit and tie and cocktail dresses) Cocktail attire (suits and party dresses) Beach or garden party attire (summer suits and summer dresses) Casual (button down shirts or polos and summer sundresses or a skirt or pants with a nice blouse)

Is there a dress code wedding question? ›

Ladies should wear cocktail dresses, and the gentlemen should wear a suit and tie or a sports coat.” Tip: Wedding attire can be tricky, to avoid confusion in addition to the dress code, let the guests know specifically what they should wear, for example, a suit and tie, tux, formal gown, or floor-length dress.

How do you tell guests attire? ›

The simplest way to tell your guests what they're expected to wear is to put it on the invitation. There is a time-honored glossary of dress-code wording short enough to include on invitations, or on a card inserted with the invitation.

What is dress code answer? ›

The dress code of a place is the rules about what kind of clothes people are allowed to wear there.

How do you ask wedding guests not to wear a certain color? ›

Be Clear and Concise

If you want them to stay within a certain color palette, be sure to list out the acceptable colors and even provide a picture of them! If you want them to avoid certain colors, for example, the bridal colors, so guests don't end up looking like accidental bridesmaids, be clear about that as well.

How do you mention a dress code on an invitation? ›

You can include your Dress Code on the lower left or right-hand corner of the invitation. Alternatively, the Dress Code can be placed at the bottom centre of the design.

How do you politely tell someone to dress appropriately? ›

Watch your wording. Instead of telling an employee, “Your appearance is too messy,” say, “I think your appearance could be more polished.” Or, rather than say, “Your clothes are too revealing,” explain, “It would be beneficial for you to dress more modestly.” Use language that is clear, but also kind.

What is the dress code when attending a wedding? ›

Women should wear a formal floor-length evening gown, no exceptions. Pair your dress with jewelry, heels, and an elegant clutch. Men are required to wear a tuxedo with tails, a formal white shirt, white vest and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and formal footwear, such as derby shoes or oxfords.

What is not appropriate to wear as a wedding guest? ›

Avoid sequined dresses and any clothing that will draw attention away from the bride. A wedding isn't the proper time to make a bold fashion statement. Ditch your everyday jeans and tee. Even if the wedding initiation says “casual”, wearing sneakers, t-shirts, shorts, and jeans are never appropriate for a wedding.

What questions should I ask for dress code? ›

Be direct. Though it won't be the first question you ask, directly ask, “What is the dress code for this position?” It's likely that you'll be asked, “Do you have any other questions?” This is a simple and direct way to get the information you need. Keep a pleasant expression no matter the answer.

How do you classify attire? ›

Classifications are divided into formal wear (full dress), semi-formal wear (half dress), and informal wear (undress). Anything below this level is referred to as casual wear, although sometimes in combinations such as "smart casual" or "business casual" in order to indicate higher expectation than none at all.

How do you describe semi formal attire to guests? ›

Semi formal wedding attire sits at the sweet spot between understated dressy and elevated casual. It's also commonly referred to as “dressy casual” — which can be viewed as a weekend version of business casual. Think: flowy dresses, simple suit jackets, and timeless silhouettes.

What should a female guest wear to a wedding? ›

Semi-formal might be the most common wedding dress code. Think date night at the nicest restaurant in your town. Men should definitely wear slacks and a dress shirt but they can choose if they'd like to wear a tie and sport jacket or not. Women should wear a nice dress, skirt, or pants.

What are the four dress codes? ›

Regardless of whether you are dressing for professional photos, a zoom call, or an actual meeting, it's important to understand the four main classifications of professional workplace attire: business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual.

What is not acceptable for dress code? ›

Never Acceptable

Dirty or wrinkled clothing. Tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Too casual, such as yoga pants, overalls, flip flops or shorts. T-shirts with inappropriate messages or offensive content.

What is your dress code an example of ____? ›

Our dress code is an example of communication.

Are wedding guests supposed to wear the wedding colors? ›

The wedding colours are for the wedding party, not guests

The colour scheme, when it comes to what to wear, is designed for the bridal party i.e. the groom, groomsmen, bridesmaids, pageboys etc. Unless you're in that bridal party, you'd be best to steer clear of trying to match them.

Is it all right to wear black to a wedding? ›

As a general rule, "wearing black is totally acceptable, as the hue is very versatile," Sabatino affirms. However, you should avoid wearing white unless you are told otherwise. That shade, she says, is reserved exclusively for the bride.

Are you not supposed to wear white to someone else's wedding? ›

In general, it's not appropriate for guests to wear white to a wedding. "When you're a guest at a wedding, the most important thing to keep in mind is not to upstage or upset the bride," says wedding dress designer Madeline Gardner. "It's safe to stay away from any outfits that are predominantly white, cream or ivory."

How do you describe a casual dress code? ›

Casual dress code refers to clothing that is informal and comfortable, yet clean and professional. It's best to go with nicer casual wear and avoid the baggier items you wear around the house.

What is a smart casual dress code? ›

Smart casual includes items like blazers, sports jackets, dresses, sweaters, trousers, khakis, skirts, blouses, button-down shirts, polos, dress shoes, boots, heels, flats, scarves and jewelry.

How do you say dress in a fancy way? ›

Synonyms of dress
  1. gown.
  2. jumper.
  3. frock.
  4. kimono.
  5. sundress.
  6. sheath.
  7. chemise.
  8. shirtwaist.

How do you use formal attire in a sentence? ›

Never short of formal attire, he used to ski wearing a tie. A towel covered his shoulders the way a shawl covered his formal attire.

How can you express your personality in the way you dress? ›

Here are some ways:
  1. Accessories- Show off your personality with stylish bracelets and necklaces. ...
  2. Shoes- It can be really fun wearing bright-colored shoes but don't go overboard! ...
  3. Style it – if you have a certain style that's already been established, try putting together outfits that fit into that category.
Jun 10, 2021

How do you say dressy casual on an invitation? ›

"We ask that you wear semi-formal attire such as a cocktail-length dress or dressy separates for women and a suit and tie for men. Please note that the venue does not permit blue jeans or sneakers." "The dress code is Dressy Casual Attire.

What is smart casual dress for a wedding? ›

Smart casual: For the ladies, a summery midi/maxi dress or top and skirt combo are appropriate for a smart casual affair, with a more relaxed shoe style like wedges or even dressy flats. For the guys, a suit is definitely not required.

How would you describe cocktail attire? ›

What is cocktail attire? Ultimately, it aims to strike a balance between formal and casual, as well as elegant and comfortable. For an event with this dress code, such as a wedding, men typically wear a suit and tie while women wear a cocktail dress.

Why can't you wear red to a wedding? ›

Why was red traditionally inappropriate for wedding guest attire? “Tradition dictates guests avoid wearing red out of fear that it could take attention away from the happy couple,” explains Hurwitz. “Visually, it's quite bold.

What guests don't care about at wedding? ›

Here are 6 things your wedding guests do NOT care about:
  • Professional Wedding Website. We are in favor of keeping it classy and professional, but when it comes to your wedding website, your guests aren't necessarily looking for something fancy. ...
  • Bouquet Toss or Garter Toss. ...
  • The Guest Book. ...
  • Wedding Favors. ...
  • Long Reception.
Jun 16, 2021

What to wear at a wedding that doesn t have a dress code? ›

Your best bet is cocktail attire. Sure, you might be overdressed if it ends up being a more relaxed affair, but you'll fit right in at a cocktail attire party, and (with the right accessories) can easily dress up for something on the more formal side. Women should opt for a dress in a luxe fabric, such as silk.

What is the most common dress code? ›

The most common dress codes are black tie, cocktail, dressy casual, and business.

What is general information about dress code? ›

A dress code is a set of rules, often written, with regard to what clothing groups of people must wear. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions.

Is it OK to ask about dress code? ›

If you spoke with a recruiter or hiring manager on the phone, you can simply ask them what the dress code is ahead of your interview or the first day of work. If you have already been hired, they might forget to mention the dress code to you.

What are the three types of dress codes? ›

There are generally four types of corporate dress codes: Business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual.

What is dressy casual for a woman? ›

"This is where you're thinking more light colors and casual materials," she says, versus fancier fare like satin and sparkles. You can wear things that are a little more flowy, and even bold prints are acceptable. "That really cute sundress or maxi dress is a great example of dressy casual,” Swann says.

Can a woman wear pants to semi-formal wedding? ›

Perfectly Polished Pants

Dress pants are an ideal pick for women's semi-formal wedding attire. This simple staple really wows the crowd and is figure-flattering to boot. Are pants your pick for a wedding guest look? Choose a pair of slim-fit ankle trousers or make a statement in wide-leg slacks.

Is semi-formal or cocktail attire fancier? ›

Cocktail attire is a smidge more formal than semiformal attire, and is often for weddings held later in the day, while semiformal is usually for afternoon weddings. Avoid a tuxedo and go for a well-tailored suit with a solid shirt—tie optional but encouraged.

What is the difference between semi-formal and casual attire? ›

Semi-formal means that the attire is more casual but still considered 'dressy. ' You wouldn't wear a tuxedo to a semi-formal event. Instead, something much closer to business casual would be appropriate. Casual dress shirts with dress pants would be appropriate for a semi-formal event.

What should a female guest not wear to a wedding? ›

It doesn't matter if the dress code requests "casual" attire; jeans, T-Shirts, shorts, and sneakers are never appropriate to wear as a wedding guest. Show respect for the bride and groom by dressing formally.

Can a female guest wear pants to a wedding? ›

Yes, of course, you can! Whether a man or woman, you should feel free to wear pants or jumpsuits to a wedding as a guest. Just be sure to avoid anything too casual, like denim or athleisure wear. And make sure your outfit is still appropriate for the formality of the wedding.

Should a female guest wear black to a wedding? ›

Generally, wearing black to a wedding is appropriate. "Guests can absolutely wear black to a wedding," says Shawne Jacobs, President and Creative Director of Anne Barge. "In the past, black was a color typically worn for mourning.

How do you describe dress code on an invitation? ›

Use straightforward wording to get your point across.

Wording for dress codes might be: Black tie (tuxedos and formal gowns) Formal, black tie optional (suit and tie and dresses) Semi-formal (suit and tie and cocktail dresses)

How do you talk about dress codes? ›

  1. Thoroughly Detail Acceptable Dress. Acceptable dress should be detailed in an employee handbook and discussed even before hire so that new employees can prepare to comply. ...
  2. Be Consistent with the Policy. ...
  3. Have Reasons to Back up the Code. ...
  4. Send Out Reminders or Updates. ...
  5. Meet with the Employee Privately.

How do you ask if there is a dress code for a party? ›

If a dress code request is unclear, delicately ask the host for further explanation. "You can say, 'I wanted to check in on the dress code' or ask what people will be wearing and offer what you were thinking of," suggests Lockard. "Just ask for clarification."

Do you need a dress code for a wedding? ›

Although it's rare, some weddings simply have no dress code at all. If you choose not to have a dress code at your wedding, expect your guests to turn up wearing a mixture of different styles and looks. Most guests will err on the side of caution, and wear something smart.

What is a nice way to say dress code? ›

What is another word for dress code?
dress policyrules on attire
acceptable attireacceptable dress
dress requirementsstandards on dress
specifications on dressrequirements on attire

How do you write an inclusive dress code? ›

How do you write an inclusive dress code policy? An inclusive dress code policy accounts for and promotes diversity. You should consider qualities like religion, gender identity and expression, cultural identity and disabilities. Make sure that your policy doesn't discriminate against individuals for any reason.

What communication our dress code is an example of? ›

Answer: Nonverbal communication can be seen in our dress code.

Can you give wedding guests a dress code? ›

Mentioning a dress code ensures your event stays as formal or as casual as you want, and it's helpful for guests to know exactly what is expected of them for attire. Here you will find some helpful ideas for wording your Dress Code whether you're hosting a formal or casual wedding.

What do female guests wear to weddings? ›

Formal or Black-Tie Optional

So, a tuxedo isn't required, but can still be worn if preferred. If opting for a suit, however, a formal dark suit, white shirt, and a conservative tie are acceptable. For women, the outfit choices remain the same: a floor-length gown, a fancy cocktail dress, or a dressy pantsuit.


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