Here’s What to Wear to a Wedding, According to the Experts (2023)

At a loss when it comes to choosing wedding guest attire? Here's our guide to what to wear to a wedding—and what you should avoid wearing at all costs.

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While it’s exciting to get an invitation in the mail, figuring out what to wear to a wedding might be a little less exciting. Butdress codes don’t have to be hard! If you pair the dress code with what you know about the setting—and throw in a few expert styling tips—you’ll be guaranteed to be the best-dressed person there (aside from the bride, of course!). We asked Ani Hovhannisyan, a wardrobe stylist and founder of bridal styling companyThrough the Veil, to decode the dress codes you’re likely to see come wedding season and provide suggestions for wedding guest outfits.

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Stop starting blankly at your closet and read our dos and don’ts on what to wear to a wedding.

A Casual Backyard or Outdoor Wedding

DO:Wear a short, playful dress in pastel colors. “You can even wear flats if the wedding will be in the grass and is super casual,” says Hovhannisyan.
DON’T:Overdress. “When figuring out what to wear to a wedding, remember that it’s rude to look more formal than the bride, and if the wedding is casual, her dress might be on the more simple side,” she explains. So keep the embellishment and fancy details to a minimum! Also, don’t forget aboutthe weatherand the setting. “Don’t wear something you’ll regret getting dirty, and don’t wear suede if it looks like rain. You might want to bring an extra pair of shoes with you in case the weather does get messy.”

A Casual Beach Wedding

DO:Choose something airy and light, like a maxi dress or a crochet skirt with a silk cami. “Dress simply, yet elegantly. Don’t wear too many layers, and chooseflats or shoes you can easily get on and offif you’ll be in the sand,” Hovhannisyan suggests.
DON’T:Overdo the accessories. “This setting calls for a light, natural look. Choose stud earrings or dainty dangly ones instead of big statement jewelry.”

A Formal Beach Wedding

DO:Accessorize wisely. “If you want to wear more flashy jewelry, a formal wedding is the time to do it—just choose one flashy accessory and no more than one other piece of jewelry as an accent,” Hovhannisyan says. Formal beach weddings often take place at bigger hotels or resorts, making a dressed-up vibe fit well. “Again, refrain from heels unless you know you won’t be in the sand!”
DON’T:Go crazy with thebeach motif. “When figuring out what to wear to a wedding, incorporate a beachy vibe through your hair and makeup. If your hair is longer, opt for loose, tousled curls. Your makeup should be sun-kissed and bronzy,” says Hovhannisyan.

A Rustic-Chic Wedding in the Mountains

DO:Bring a jacket, as it tends to get cold at night. “If you’re wearing something more formal and want to stick to the theme, incorporate a suede belt or cowboy boots,” says Hovhannisyan. “I once had a bride do her bridal portraits on a horse farm, in a short lace dress and boots. She was so in her element!” You might want to wear a cocktail dress or a bell sleeve, crepe dress that hits above the knee, especially if it is a more casual setting. “And if you’re a hat gal, this is the time to whip out your favorite felt or cowboy hat!”
DON’T:Wedding guest outfitsshouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. “Try not to wear anything that’s got too much fabric or is overly bohemian,” Hovhannisyan advises. “The mountainside is about relaxation and ease, but don’t forget the ‘chic’ part of the dress code!”

(Video) What To Wear To A Wedding - Expert Fashion Tips

A Semi-Formal Cocktail Party at an Art Gallery

DO:Pick a cocktail dress or chic suit. “When deciding what to wear to a wedding in an art gallery setting, know that it’s a great time to wear your statement dress or accessories that are a little more eye-catching. Chances are everyone will be in more fashion-forward attire,” Hovhannisyan says. “Definitely wear heels, and add a chic layer like a faux-fur stole.”
DON’T:Wear anything that could come across as too informal. Think of this as a gallery opening, not a casual stop in while you’re running errands in street clothes. “Men should skip the sneakers or daytime slacks in favor of tailored pants (even in a bright color). Your attire should be crisp, but can definitely be creative!”

A Semi-Formal Cocktail Party at a Hotel

DO:Keep your attire crisp.The semi-formal aspectdoes allow you to dress down, but only slightly. “Men could wear dark jeans with a blazer and a crisp button-down, while women could wear a tea-length dress or a form-fitting pencil dress,” says Hovhannisyan. Think after-work drinks, somewhere between business and cocktail attire.
DON’T:Wear everyday clothes. “Skip t-shirts, light denim, sneakers, and big purses,” she says. Your accessories should be chosen intentionally: A chic clutch or small handbag, nice shoes, and more formal fabrics are key.

A Black Tie Wedding at a High-End Venue

DO:Walk the line between black tie and white tie. “If the wedding is at, for example, the New York Public Library, it’s one of the most sophisticated settings a couple can choose,” says Hovhannisyan. “Yes, it’s formal, and yes, men need to wear a tux!” For women’s wedding guest attire, lean toward a floor-length gown - and even consider a train. “It doesn’t need to be as structured as a gown for a white tie affair, but should still be elegant and regal.” It could be an a-line, Grecian, slinky, or poufy design, as long as it touches the floor. “Bonus points if your dress has a slit!” she adds, “And heels are a must.”
DON’T:Go too casual. With such a formal setting, even a cocktail dress isn’t quite enough unless the invitation specifically asks for it. Err on the side of fancier for wedding guest outfits, as the bride will definitely be wearing a statement gown to match the setting.

(Video) Quality clothing and expert tailoring keep everyone in style

A Formal Ballroom or Golf Club Wedding

DO:Consider the setting.“These settings walk the line between semi-formal and formal, so depending on the setting and the couple’s style, you could wear a silver lamé jumpsuit or a cocktail dress with statement jewelry,” Hovhannisyan explains. For a ballroom celebration, you might want to go with a longer dress, while a cocktail dress is great for a golf club wedding.
DON’T:Forget to examine the invitation. When deciding what to wear to a wedding, the invitation’s wording and design will give you clues into what is a good fit: A sleek, shining invite is begging for that jumpsuit, while a muted design with a floral motif is probably not going to be the right setting for something so fashion-forward.

A Few Extra Tips

  • When it comes to what to wear to a wedding, know the difference between black and white tie. “White tie is the most formal dress code, where men must wear a black tailcoat, a white wing-collared shirt, and a white bow tie. Women should wear structured, floor-length gowns with a train,” says Hovhannisyan. Bust out your nicest jewelry, best shoes, and a fur coat if you’ve got one. “White tie is definitely not a fluid dress code!”Black tie, on the other hand, allows for a little more flexibility. “Women can wear short or long dresses, as long as they are embellished in some way, and could even wear a tailored suit. Men should wear tuxedos, but a black suit with a black bowtie could work if you don’t own one or don’t want to rent.”
  • If you’re trying to figure out what to wear to a wedding, dig into your closet to identify your options. “If everyone you know is getting married, look for basics that you can mix-and-match,” she says. “I love a black pencil skirt with a bodysuit, changing up the bodysuit’s style to fit the occasion and weather and layering blazers or capes if needed.” And don’t feel like you’re limited to skirts and dresses. “Jumpsuits and tailored suits are great, too,” says Hovhannisyan. “As long as you accessorize well and have great hair and nails, you’re good to go!”

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What is acceptable to wear to a wedding as a guest? ›

Formal: floor length gowns, tuxedos optional, black suits acceptable. Semi-Formal: below the knee dresses, dress shirts, slacks. Casual: sundresses, collared shirts, khakis.

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.

Is it better to be overdressed or underdressed for a wedding? ›

It's better to be overdressed than underdressed, but find a happy medium that won't have you mistaken for the groom. Don't Match the Bridal Party. As a guest, you don't want to blend in with the wedding party (or even mimic it).

Is it OK for a woman to wear a suit to a wedding? ›

Totally fine! Just make sure they're dressy enough for the nuptials. Start with tailored trousers and a polished blouse, or make things easy for yourself by grabbing a matching blazer. Pant suits are a great way to go, or you can coordinate the color of your pants with your top, like this monochrome moment.

What color should you not wear to a wedding as a guest? ›

Steer clear of off-white, eggshell, beige, champagne, cream, or any other super light color that could be mistaken for white. There are so many dress options available in a variety of hues, so steering clear of these shades should not be a major issue.

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.

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.

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

In the past, wearing black to a wedding was frowned upon, because black was a colour traditionally worn at funerals and when in mourning.

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 average cash gift for a wedding? ›

“The average gift that people give for a wedding is around $100, and that stays consistent whether they're giving a physical product or a cash gift,” says Emily Forrest, director of communications for Zola, a wedding registry website.

Do you have to wear heels to a wedding as a guest? ›

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.

Is it rude to wear a long dress to a wedding? ›

For a more formal wedding, it is typically expected that female guests wear a long dress. But instead of breaking out the gown you wore to prom, try wearing a more appropriate evening gown. If the wedding is during the day, a pretty maxi dress should do the trick.

Can a woman wear black pants 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.

What color to wear to a wedding? ›

You may choose to wear any color except black or white. The guest's goal should be to blend in with the surroundings and let the bride shine. As her guest, you should avoid attire that could be considered informal or in bad taste. Pastels, jewel tones and earth tones are excellent choices, as are most primary colors.

Can I wear black to a wedding? ›

To recap: as long as it's not considered culturally inappropriate or against the dress code, you can wear black to a wedding. Depending on where the couple is exchanging vows, which season their special day is taking place in, and what time of day everything begins, black may or may not be your best color option.

What colors not to wear to a wedding red? ›

You should avoid white because that color is typically reserved for the bride.

Is it OK to wear sparkly shoes to a wedding? ›

For brides and wedding guests that ask “can I wear sparkly shoes to a wedding” wonder no more. Yes! Sparkling shoes often add interest, joy and energy to an ensemble, all of which are great attributes for weddings.

Is it OK to wear pink to a wedding? ›

Is pink appropriate for a wedding?” There's no rule here, but it depends on the shade of pink. While dark pinks and light reds are appropriate, blush and other shades of light pink have a chance of looking too similar to the bridesmaids, or getting washed out and looking white in photos.

Is it better to wear a long or short dress to a wedding? ›

Women should wear a formal floor-length gown that does not reveal the ankles at the hem of the dress, but if the wedding seems a bit less formal, a sophisticated cocktail dress may also be acceptable. Women may also wear elegant pantsuits. Men must wear a tuxedo.

Is a 4pm wedding formal? ›

A daytime celebration (typically less formal) is held before 6 p.m., while an evening wedding (typically more formal) is held after 6 p.m. or begins a bit before and continues well into the night.

Can I wear a maxi dress to a wedding? ›

Absolutely! Wearing a maxi dress to a wedding is a great choice year-round. Be comfortable and fashionable when you spare the gown and wear a maxi-length dress to a wedding. Also known as a tea-length or a full-length dress, a maxi dress is long with a hemline that typically rests at or just below your ankles.

Does red mean you slept with the groom? ›

According to Bustle, the only place where wearing red to a wedding indicates the guest has slept with the groom is in southern parts of the US.

Can you wear floral white to a wedding? ›

"According to the Emily Post Institute, it's acceptable to wear white, as long as it doesn't 'distract from the bride or her attendant's dresses.

Is it rude to wear a red dress to a wedding? ›

So if you do love the color red and have found a great outfit then you should be fine to wear it. It should not take anything away from the bride, and if you're comfortable in the outfit, then go for it. And actually, the color red symbolizes love and passion, so you could argue it's very appropriate!

Is it OK to wear pants to a wedding? ›

Can you wear pants to a wedding? Yes, you absolutely can. If you don't like dresses or your legs are not your best feature, pants are totally acceptable, so long as you keep the time of day and venue in mind.

Can you wear a short dress to a wedding? ›

Is it inappropriate to wear a mini dress to a wedding? Definitely not! Mini dresses are appropriate for casual, cocktail, and semi-formal weddings. However, for a black tie, white tie, or formal dress code, skip the mini and instead opt for a floor-length gown.

Can you wear black to a wedding as mother of the groom? ›

Colors a Mother of the Groom Should NOT Wear

"Skip black or white, unless the bride and groom have requested it. And do not match the bridal party colors unless requested to do so," says Valiente.

Should you go braless in wedding dress? ›

Not only do bras not work with most wedding gowns, but most brides actually don't even want to wear them. "I find that many brides are opposed to wearing a bra under the gown," says Chapman. However, everyone's body type is different, and brides with larger chests may not feel comfortable without the support of a bra.

Should you wear nylons to a wedding? ›

The truth is, as the mother-of-the-groom, you can wear whatever you want to the ceremony. While it's not required to wear pantyhose to weddings, we highly encourage you to look and feel fabulous for the occasion. Thigh highs are a glamorous way to help you reach this goal.

Can I go braless in my wedding dress? ›

If your cup size is small enough, you may be able to get away without a bra, while brides with larger busts might feel more comfortable wearing one. "Sewn-in cups or built-in corsets can be sufficient for support for larger chested brides if they're done well," Brickman adds.

Is $100 enough to give at a wedding? ›

If it's a co-worker or a distant friend, recommends guests give at least $75-$100 on the wedding present. If your guest is a relative or a friend, the wedding website suggests somewhere between $100 and $125.

Is $100 a generous wedding gift? ›

The average wedding gift amount hovers right around $100, which is a great place to start, and you can increase or decrease that based on how close you are. If you're very close or related to the couple (and have the wiggle room in your budget), you may choose to spend more—about $150 per guest (or $200 from a couple).

What is a fair money gift for a wedding? ›

They suggest the following breakdown: coworkers or distant relatives should spend 50 to 75 dollars. Friends or relatives, 75 to 100 dollars. For close friends, family, or if you are in the wedding party, you should spend 100 to 150 dollars—or more.

Do shoes and bag have to match for wedding? ›

No, there is no rule that would say that shoes and a purse have to match for a wedding. Nor any other formal event. However, people believe that wearing matching shoes and the bag makes women look more sophisticated.

Can you wear open toed shoes to a wedding? ›

Of course a closed-toe wedding shoe is recommended for cooler climates; however, for warmer wedding days, open-toe shoes are the norm. For black-tie weddings, closed-toe shoes are little more expected, but not a must. I recommend keeping an open mind on closed-toe and open-toe shoes.

What shoes to wear to a wedding when you can't wear heels? ›

  • BLOCK HEEL PUMPS. Block heels offer comfort in a chic way. ...
  • HEELED MULES. Mules are the “it girl” shoe. ...
  • KITTEN HEEL MULES. This shoe is understated in the most perfect way! ...
  • CALF BOOTS. ...

Is 40 too old to wear a wedding dress? ›

Nope. In fact, the maxim we subscribe to is, no matter your age, it's your day and you deserve to feel beautiful, whether that's in a princessy white ball gown or a hot-pink mini.

Is it OK to wear a knee length dress to a wedding as a guest? ›

"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." As for accessories, a "colorful shoe, patterned tie, statement piece of jewelry or a fun pair of sunglasses (if the ...

Is it OK to wear a long black dress 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.

Can mom wear pants to wedding? ›

Of course! A pantsuit is a chic and timeless choice for a mother of the groom or mother of the bride. Jumpsuits are a similar and equally appropriate option for moms that differ from a traditional dress.

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

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.

Can I wear a jumpsuit to a wedding? ›

Are jumpsuits appropriate to wear to a wedding? Absolutely! Jumpsuits are an appropriate and stylish choice for any type of dress code and wedding.

What is the most elegant color for wedding? ›

What colors can give your wedding an incredible elegant look? The traditional black and white , and gold are foreverclassic, besides, some soft colors like pink, blush, grey and purple are also very popular in elegant weddings.

Can I wear floral to a wedding? ›

Can I wear a floral pattern to a wedding? Yes! A floral print outfit is an appropriate and stylish choice for all seasons and types of weddings.

What colors should not be worn together? ›

7 Worst color combinations to avoid
  • Yellow and green. Yellow and green are two of the most popular colors in the world. ...
  • Brown and orange. ...
  • Red and green. ...
  • Neon and Neon. ...
  • Purple and yellow. ...
  • Red and purple. ...
  • Black and Navy.
Aug 18, 2022

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.

Is it OK to wear black to a summer wedding? ›

Is a black dress appropriate for a summer wedding? Our resounding answer is yes! When you style black right, you certainly can! A black dress or skirt is effortlessly elegant.

Can you wear black to a semi formal wedding? ›

When the Attire is Semi-Formal or Cocktail Attire. If you're wondering, "Can you wear black to a wedding that has a semi-formal or cocktail attire dress code?" the answer is yes. Especially if the ceremony starts after 5PM, darker colors are encouraged; while lighter colors are appropriate if the ceremony starts later.

Can you wear normal clothes to a wedding? ›

Umm, yes of course you can, there is nothing you cannot wear. You can also choose coordinated tops and skirts, if you want the closest look to an evening dress.

Can I wear 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."

What do you wear to a 4pm outdoor wedding? ›

If the event is not for a beach wedding, but some hours after lunchtime, the typical dress-code of an afternoon wedding is semi-formal. Consequently, it calls for cocktail dresses, LBDs or modest party dresses. If the invitation asks for formal attire, go for a cocktail dress or a dressy LBD.

What is wedding guest list etiquette? ›

Traditionally, no matter who's paying for your event, you should split your wedding guest list into three parts: one-third are guests of the bride's parents, one-third are guests of the groom's, and the rest are guests of the couple.

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.

What is too casual to wear to a wedding? ›

Avoid jeans, shorts, tank tops, and tennis shoes, unless the invitation specifically says otherwise. Sandals are tricky, as some might consider them too casual for an event like a wedding, while others say sandals are the obvious choice for casual beach nuptials.

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.

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.

Can I wear a blazer over a dress to a wedding? ›

A Fancy Blazer

And you can always go super classic in a tuxedo-style blazer. A wool one like Allie Provost did here is great but love that she opted to coordinate it with her dress instead of just grabbing a black one. A fun and fancy blazer would be great for a cocktail dress code, or semi-formal.

How formal is a 4 o'clock wedding? ›

A morning wedding typically calls for casual dress, while a ceremony after 5 p.m. generally calls for formal attire.

What do you wear to a casual outdoor summer wedding? ›

Casual Summer Wedding Attire

Pretty, flowy dresses paired with sandals works for women. An open-collared shirt, chinos and boat shoes are great for men. Keep in mind that if you're not sure how casual is "casual" then it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed (just don't show up in a gown or a tuxedo).

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.

Who should sit with who at a wedding? ›

Traditionally, the newlyweds sit in the middle of the table, with the bride seated to the groom's right. Same-sex couples can feel free to seat themselves as they'd like. For a male/female pattern around the table, seat the best man next to the bride and the maid of honor next to the groom.

Can I bring a plus-one to a wedding? ›

In general, the term “plus-one,” most commonly used in reference to weddings, grants an invited guest permission to bring someone with them to an event. When engaged couples allocate plus-ones, it's important to note that the plus-one does not apply to every guest.


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