A Quick Guide to Understanding a Wedding Dress Code

Man adjusting tie

Wedding invitations are an excellent source of information. They tell you the date and location of the wedding, gift expectations, and how to dress. Sometimes the dress code can be tricky to decipher, leaving you feeling clueless—well we’ve got you covered.

From a black tie and the even more formal white tie to casual attire and everything in between, we’ve covered all the different wedding dress codes. Here’s a quick guide to help both the couple set their wedding dress code and the attending guests understanding their expected apparel.

White Tie

Man and woman in formal wear

Met Gala, Photo by Dailymail

A white tie wedding is basically as formal as it gets and usually held in the evening—after 6 pm. When picking out, outfits think of the Met Gala and Presidential dinners.

He should wear a black tailcoat with a white shirt, waistcoat, high-waisted black pants, a white bowtie, and black leather shoes. All should be tailored to fit well—not too big or small. White gloves are optional.

She should wear a full-length, formal ball gown, evening-length gloves, dramatic or costume jeweler, and stylish makeup.


Black Tie

Mannequin in a tuxedo

A black tie wedding is also very formal—more so than business wear. For men, their selection is straighter forward, but a woman’s outfit is trickier having more options.

He should wear a well-tailored tuxedo with a black tie, cummerbund, and black leather shoes.

She should wear anything smart, form-fitting, but not tight, and not higher than an inch or so above the knee. You can discuss with the bride if you need clarification on the length otherwise choose a long, midi, or even short—but not too short—dress. A long evening gown is perfect or a stylish cocktail dress. Don’t be afraid to wear color and add some fabulous jewelry.

Black Tie Optional or Formal

Woman in a dress

Both of these options suggest that you should still dress up, but don’t have to go all out unless you want to.

He should wear a well-fitted and dark formal suit with a tie or a tuxedo.

She should wear a dressy suit, appropriate-length cocktail dress, or a long evening gown.



Woman in dress

Cocktail attire is still formal, but slightly more relaxed. He doesn’t have to wear a tuxedo, and she doesn’t have to wear a long evening gown.

He should wear a suit and tie or fun bow tie. For fall and winter, wear darker colors, and go lighter for spring and summer like blue or gray.

She should wear a chic cocktail dress, jumpsuit, or dressy suit with statement jewelry. You can also wear a longer dress if you’d like as long as it doesn’t look too formal.


Semiformal or Dressy Casual

Your outfit will most likely depend on the time and season of the wedding. For evening affairs, go with darker colors and more formal material. For an earlier reception, wear something light with a dressier fabric.

He should wear a suit and tie—color pending on the factors above.

She should wear a jumpsuit, dressy shirt and skirt set, or a nice cocktail dress.


Woman in a dress

Even if the couple is having a relaxed wedding with casual attire, there is still some sort of code in place. Avoid jeans, tank tops, and showing too much skin. Think of it as wearing your Sunday’s best.

He should wear a polo or dress shirt with nice pants. For a spring or summer wedding, a pair of quality boat shoes can replace dress shoes.

She should wear a simple summer or spring dress or a cute blouse with matching pants or a skirt.


Wedding Dress Code

Man tying dress shoes

Ultimately each guest is going to interpret these wedding dress codes differently and wear what they’d like. If you’re having a white or black tie wedding at a venue with a strict dress code, then maybe keep a few extra formal pieces aside—like jackets—to avoid any stress. Make sure to state on your wedding invitations the dress code you expect and add if your venue has any requirements as well. If you’re still feeling unsure of what to wear to a wedding, then simply ask the bride and groom for clarification and see what other guests are wearing.

Rebecca B. Lawrence

About Rebecca B. Lawrence

Rebbeca has been writing about weddings, jewelry, and fashion for years. Her favorite place to hang out, aside from this website, is Pinterest. She loves Art Deco Jewelry, beach-themed weddings, and anything related to the British Royal Family.