What to Wear to a Wedding: The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Codes
Not sure what to wear to a wedding? Check out this guide with suggestions for every season, dress code, and color scheme.
If you’ve ever been invited to a wedding, you may have encountered the experience of wedding attire confusion. Conventional advice suggests checking the wedding invitation or wedding website for clues about the event’s dress code. Whether or not the attire is indicated on the wedding invitation, you may still have some questions about what is appropriate to wear. Planning what to wear to a wedding might start to feel as overwhelming as planning a wedding yourself!
In this guide, we’ll outline suggestions for how to dress for a wedding under any and every circumstance. From decoding wedding dress codes, to seasonally appropriate styles, to other tricky circumstances, you should find the answers to your wedding attire questions here. By the end of this article, you should know exactly what not to wear and have plenty of suggestions for what to shop for if you don’t have something appropriate in your closet.
Wedding Attire Do’s and Don’ts
If you’re wondering about what to wear to a wedding as a guest, you’ll want to keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:
Wedding Outfit Do’s:
Do check the wedding invitation for clues. Often, couples will include a note about the wedding attire within their wedding invitations or alternatively on their wedding website. Make sure to check there and consider all other avenues before asking the couple for direction.
Do dress in a way that fits the vibe of the event. Your outfit choice should reflect the style, theme, location, or overall vibe of the wedding. If the wedding is taking place in a city, you’ll likely choose something different than you would if it was a backyard wedding.
Do consider the timing of the event. A daytime brunch wedding or a nighttime cocktail reception are two very different styles of events. Dress appropriately for the timing of the celebration.
Do keep climate in mind. Depending on the location and season of the wedding, your attire could vary greatly. You’ll want to dress comfortably no matter the weather.
Do choose appropriate footwear. Skip the flip-flops, even for a casual wedding you can at least opt for a chic flat. And keep the terrain in mind– stilettos aren’t the best choice for a garden reception if you’re walking in grass.
Do stay on theme. If the couple has planned a theme wedding, do your part to find something appropriate. That’s half the fun, and it obviously means something to them if they planned their big day around a particular theme.
Wedding Outfit Don’ts:
Don’t wear dresses that are too revealing. It’s important to keep it classy and respectful when attending a wedding. Ladies, keep an eye on your neckline and the length of your skirt. You don’t want grandpa to get a peek at your lingerie, do you? Also, steer clear of anything that’s extra sheer.
Don’t overdress or underdress. Consider the formality of the event and make sure your outfit is on par with the level of the event. It’s always better to overdress than underdress… but don’t go overboard. Wearing sequins to a casual daytime wedding will just look out of place. You shouldn’t wear anything that could upstage, outshine, or pull focus from the happy couple. It’s their day, not your runway.
Don’t wear white if you’re not the bride. Unless explicitly instructed or requested by the couple, never wear a white to a wedding as a guest. We’d even suggest staying away from off-whites, creams, ivory, champagne, or anything that could potentially look white. Any styles that remotely look like wedding dresses should be avoided.
Don’t overlook cultural traditions. If you are invited to a wedding of a certain faith, you might need to consider cultural norms and traditions in order to attend where a more modest style of dress is required. It’s important to be respectful, so make sure to bring a shawl or sweater if needed for the ceremony.
Don’t go against the dress code. Remember, it’s a wedding, not just any night out. Be respectful to the happy couple and stick to their requested wedding guest style.
Don’t dress like a wedding party clone. It’s fine to be complementary in color to the wedding’s theme, but avoid choosing an outfit that looks like you’re trying to be a member of the wedding party!
Wedding Guest Style: Dress Codes Decoded
If the dress code is included on the wedding website or wedding invitations, your life will be significantly easier. Get an explanation of common wedding guest styles with suggested outfits for men and women below.
Formal Wedding Attire
Black Tie Wedding Attire: Men will wear tuxedos with formal ties and black patent leather shoes, women will wear a floor-length formal wedding guest dresses.
Black Tie Optional Wedding Attire: Men will wear tuxedos or another formal suit, complete with a formal tie and pocket square. Women will wear floor-length evening dresses, but not necessarily gowns.
White Tie Wedding Attire: The most formal dress code. Men will wear a white bow tie with their tuxedo, women will wear a floor-length gown.
Semi-formal Wedding Attire
Semiformal Wedding Attire: This is just a simple way to say go for something middle of the road. Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear a nice dress, but not a ballgown.
Cocktail Wedding Attire: Men should wear a suit, but feel free to be a little less formal with colorful accessories. Women should wear a nice cocktail dress. If a city wedding in a metropolitan area, a little black dress may be appropriate.
Beach-formal Wedding Attire: A hybrid dress code that describes a dressy beach wedding. For the men, a lightweight suit with an open jacket and collar will suffice, especially in hot and humid climates. Wear something easy, breezy, and chiffon will likely do the trick for the ladies.
Festive Wedding Attire: Festive attire is essentially the same as cocktail attire. This is a fun way for couples to give their guests license to have a little fun with their outfit choices. Choose something similar to what you’d wear to a cocktail-party with bold colors and fun accessories.
Casual Wedding Attire
When it comes to weddings, “casual” never actually means casual. Don’t show up in jeans to someone’s wedding, please.
Dressy Casual: A confusing name for an event with a medium level of formality. “Dressy” tells you that (as always) jeans and streetwear are a no-no. Men could wear a suit, a blazer with chinos or trouseres, or even just a button-down shirt.
Garden Casual: likely an outdoor wedding. Casual wedding attire could include short, breezy sundresses for ladies, and a lightweight pair of pants and a button-down shirt for men.
Beach-casual: A more laid-back beach wedding, likely a destination wedding. A full-length floral maxi dress made from a breezy and comfortable fabric would be ideal for the ladies. A lightweight, light-colored suit or dress shirt and trousers for the men.
Wedding Guest Attire By Season
If you’re still feeling a little confused by the rules of what to wear to a wedding, perhaps these seasonal suggestions will help steer you in the right direction.
Check out our other guides to wedding attire style for every season by visiting the links below!
What to wear to a spring wedding
Popular spring colors: Pastel tones like baby blue, lilac, lavender, blush, neutrals, pale yellow, etc.
Common spring fabrics: Chiffon, tulle, polyester, crepe, etc.
Suggested spring styles: Sundresses, lightweight dresses, fit and flare styles, floral dresses, etc for women. Light-colored suits or pants with blazers, floral print or pastel ties for men.
- See more spring wedding attire suggestions
What to wear to a summer wedding
Popular summer colors: Bright hues like yellows, blues, greens, pinks, and colorful patterns.
Common summer fabrics: Chiffon, cotton, linen, etc.
Suggested summer styles: Breezy maxi dresses, floral sundresses, brightly colored dresses for women. Lightweight and light-colored suits for men.
- See more summer wedding attire suggestions
What to wear to a fall wedding
Popular fall colors: Deep, rich hues like burnt orange, plum, maroon, navy, or neutrals like tans, mauves, etc.
Common fall fabrics: Chiffon, lace, polyester, textures fabrics, etc.
Suggested fall styles: Three quarter sleeve dresses, midi dresses, bold colored maxis for women. Dark colored suits for men.
- See more fall wedding attire suggestions
What to wear to a winter wedding
Popular winter colors: Rich, dark hues and jewel tones like navy blue, plum, burgundy, hunter green, etc.
Common winter fabrics: Heavy fabrics like lace, velvet, satin, wool, etc.
Suggested winter styles: Long sleeve dresses, floor-length dresses, sequin dresses, velvet dresses, etc for women. Dark colored suits and ties for men.
- See more winter wedding attire suggestions
Wedding Dress Code FAQ
Still on the fence? Calm your nerves about your wedding outfit choice by reviewing these frequently asked questions about wedding guest style:
Can I wear white to a wedding as a guest?
Absolutely not. Unless explicitly asked to, such as in the case of a themed all-white wedding, do not wear white as a wedding guest.
Is it rude to wear black to a wedding?
Wearing black to a wedding is acceptable and no longer considered a bad thing, so feel free to wear it if the vibe and formality allows. Traditional etiquette suggested not to wear black to a wedding because historically it was worn to symbolize that a person wasn’t supportive of the couple’s union.
Is it inappropriate to wear red to a wedding?
Red is another color that was historically associated with making a negative statement about the union, but these days, people are less sensitive about those sorts of decisions.
What if I don’t want to wear a dress?
If you’re a woman and don’t want to wear a dress, wear a stylish pantsuit, jumpsuit, or romper that fits the formality level and vibe of the wedding. As long as you’re not completely under-dressed, you should wear what you feel comfortable in and that makes you feel your best while being respectful of the event’s dress code.
What do I wear if there is no dress code?
If you cannot find any information about the dress code, you should assume its a semi-formal occasion. A nice suit or a classy dress that is seasonally appropriate will likely fit the bill.
What should you not wear to a wedding?
Denim, White, Shorts for men, flip flops, sheer fabrics, sweat pants, patent leather, or any super revealing styles.
Should I coordinate with or steer clear of a couple’s wedding colors?
You can take a hint towards the couple’s color scheme by examining their wedding invitations. Keep an eye on the colors used to get an idea for their vibe and scheme.
More wedding guest attire ideas
Wear something that makes you feel good and look good, without pulling focus or standing out like a sore thumb, and you’ll be good to go. Of course, for the ladies, you’ll also want to make sure your hair color, nails, and makeup look on point, too for the full effect. And for the fellas, you’ll want to take care of any pre-wedding grooming, too to look your best.
We hope this guide helps you to be the best-dressed guest at all the weddings you attend this year. Happy wedding season!