Wedding Style

Wedding Guest Dress Codes




A guide to every wedding guest dress code

From black-tie to casual, here’s what to wear to any type of celebration.

When I listed ‘Formal Attire’ on my own wedding invitation for the wedding guest dress code, I thought it was pretty straightforward. To my surprise, I was quickly bombarded with texts from guests asking what they should be wearing. Did formal mean long gown? Should the guys wear a tux? Do I have to wear black? Can I wear a short dress? The list goes on. As a wedding planner, I know all the wedding guest dress codes!

Dressing for a wedding can be an exciting opportunity to showcase your style and elegance. And as a guest at a wedding, there’s little for you to stress about, but you may be worried about one thing: what to wear. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

Whether the dress code is explicitly stated or not, here are some tips and tricks to help you dress appropriately and confidently for any wedding, according to the dress code.

White Tie

If the invitation calls for a white tie dress code, you’re in for a truly formal affair. Ladies – this is your chance to live out your princess dreams and dress like a royal! You should opt for a floor-length gown or a sophisticated cocktail dress paired with elegant and opulent jewels, an evening clutch, and if you’re feeling extra on-theme, some elbow-length silk gloves.

For men, it means they’ll be wearing a white tie. Think tuxedo, but even fancier. Go for a long, black tuxedo tailcoat, a white vest, a formal white shirt, and a white bowtie. Complete the look with black patent leather shoes and cufflinks.

Black Tie

A black-tie affair is the second most formal event. An event like this typically takes place in the evening where the elegance shines bright alongside the moon. For women, this occasion calls for a floor-length gown, typically come to life in satin, crepe, chiffon, or silk. Glamorous accessories like heels and fine jewelry are recommended – this would be the perfect time to pull out your string of pearls!

Men should be in a black tuxedo, white dress shirt, a black bow tie, and black leather shoes.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

Fortunately, a Black Tie Optional dress code provides some flexibility. However, it also could also lead to some confusion. Men can choose between a tuxedo (not required!) or a dark suit, paired with a dress shirt and a tie. Women have the option to wear a formal evening gown, but are also more than welcome to wear a knee-length, stylish cocktail dress.


A cocktail dress code allows for more fashionable and playful attire. Here, guests have more flexibility when it comes to hemlines, colors, and patterns – there’s a reason it’s a more popular dress code! Instead of a floor-length dress, women should opt for a knee-length or mid-dress. We think this is the perfect occasion to break out your favorite LBD! Men can wear a dark, tailored suit with a dress shirt, and with or without a tie.

Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual

This one can also be a bit perplexing when it comes to choosing your outfit as a wedding guest. Oftentimes couples will use this dress code for a daytime wedding, where men should be in a light sport jacket, a button-down shirt, and slacks. Women can be seen in a below-the-knee dress or even a chic skirt or jumpsuit. Pair with heels, nice wedges, or formal flats if you don’t want to be kept from the dance floor.


A relatively new wedding guest dress code, here is where you have the freedom to play with your look and have some fun. If the invitation states ‘Festive’, it’s time to bring out your colorful and celebratory attire. In fact, the invitation is a great place to look for some inspiration! Notice what colors are used or if there are any patterns you can emulate. Men can experiment with bold accessories like a funky tie or a playful pocket square. Women can wear vibrant dresses, patterned pieces, or incorporate playful accessories to add a splash to their outfit.


A casual dress code gives you the freedom to be comfortable and relaxed. But don’t forget, this more laid-back event is still a celebration! So don’t go reaching for any shorts, jeans, tank tops, or flip-flops. Men can wear khakis or dress pants with a dress shirt or a collared shirt paired with nice loafers. Women can opt for a sundress or a stylish jumpsuit paired with sandals. These perfect combinations will have you feeling dressed up while still comfortable.

No dress code or come as you are

As a guest, when it comes to figuring out what to wear to a wedding, there’s probably nothing more stressful than not knowing the dress code at all! In the absence of a dress code, it’s better to lean towards a slightly more formal outfit – cocktail attire will be best if you can’t find out what the bride or groom expects. Men can choose a suit or dress pants with a dress shirt, while women can wear a chic dress or stylish separates.

Tropical or Destination

If you’re attending a wedding in a tropical or destination location, consider the climate and environment. These events are usually humid and hot affairs, meaning the fashion rules become a bit more lenient. Here, both men and women should embrace natural materials. Think lightweight or linen suits for men, and breezy cotton sundresses or resort-style looks for the women. Avoid the stilettos if there’s sand involved, and instead consider some dressy flat sandals or espadrilles.

General wedding guest dress code rules to remember

Regardless of the dress code, there are a few general rules to keep in mind when attending a wedding:

1. Avoid wearing white unless explicitly requested by the couple! This color is traditionally reserved for the bride. You also want to keep in mind how the color of your outfit might turn up in photos. Pale pastels like the palest nudes and yellows tend to look lighter than they are in photos, so you’ll want to avoid those. Prints with some white elements are okay, but just be sure the colors are much more predominant than any white background. 

2. Refrain from dressing like the bridal party, especially if there’s a specific color theme. For example, if the invitation has green as an accent color, then you probably want to avoid a green dress. You don’t want to be mistaken for a member of the wedding party all night!

3. Remember that the focus should be on the bride (okay, the groom too!) Avoid wearing anything too revealing or attention-grabbing. Let the bride and groom shine on their special day while you elegantly blend into the celebratory atmosphere.

Now that you have a better understanding of the various wedding guest dress codes and guidelines, we hope you can confidently select your outfit for any wedding you attend. Embrace your personal style, consider the event’s formality, and always remember to dress with respect and elegance. Cheers to celebrating love in style!

P.S. Follow us on Instagram @FuldAndCo for all the wedding insight, tips, and tricks.

Meet Paige Fuld

owner and lead planner at fuld & Co

At Fuld & Co., we believe the wedding planning process should be a collaboration — one that places your dreams & desires at the heart of the event. I am here to listen, guide, and support you as you prepare to celebrate in a momentous way you’ll be sure to remember forever.

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