It can be a rather daunting task figuring out what to wear to a wedding. What’s the proper etiquette depending on the type of event? You’ll learn all about it and more below including:
- Simple, proper wedding attire etiquette tips
- What the kids should wear
- What to wear to an informal wedding vs. a more formal affair
- Any exceptions to the rules
The Question: What’s the proper attire for a wedding?
“I was invited to a 5pm wedding ceremony held at a chapel. The reception is being held at a very nice hotel.
I have read that your attire should go by the invitations style. I have a few choices but am a little indecisive. My friend is a laid back person who loves color, but I fear that her wedding will be slightly formal.
My first option is to wear a cute red-violet halter style dress with a few sequins and my second option is a pair of tan tweed flair trousers that have a hint of dark brown and pink with a cute pink silk tank and a dark pink tailored tweed jacket. I like them both but am leaning towards the trouser set. What do you think would be appropriate? I need help.”
It sounds like this event is formal. The selections you have sound nice but I wouldn’t recommend you wear either option. My suggestion is that to be safe you should wear something more in line with a 5:00 p.m. and after formal affair. I’m not comfortable recommending the flair tweed pants with a tank and jacket or red/violet halter dress fit that bill.
Try looking for a nice black, blue, violet or mocha/brown dress with sequins. A wrap or light jacket to accent the dress is a nice touch. Or, you could get a suit in any of the aforementioned colors and dress it up with a sequined colored tank or shell. Add a pair of matching sparking sling back shoes with a complementing metallic clutch purse (for any of the options) and you are definitely ready for a 5:00 p.m./formal affair.
You don’t have to spend a lot. I’ve helped find attire like this in places such as Marshall’s and TJMaxx with great success. My favorite secret place for sequined or sparkling tanks and metallic purses is Target.
Other Expert Answers
“It can be a fairly dark-colored dress, but it is considered rude to wear black to a wedding (superstition is that black is associated with death, as if you were mourning the wedding). It seems like a very classy event, so an after-5/cocktail type dress is likely best. Also, not white (superstition is trying to outshine the bride, and white is very day-time-ish).”
“Times have changed and I think black is generally okay at weddings these days. However, you may want to base your decision on your knowledge of the couple; if they’re very traditional or formal (or superstitious!), you might want to choose another color. I’ve worn black to an evening wedding reception. I found that a good idea was to “lighten” the outfit by wearing a colourful shawl and jewelry.
Evening weddings (5pm and later) are generally formal attire, however the invite should say formal or black tie attire. A black dress is fine, but if its formal I would say it should be on the longer side, (as opposed to a short or tea length dress) if it is formal tux and bow tie for hubby if its not noted in the invite, either ask you friend who’s getting married or someone else who is going.”
Figuring out what to wear to a wedding is one of the most fun – and most trying – parts of being a wedding guest. Sure you can take your cues from the invitation, but what does “black tie optional” or “festive attire” really mean? And what should you wear to a formal daytime summer wedding, or a destination wedding?
The etiquette for proper wedding guest attire can vary greatly depending on the style of the wedding. You’ll have to become a little bit of a detective, but fear not. There are clues everywhere.
Start off with the invitation. Is it in flowing engraved black script on a heavy cream paper with formal language? Odds are the wedding will be similarly formal. Does it cheekily ask you to come see them get hitched? Wedding guests should look for a nice casual outfit. And of course, it may tell you directly on the invitation – black tie, casual attire etc.
Think about where the wedding is located – if it’s outdoors avoid anything that will get caught in the wind – you won’t want a battle of wills between the wind and your modesty!
Avoid high heeled shoes that will sink in the sand or in the grass. If it’s in a hot location avoid the suit and go for a breezy dress to help you keep your cool. Indoors at the country club or fancy restaurant? Make your outfit slightly more tailored and dressy.
Examples of What to Wear to a Formal (ie- 5pm) Wedding
Examples of What to Wear to an Informal Wedding
Other Helpful Resources
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.How do you answer is there a dress code wedding? ›
- “The wedding is casual, so please feel free to wear whatever you'd feel best in!”
- “The wedding is semi-formal, so we encourage you to wear cocktail attire [for evening events] / Sunday best [for daytime events].”
- “The wedding is formal, so we encourage you to wear black tie attire.
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.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.When a wedding invitation says formal attire What does that mean? ›
As the name suggests, it allows more flexibility than a black-tie dress code. Men can wear tuxedos or formal dark suits, and women can wear anything from evening gowns to dressy cocktail attire.
The dress code of a place is the rules about what kind of clothes people are allowed to wear there.How do you have a dress code conversation? ›
One way to ask about the dress code is to be direct. 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.How do I tell guests about dress code? ›
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 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.Is it OK to tell people what color to wear at a wedding? ›
You have the option of requesting that your wedding guests wear a certain color, but you must do it in a kind and courteous manner. This is due to the fact that they will object to being instructed on how to dress. That is why you must ask them respectfully and politely.
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.What is considered semi formal for a wedding? ›
What is Semi Formal Wedding Attire? 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.Does formal attire for a wedding mean a long dress? ›
While there are exceptions for different situations, the formality of a dress tends to depend on length and tailoring. Typically formal dresses are floor length, though midi or knee-length options can work for certain occasions.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.Do you have to wear a floor length dress to a formal wedding? ›
Full Length Gowns
Traditionally women are expected to wear a floor length evening dress to a formal wedding. Often a sophisticated and dressy cocktail dress is also appropriate, however if the bride is traditional we recommend a floor length dress. A full length dress means that the ankle is not visible.
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 are the main types of dress codes? ›
- "Casual" Casual is basically a non-dress code, and you can wear comfortable clothing. ...
- "Business Casual" ...
- "Smart Casual" ...
- "Business / Informal" ...
- "Semi-Formal" ...
- "Formal / Black Tie / Black Tie Optional"
Our dress code is an example of communication.What is smart dress code for ladies? ›
A smart casual dress code for women includes combining a polished piece with something more laid back. Some examples are a day dress paired with heels or a shirt dress styled with trainers and a stylish shoulder bag. Depending on the office setting, jewellery and accessories should be kept to a minimum if you prefer.What is smart attire for ladies? ›
For women, this means that items such as a classic two-piece suit or corporate dresses can be avoided. To nail the smart casual look, choose items such as: Tops: Neutral or colourful and/or print blouses and shirts, smart cardigans in dressy fabrics such as crepe knit, silk button up shirts or collared shirts.
"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.Should couples wear the same color to a wedding? ›
Couples should look put together and have a cohesive look on their wedding day. You don't need to match completely, but looking like you go together is important. Should couples wear the same color on their wedding day? If you want to match exactly, you can.Is it OK to wear a dress to a wedding that is the same color as the bridesmaids? ›
Lizzie Post, host of the podcast Awesome Etiquette from the Emily Post Institute, says that no guest should ever feel embarrassed if they happen to wear the same color as the bridesmaids, but they can ask in advance what the colors will be if they're concerned about it.Is it appropriate 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.What is the most common dress code? ›
The most common dress codes are black tie, cocktail, dressy casual, and business.What is the most dress code? ›
Also known as “full evening dress”, white tie attire is considered the most formal of all dress codes.What are dress codes important? ›
Dress codes are used to communicate to employees what the organization considers appropriate work attire. A dress code or appearance policy allows an employer to set expectations regarding the image it wants the company to convey. Dress codes can be formal or informal and might include the use of uniforms.What does your dress code say about you? ›
Your dressing sense reflects your personality, character, mood, style and what actually you are as an individual. People wearing gaudy clothes with loud make up are generally extroverts and love partying. You really can make out what sort of person an individual is by his/her dressing.What kind of dress do you wear to a wedding? ›
Wear darker, more formal colors for an evening wedding,and opt for light colors and fabrics for a daytime event. Try a below-the-knee dress or a dressy skirt and top. An elegant pantsuit is also appropriate. Floor-length gowns, however, would be inappropriate.Can I wear a full length dress to a semi-formal wedding? ›
Try to avoid going too long or too short.
"Miniskirts and floor-length gowns are off limits," says Dupuis. Shopping for semi-formal dresses is all about finding that happy medium. "If you fancy wearing a maxi dress, just make sure the fabric isn't too dressy," the fashion expert says.
Dressing for a semi-formal wedding also allows for diverse dress lengths, as mini, knee-length, midi, and floor-length frocks are all acceptable depending on the design.Can formal wedding be short dress? ›
Can you wear a short dress to a wedding? A common question we get, and the answer to it is so simple! You can wear short or long dresses, as long as they are embellished in some way, and could even wear a tailored suit!What does formal attire mean for a man? ›
What is the formal dress code for men? The formal dress code for men is the most traditional option and generally consists of a full suit or tuxedo. Accessories, such as neckties and pocket squares, are not typically allowed. The modern formal dress for men stipulates tuxedos, bowties and tailored fits.Can a short dress be formal? ›
Yes, you can wear short dresses to formal events! Just be sure to choose a style that is appropriate for the occasion. No matter what you choose, you'll look great as long as you feel confident in your outfit. Looking for similar fashion advice that you can use in all facets of your life?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.Can I wear a knee length dress to formal wedding? ›
"A knee-length dress, midi dress, or even a flowy maxi dress are all appropriate; I also love the idea of a jumpsuit, suit or a patterned suit or a tuxedo with a standard necktie rather than a bow tie."Do you have to wear heels to a formal wedding? ›
A wedding doesn't require towering heels. For those who want something smaller, these kitten heel shoes are a stylish and chic way to go. They also come in black for an even more versatile option.How short can your dress be as a wedding guest? ›
If you're wearing a short dress, be sure that it's no shorter than an inch above your knee. It's okay for your dress to be tailored to fit you, but be sure you're dress is not too tight.
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.
Be sure your tone isn't going to make her defensive — delivery is everything. Politely say, “Unfortunately, your desire to bring a guest can't be accommodated this time, but I am looking forward to seeing you at the event.”What means something you should never wear as a wedding guest? ›
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 you tell your wedding guests what color to wear? ›
Yes, you can definitely ask your wedding guests to wear a certain color! This is a great way to help tie your wedding together and create a cohesive look. Plus, it can be really fun for your guests to get to dress up in their best duds!Why are you not supposed to wear red or black to a wedding? ›
“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. In a photo, your eye is immediately drawn to the color, especially if it's next to neutrals like white, black, gray, or beige.”What to say when someone asks why they weren t invited? ›
If someone asks you why they were not invited to your party, you might explain those limitations if they are indeed the case. If you had other reasons for not inviting this particular person, I don't think it is polite to point them out. A simple “I am sorry, but I was limited as to my guest list” should suffice.Is it rude to not allow plus ones? ›
Choosing not to invite any long-term partners can be seen as an etiquette faux pas, so keep this in mind as you begin creating your wedding guest list. It's also considered common courtesy to extend a plus-one to any members of your wedding party.What if the wedding invitation doesn't say plus-one? ›
If your invitation did not include a plus-one, under no circumstances should you arrive at a wedding with an uninvited guest. If the person who was originally going to attend with you is not coming, ask the couple if you can bring someone else instead.