Wedding season is spicing up. If you have just received a wedding invite, you probably saw a specific dress code, but it’s becoming more common for weddings to be “semi-formal” or “casual”. Should you wear a formal gown to these weddings? That depends on the setting!
In this guide, we talk about what it’s like to dress for weddings as a guest, and what you should wear even if no dress code is specified on the invitation.
So maybe you got invited to a beach wedding soirée with a tropical theme, or perhaps you got invited as a plus one to a black-tie nuptial ceremony. If you’re not sure what to wear, this guide covers every single dress code and then we’ll provide some piece of advice.
What is a wedding
A wedding is a ceremony for two people who vow to join their lives in marriage. It’s also a celebration of a couple’s commitment to one another, their love, and partnership.
There are usually a number of rituals and steps to take before, during, and after the ceremony. Each wedding is tailored to the couple, which makes each ceremony very personal and intimate.
While some parts of a wedding seem very traditional and similar to all weddings, every couple has their own take on what the wedding should be like.
The theme and dress code often go hand-in-hand. Some weddings are very formal, while others simply want guests to feel comfortable. It comes down to the type of wedding.
Types of weddings
We’ve been to a lot of weddings, and the dress code always feels a little similar but different, especially when formal attire is the most often specified dress code for a wedding.
Most wedding invitations specify exactly how you should dress, while others are more casual and just want guests to be comfortable.
Here are a few of the different wedding types to consider as you plan your own:
White Tie Only
This is absolutely the most formal of any wedding. The bride and groom will wear all white, but the guests typically wear black jacket suits and tails for men and very formal, full-length gowns for women.
The white-tie-only wedding is usually reserved for a statelier experience, possibly even royalty. It’s not as common as black tie due to its formality.
Black Tie Only
Most formal weddings don’t go as formal as white tie. Instead, black tie is the more common choice. If you see this on an invitation, it essentially means “dress to impress,” but fancier dress jackets with tails aren’t necessarily required.
The name is more specific to what men will wear, which is typically a tuxedo worn with a black tie. Women should expect to wear formal and chic dresses, possibly knee-length, but a full-length gown is more appropriate.
Black Tie Optional
Another common type of wedding sets the theme as “black tie optional,” which is a phrase for a more elegant affair that doesn’t require a tuxedo or formal gown. Instead, you should simply just dress to impress.
If you want guests to wear a tuxedo or full-length gown but don’t want to pressure everyone to do so, the black-tie optional is a great way to simply state you’d like for guests to dress up in some formal way.
Many guests get confused when “formal attire” is on the invitation because it feels like saying “black tie” without the black tie.
However, formal attire simply means that guests have the freedom to pick between tuxedos, two-piece three-piece suits. For women, mid-length or knee-length cocktail dresses are just as appropriate as a full-length gown. Fashionable pantsuits or dressy jumpsuits may also work for these formal attire occasions.
For cocktail attire weddings, you’re telling the guests to look smart but not to go overboard with too formal wear. This is just a little island away from formal attire, where guests should dress up in what’s comfortable but classy.
For example, men may want to wear a suit with cocktail attire weddings, but dress slacks and blazers also work. Ties are optional. For women, most dress lengths are acceptable, so long as you don’t go too short.
Smart or Dressy Casual
For those couples who don’t want to put a lot of pressure on guests to dress up, the smart or dressy casual theme is perfect.
This sets the stage for a summer wedding where it’s best to dress comfortably rather than get stuffy in a formal gown or suit. It’s expected that men will wear nice trousers and a blazer, while women can opt for a cocktail dress, skirt, or pantsuit.
For summer weddings, linens and cotton materials are breathable and considered appropriate for these wedding types.
Most wedding invitations use dressy casual and semi-formal interchangeably. This tells your guests that they should look smart and classy while still dressing comfortably for the day. However, it’s essentially the same style of dress as the smart or dressy casual wedding.
It can be confusing for guests to read “beach formal” since beaches are made for flip-flops and bathing suits. However, beach formal weddings are very popular, and it essentially means “dress up for the beach” and also wear pants.
It mainly comes down to the choice of shoewear, as it’s expected you’ll be able to slip off your shoes and head to the beach for this wedding.
Beach formal attire indicates that a shirt and slacks are expected for men, but it’s okay to wear your favorite leather Sperry’s to kick off at the wedding. Chic, floral maxi dresses are just as appropriate as smart cocktail dresses for women.
Just like beach formal, these weddings are a little more casual but in a different setting. Garden weddings allow for a shirt and slacks for men or a cocktail dress for women, but it’s also expected that you can wear shorts or dresses of all kinds.
Since these weddings are held in grassy, picturesque settings, shoe attire is also important. For women, wedges are a better bet than wearing heels to a garden setting.
Writing casual dress on an invitation may not feel right if you want your guests to dress up, but even with a casual dress wedding, the guests are expected to wear suits and dresses. That’s because a two-piece suit is still considered “casual dress” in most circles.
Casual dress essentially indicates that you’d like for people to dress up in what’s comfortable, and women shouldn’t be expected to wear anything too glitzy or formal.
It’s also often called “Sunday’s best” in reference to what you might wear to church.
If you don’t want to fool with a dress code and don’t mind that your guests can show up in whatever they want, then an informal wedding is the right choice. This indicates that you expect your guests to wear whatever they want, hopefully within reason!
Festive or Destination Attire
Seasonal weddings, destination weddings, themed weddings, and other festive matrimonial occasions call for a little bit more explanation.
For any themed weddings, such as an 80s wedding, seasonal theme, or western theme, you may specify something else for your wedding type. This is where guests will be able to show some personality in their dress choices.
Come as You Are
Some weddings just have a whole different vibe, and you may see something like “dress as you want,” “funky dress code,” or “dress like you were headed to the moon.” These are offbeat wedding types that are meant to be a little silly or ambiguous, mostly depending on the couple’s personality.
We often find these weddings are the best for couples who just want to have fun and do their own thing.
The importance of the wedding dress code
A wedding dress code is a major contributor to the overall theme and mood of your celebration. If you set the stage with champagne and chandeliers, then you’ll love how all of your guests look in gowns and tuxedos. However, it’s a totally different scene if you’re getting married on the beach.
While formal attire may be the most common type of dress code, there are many other ways to ensure your guests’ attire matches the theme and tone of your wedding event.
Is a wedding dress code really that important?
Yes! It’s actually one of the most important points to establish when preparing your wedding. It’s also a great way to ensure that you and your guests feel their absolute best at your celebration.
Couples typically set the wedding dress code to coordinate with guests and set the tone they have planned for the day.
It can truly elevate any wedding if everyone wears formal attire. Still, you can also make the dress code something completely unique to match the personality of the couple and their wedding tone.
Knowing what to wear to a wedding is important, and it’s one of the first questions you’ll be asked by a wedding planner. That’s because the invitations should always specify the dress code and any other expectations so that guests can properly prepare.
Our next chapter will look deeper into what to wear and the various options for each wedding style. We only covered the basics in this chapter to give you an overall look at the dress code for different weddings. Now we’ll share information on the specific styles, fashions, and unique dress code details that often get overlooked when thinking about wedding attire.
Tips on Wedding Attire
Most couples expect guests to dress in formal or semi-formal attire unless specified otherwise. However, there are multiple events within wedding rituals, and you may need to bring dresses, suits, and casual options depending on what kind of wedding it is. Here are some tips for deciphering wedding dress codes and ensuring you’re among the best dressed.
What’s the Wedding Dress Code?
If the invitation doesn’t mention a dress code, it’s best to follow up with someone who’s at the wedding party. You don’t necessarily have to reach out to the bride and groom, but they are the best sources to get more information if it’s not specified.
Otherwise, the most common wedding dress code is formal or semi-formal. Another way to determine what’s best to wear is to look up the venue. The wedding location often sets the tone for the entire event. Churches are typically formal or semi-formal, but beach weddings often have a tropical, semi-formal, or dressy casual dress code.
Don’t stress if it’s not clearly outlined in the invitation: our handy guide will give you every option so you can make the best decision and arrive stylishly to the occasion.
Place of Wedding: Weather & Location.
As we mentioned above, the best place to start is to analyze the location of the wedding. Most weddings happen in one of the following locations:
- Hotels & Banquet Halls.
- Stately Homes & Inns.
- Beaches & Tropical Settings.
- Public Libraries & Historical Settings.
- Outdoor Wedding Venues.
- Farms & Vineyards.
When looking at the location to determine wedding attire, check out the website and look up weddings previously in that location. You can also assess the season and weather depending on the date. If it’s an outdoor wedding during the summer, you may want to pick attire that’s comfortable yet fits the dress code for that venue.
Beach, garden, and other outdoor settings also require different shoes for the occasion. You’ll want to make sure that it’s easy to travel in whatever shoes you bring for the event, as well as standing for multiple hours. We offer some more tips on shoes for weddings below.
Respectful Color Choices.
Another essential tip is knowing what colors to avoid wearing as a wedding guest.
More than 80% of brides wear white. It’s important that you don’t wear white to a wedding. It’s a major faux pas. Light beige, beige, light tan, and other light colors are also typically not appropriate.
Black is another color that isn’t appropriate, but particularly if attending a Hindu wedding. Dark blues and other dark colors are also inappropriate. It is considered disrespectful and inauspicious to wear to these weddings.
If going to a Chinese wedding celebration, it’s inappropriate as the bride and groom typically wear red on these occasions. It’s considered competing for attention if you wear this color.
Some couples prefer if guests did not wear too bright colors, shiny gold, or too glitzy attire that doesn’t match the wedding tone. You’ll have to use your best judgment of the couple and the setting to determine if your attire’s colors are too bright or glittery for the occasion.
While denim styles can be dressy and cool, it’s not appropriate for any wedding attire. This is typically the most casual color, and even to dressy casual occasions, denim isn’t a color you should try to wear to a wedding.
Unless requested as a wedding theme, denim will likely place you as the odd-one-out at these formal occasions. It could bring a lot of negative attention if you wear jeans, denim tops, or even denim dresses.
What Shoes to Wear.
The best wedding shoes depend on the dress code and location, but you also want to pick shoes that are comfortable to wear for long periods. You don’t want to be walking or dancing barefoot because your shoes have tortured your feet too much.
Sky-high, ankle-strap, wobbly stilettos are not practical for most weddings. The multi-use, minimalist strappy sandal is a comfortable choice for women, as well as a sensible slip-on or dressy flats. However, grass and garden weddings may need a block-style heel that’s easy to walk around in. In some cases, dressy wedge sandals are also appropriate.
For men, whole cut or cap-toe oxfords are appropriate, as well as double monk straps and dressy loafers. You can’t go wrong with a nice pair of leather boots either. Just don’t choose cowboy boots unless it’s a Western theme!
Bring a Cover-Up.
For weddings in chilly settings or within formal religious venues, you may also want to bring a cover-up, such as a shawl, pashmina, wrap, topper, or dressy jacket.
Quick Guidelines for Wedding Dress Codes
If the dress code is specified, but you’re not sure what that means, we’ve got a quick guide on the most popular dress codes and some other guidelines to decode what wedding couples are expecting you to wear.
A white-tie wedding is a very formal event. The couple is expecting you to dress in tuxedos and floor-length gowns. Tuxedos with tails are typical for these extremely upscale weddings with a formal white shirt, white vest, and bow tie. White gloves, formal footwear, and respectful color choices are also expected.
While less formal than the white tie, black-tie events also require a floor-length gown for female guests and tuxedos for male guests. Men are expected to have a black bow tie, black vest, or cummerbund, as well as dressy oxford shoes to go with their tuxedo. In some cases, a very formal or sophisticated cocktail dress may work for women at a black-tie event.
Black Tie Optional or Formal
The couple wants to let you know that they expect formal wear, but it’s not as formal as a black tie or white tie. It’s more acceptable to wear a formal cocktail dress or stylish suit to these weddings. Even a dressy pantsuit may be appropriate for female guests. Men should expect to wear a formal dark suit, conservative tie, or a tuxedo.
Cocktail weddings simply mean they want everyone to dress up and look classy. It’s slightly above semi-formal. You shouldn’t dress up as if you were headed out for a night on the town, though. This is typically matching of a semi-formal occasion, but it can be more casual for a daytime wedding. Men are typically required to wear a suit and tie with cocktail weddings, however.
If a wedding couple specifies semi-formal, they’re not too concerned about how dressed up you are, but there’s still a slight dress code to follow. These are known as “dressy casual” weddings that expect darker, formal colors if an evening event or lighter colors for a daytime affair. Dressy skirts, cocktail dresses, and other elegant dresses are appropriate for this occasion, as well as above-the-knee dresses.
Men can wear dress shirts, slacks, or suits in dark or light colors depending on what the time of day is, but it’s optional to wear a tie.
Can you wear denim to a casual wedding? Nope! Casual wedding attire is mainly for weddings that are held on the beach or in outdoor settings. The couple is indicating they want you to be comfortable, but tank tops, shorts, and cargo pants are also not acceptable on these occasions. Summer sundresses, khaki dress slacks, and collared shirts are appropriate for these events.
Tropical or Destination
Humid and hot, these weddings require dress for the weather and location specifically. While you should always have a slightly dressed-up look, you also want to make sure that you aren’t sweating through your suit. Guayabera shirts are appropriate for men in tropical settings. Women may want to wear sundresses that are airy and comfortable in the heat.
Come As You Are
Some couples don’t mind what you wear; they simply want you to join in and have fun. This mainly means that the wedding is a casual affair, but you still want to note the location, venue, and weather. You should dress to feel great at the event and feel confident in your choice.
Dos and Don’ts of Wedding Guest Attire
There are also some written and unwritten rules about what to wear to a wedding. Whether the code is casual or formal, these guidelines are helpful to avoid being the odd-one-out or accidentally offending the special couple on their big day.
Dos of Wedding Guest Attire
- Do follow the dress code.
- Do consider the location.
- Do wear comfortable but formal shoes.
- Do check the weather.
- Do wear layers.
- Do consider the time of the day.
- Do think about colors respectful of the religion or culture.
Don’ts of Wedding Guest Attire
- Don’t wear casual clothing.
- Don’t wear something too revealing for a wedding.
- Don’t wear jeans or denim attire.
- Don’t forget your undergarments.
- Don’t wear white – western weddings; it depends on the country.
- Don’t wear the color that wives wear.
- Don’t wear the same colors as the bridesmaids.
In the next chapter, I’ll look at how women can dress to impress without competing with the bride or bridesmaids. I’ll also provide guidelines for heels, the length of dresses, and how casual is too casual for a wedding. Carry on reading to find out more!
Quick Wedding Guide to What to Wear for Women
As a wedding guest, you should always look at the invitation first. Most couples specify the type of wedding and expected dress code. In some cases, you may see “come as you are” or “dressy casual.”
What you’ll wear also depends on the specified dress code, location, and weather. If being the best dressed at the wedding is your goal, then this guide has some great tips for what to wear.
- Absolutely no white (beige and light pastels may even be a no-no).
- Wear a shawl or jacket if headed to a church.
- Try a shorter, comfortable heel for all-day weddings.
- Wear a square or box heel for garden weddings.
- It’s better to overdress than to underdress.
- Bring multiple options for a destination wedding and reception.
- Simple jewelry like a gold drop necklace or rose gold chain.
- Don’t wear denim, even if it’s casual or “come as you are.”
- Keep fabrics light and airy for summer weddings or hotter locations.
- Long dressy gowns and chic cocktail dresses work best for most weddings.
Next, we’ll look at each wedding type. So, I’ll provide more details on dresses, shoes, and accessories that work best for each dress code. Ready?
What to Wear to a Wedding as a Female Guest: By Dress Code
Getting dressed up for a wedding is super fun if you’re confident in what you want to wear and how you look. This wedding guest dress code guide for women should give you some instant ideas on how to prepare for the big day and be as stylish as ever.
While not common for modern wedding celebrations, these wedding dress codes are typically royal events with ceremonial displays of grandeur and elegance.
White tie is the most formal of all wedding dress codes. Everyone at this wedding should expect to be seen in a formal gown. Long formal dresses with heels and chic jewelry work best for these ultra-sophisticated weddings.
While almost as fancy as a white tie dress code, black tie weddings typically mean sophisticated evening wear. Women may wear a long gown or even a stylish, chic cocktail dress. Sleek heels and accessories work perfectly for these events.
Black Tie Optional
Also known as formal, black tie optional attire mean that formal gowns, cocktail dresses, and even a dressed-up pantsuit can work for these occasions. Chic cocktail dresses are most commonly worn to black tie optional weddings, but dressy separates and fun footwear also make an appearance at these slightly less formal events.
Cocktail or Semi-Formal Dress
Cocktail and semi-formal usually mean the same type of wedding attire. The couple wants you to be comfortable but dressed up for the occasion. It falls between casual and formal, which means that women have more flexibility and options. Cocktail dresses, sophisticated separates, pantsuits, and even tropical maxi dresses may work for these elegant occasions that are slightly dressed down.
The couple wants you to know that the attire is casual, which means bring your style and wear it appropriately for the location and weather. You may wear a sundress or cocktail dress to these events with a sandal or flat shoe. Straps and strapless dresses also work for these less formal weddings.
Come as You Are
When you see come as you are on a wedding invite, it can literally mean “wear what you like,” but it’s always expected that you’ll dress up for a wedding. Still, this dress code is likely set by a couple getting married somewhere less formal who wants everyone to enjoy the day in whatever they like to wear. You can wear dressy separates, pantsuits, a cultural dress, a cocktail dress, or a blouse with a nice skirt.
The invitation may specify attire for a cultural custom wedding. For example, traditional Indian weddings may require women to wear saris in beautiful colors. However, Indian and Chinese weddings have rules, such as not wearing red. Before the wedding day, look up traditional customs for cultural weddings to ensure your dress is respectful.
Tropical or Beachy
Beachy destination weddings are typically a bit low-key. Midi and maxi dresses with sandals are comfortable and easy to wear in sandy locations. These weddings also don’t typically ask for formal gowns or heels because of the location. If it’s an extremely hot season, you can also get away with strappy or strapless dresses and light fabrics.
Outdoor garden weddings tend to be a bit hotter in late spring and summer. These are formal, semi-formal, and even dressy casual events where midi and maxi dresses may be appropriate, as well as a stylish cocktail dress or formal gown.
The real issue here is the heel that you select. Stilettos, kitten heels, and pumps won’t do well as you try to traverse grassy areas. So it’s best to stick with a box heel, wedge, or flat.
Jewelry and Accessories as a Wedding Guest
Styling your wedding attire is a way to complement your look while also celebrating the moment. For example, beautiful precious gems paired with rose gold or gold work well with most solid color dresses, but you always want to know when to stop.
Jewelry should draw attention to your face and neckline. One statement jewelry piece is typically enough to set off a simple dress. You only need one focal point to catch the eye.
Drop earrings and drop necklaces add elegance and sophistication to any look. If you have long hair, then you may also want to select a jewelry color or metal finish that is more visible depending on your hair color.
When in Doubt, Check the Location
The venue and location are huge hints as to the theme of the wedding and what you should wear. It’s typical of weddings today to have an upscale, semi-formal dress, but many couples also want their guests to be inspired by the location and theme.
Other weddings may specify festive or themed attire, where maybe you’re expected to have a western motif or beach chic look. When looking at these more imaginative dress codes, just embrace the idea and wear what you’ll look best in.
Ask for Clarification
Is your wedding invitation’s dress code super cryptic? It doesn’t hurt to ask and get some help from the couple before their big day, or you can always compare dress ideas with friends headed to the same event. There are so many occasions to go dress shopping with friends to make sure you’re on the right page.
Women don’t have all the fun when it comes to styling their wedding attire as a guest. Men also have many options depending on the wedding dress code. From tails to black tie to sports jackets to leather oxford shoes, there are plenty of ways for men to dress up their look for a special occasion.
Quick List of What Men Should Wear to a Wedding
Knowing what to wear to a wedding for men is helpful when only a venue and location are given in the invitation. While couples usually specify a dress code, it can be confusing what’s typical of each wedding type.
Here are some tips that men can use to wear the right thing at a wedding:
- Don’t wear a white, ivory, or beige jacket.
- Forego the floral boutonniere, which is reserved for the groom and wedding attendants.
- When in doubt, wear a collared dress shirt with a nice suit in a black or navy color for formal and semi-formal weddings.
- Don’t wear jeans or ripped clothing, even if trendy.
- Don’t wear open toes or flip-flops unless it’s a beach destination wedding.
- Consider the weather, location, and venue, so that you’re comfortable.
- Make sure to match your belt with your shoes.
In addition, men should pay attention to the type of service and ceremony. Is it secular or religious? Perhaps there are cultural traditions in which you shouldn’t wear red. In other cases, a theme or local custom may also be observed, where you’ll need to wear a certain color, pin, or head covering.
What to Wear for Men: Wedding Types
How many times have you received a wedding invite only to find there’s no dress code specified? If that happens, you don’t need to panic. There’s a really easy way to figure out what to wear: just look at the venue and date.
You can look up a venue online to see what kind of weddings are typically held there. And if it’s held in the summer or during an extremely warm season, you can also expect to wear a lighter fabric, such as a linen suit.
Here are some definitions of popular dress codes for weddings and what men should wear depending on the wedding type.
If you ever receive an invitation with a white tie dress code, you’re likely attending a royal or celebrity event. This is the most formal type of wedding, and it typically requires a tuxedo with tails, as well as a waistcoat and bow tie. You’ll need to break out the white pocket square, fancy cufflinks, and matching leather oxford shoes.
Almost as formal as the white tie wedding, men should expect to dress in a black tuxedo or dinner jacket. These are typically formal weddings where a cummerbund and black bow tie are expected. But you can show personality through your shoes, cufflinks, and pocket square.
Black Tie Optional
The black tie optional dress code is still pretty formal. But you have the option of wearing a black tie or another formal style of suit. You can get away with a little bit more colors, like gray or navy suits. You can also change up your tie and pocket square for a personalized look. Your look should still be polished and sleek.
It’s important to dress up for cocktail weddings. It’s a happy blend of formal and dressy attire where navy blue suits and black suits are acceptable. However, you may not have to wear a tie at all. Patterns on your bow tie and pocket square can also be unique and funky. Black or brown leather shoes also work best for these events.
Semi-formal weddings have mid to high formality. While you don’t need to wear a tux, you’ll likely still be expected to wear a suit and tie or at least a collared shirt and jacket. It really depends on the venue and location, as well as the time of the year.
While it’s a bit vaguer on what to wear to a semi-formal wedding, you should still go for a dressier look with a collared t-shirt, slacks, blazer, and oxford shoes. Your look should also match the atmosphere of the venue and location. Black suits are a little too formal for these occasions, and you can also wear patterns or solid dress shirts. Cufflinks and a tie are optional.
Come As You Are
There’s a lot of trust when a couple specifies “come as you are.” While it’s still expected that you dress up, you don’t have to wear a suit necessarily. A white or solid color dress shirt is appropriate with charcoal or navy slacks. A tuxedo or black suit would probably be overdoing it. But it’s important to feel confident and comfortable in your choice to these vague events.
Beach and Tropical Weddings
In this case, you’ll want to check the venue or even message the groom for some help. Beach formal weddings typically require a formal dress with a tropical feel, yet you still wouldn’t wear a Hawaiian t-shirt unless it’s acceptable by the guests. Most beach weddings specify whether a suit is expected for the ceremony. But typically, you can expect semi-formal or dressy casual attire.
What Not to Wear to a Wedding for Men
Wedding dress codes can be very broad and confusing, especially if the couple doesn’t add attire to the wedding invitation. In fact, “casual” and “come as you are” often lead to a lot of differences in clothing at the wedding.
The truth is that most guys can get away with a nice suit to wear to a wedding, whether it’s a formal, cocktail, or semi-formal occasion. However, if you find yourself in a situation where it’s not specified, you should consider the following:
Never Wear Clothing with Holes or Rips.
Trends come and go, and while you may like black jeans with rips at the knees, it’s not going to help you at a dressy wedding. Couples are typically looking for sophisticated and classy looks from all wedding guests. Even at casual weddings, you should avoid wearing super trendy ripped pants or shirts.
T-Shirts are Too Casual.
You may think that a casual or come as you are wedding is a low-key wedding affair, but it’s still not right to wear a t-shirt to a wedding. Even for super casual weddings in the summer, you should opt for a polo or collared shirt with slacks, at the very least.
Don’t Intentionally Upstage the Groom.
While you may think that your white Armani suit and floral boutonniere make you look outstanding, you could be overdoing it and calling too much attention to yourself. You should keep your look classic, clean, and free from too many glitzy details that will make it seem like you’re upstaging the man of the hour.
Your dress code also depends on the time and location of the event. Spring and summer weddings are often similar, depending on the weather. But you may have to change up your wedding attire completely for weddings in the winter. How you dress really depends on the temperature in some cases. In the next chapter, I’ll break down everything you should consider before dressing for the season at your next wedding event.
Guide to What to Wear to a Wedding by Season
Weddings by season often indicate a theme. For example, spring weddings may be held in a garden mansion with indoor or outdoor settings, but winter weddings are typically outside for only a short time. Summer weddings often depend on the destination! Fall weddings also have both indoor and outdoor settings typically.
So what will you wear to this season’s wedding? We have the perfect guide to what to wear to a wedding by season.
Spring Wedding Attire
Spring weddings are the most popular as temperatures warm up and flowers bloom. It’s a time for new beginnings, and marriage ceremonies often look their best in this dewy light. Since spring is a rather temperate season in most locations, the venue may be indoor or outdoor. The good news is pops of color and flower prints are often expected at spring weddings, even if a formal dress code is specified.
The time of day and date of the month really matter for spring weddings. You want to make sure you include a wrap or jacket for evening spring weddings, but keep your dress lightweight and breathable for late morning and afternoon weddings.
Sundresses work well for spring weddings, especially if it’s a garden wedding. Whether a flowing midi dress or flower print chiffon gown, you may only have to dress in a more formal gown if white tie or black tie is required.
Formal, casual, and semi-formal spring weddings generally mean that cocktail and floor-length dresses are acceptable. Still, you may also want to complement the season with a pop of color. Fresh colors like pastels, mint, soft blues, pinks, and violets are all beautiful colors for spring.
If a spring wedding is held later in the day, a nice suit with Oxford leather shoes and a stylish tie is still the perfect combination. However, black-tie weddings should state the expected dress code, so look for any particular requirements for tuxedoes or tails in the invitation.
For semi-formal or casual spring weddings, men can also get away with a nice pair of slacks, collared shirt, and sports jacket. Spring weddings can be a little more relaxed with cotton blazers or even linen suits. Pastel shirts or a bright bow are also acceptable for semi-formal or cocktail dresses in spring.
Summer Wedding Attire
Summer weddings always seem like the weather will be extremely humid and hot, but that’s not always the case. Depending on the month and location, summer weddings may be chosen because of sunset and breezy nights. You’ll have to look at the dress code, venue, date, and time of day to choose the right outfit. If you are attending a summer wedding outside in an extremely hot season, then lighter fabrics and comfort are the go-to choices for most semi-formal or cocktail summer wedding dress codes.
For summer, strapless gowns, backless dresses, and off-the-shoulder looks are all silhouettes that look fabulous.
Summer weddings are best indoors in hotter climates, so if you have a white tie, black tie, or black tie optional wedding in this season, you’ll want to look for off-the-shoulder, lightweight floor-length dresses. Dramatic silhouettes and lace details are a nice touch for these fancier dress codes.
Bold colors and floral prints are also great for semi-formal or cocktail weddings. However, it would help if you also remembered that heavy, colored fabrics won’t do well in the heat outdoors.
Even at a casual wedding, you can dress up a relaxed fit with a touch of bling. Short to mid-length cocktail dresses with shoulder play or a bold pop of color work well for these weddings.
Black tie, black tie optional, and other formal dress codes will specify if they expect a tuxedo. This can be difficult to stick to all day for summer weddings outside, so prepare a change of clothes into something more lightweight and breathable for the reception.
For casual weddings, it’s best to leave shorts or any worn-in items at home. Semi-formal and casual events for men are pretty similar, as you’re still expected to dress up. In fact, experts say it’s better to overdress in this situation.
If attending a summer wedding with a relaxed “but semi-formal” feel of dress code, then dress to be comfortable but add on a proper jacket, collared shirt, and pants with a crease. Baggy pants and untucked shirts won’t get you on the best-dressed list for these weddings.
Fall Wedding Attire
Like spring, the fall season is a toss-up between cold and hot weather. Seasons are changing, which is part of the beauty of these weddings. The typical trend for fall weddings is an outdoor venue with lots of foliage and natural scenery. Darker colors are also more appropriate for these autumnal events.
Figuring out what to wear can be tricky for women attending a fall wedding. Those same strapless gowns and off-shoulder looks won’t work in chillier night weddings during the fall. You should check out the date and time of the wedding so that you pick the right ensemble.
Darker colors like fuchsia, sapphire, violet, and emerald are often seen at fall weddings because they offset the feel of changing colors. That’s why golds, deep maroons, and other shades of autumn yellows are also appropriate for these events.
Formal gowns or your fanciest cocktail dress with some lace details or beading will work perfectly for these occasions. Statement earrings, pashmina or jacket, and even a metallic clutch should complement a fall dress color well.
For formal fall weddings, tuxedos are typically expected, and even tails are required in some cases. However, semi-formal or casual weddings have different expectations. You can play with darker colors, such as maroon or even forest green.
If the event’s dress code is less formal, maroon or even chocolate brown suit jackets may be appropriate with the right slack and Oxford shoes.
You may want to bring a heavier coat or jacket for weddings held later in the evening if temperatures will drop significantly.
Winter Wedding Attire
Winter weddings offer gorgeous scenery. The cold, crisp air and even snow set the tone for a fantasy set in a winter wonderland. However, it’s challenging to know what to wear as a guest, especially if you want to break out a strappy gown in the middle of December. In this case, we’ve got some helpful tips to keep you on the best-dressed list, even if you have to cover up your beautiful gown.
Your dress doesn’t have to have long sleeves, even if a winter wedding is being held outside in the snow. Instead, you’ll want to accessorize and take cues from what’s hot for that season. For example, depending on the dress code, a spaghetti strap gown or off-the-shoulder dress still works with the right mini cape, faux fur wrap, or moto jacket.
However, floral prints and pastels probably aren’t best for these occasions. You’ll want to wear jewel tones and bolder dark colors, then accent with gold or silver. Sparkle and shine are always nice for winter weddings.
Simple yet bold is key when choosing the right dress as a guest for a winter wedding. For formal weddings, you’ll have your pick of floor-length gowns and dramatic silhouettes. For casual and cocktail wedding dress codes, any hem length works, but remember to pick a color that won’t clash with the theme or style of the venue.
The two best suit colors for a winter wedding include black or midnight blue. For black-tie weddings, you’ll want to pick the right tuxedo in a darker color. Refinement and fur coats look absolutely magnificent on men when worn to winter weddings.
Black patent leather, velvet oxford, or Oxford leather shoes are the best for formal or semi-formal weddings. In some cases, loafers or other casual shoes may also be appropriate.
However, you don’t want to wear an ivory dinner jacket or floral boutonniere to these events. That’s reserved for the groom and the special wedding party guests.
If you want to accessorize your look, then try a paleo pin, tie bar, or a patterned pocket square to show off your personal style.
When choosing what to wear to a wedding by season, you should always check the date and look at a seasonal wedding guide for the location. It’s also good to know whether it’s an indoor or outdoor ceremony.
If you’re still not sure what to wear, we have even more looks for you to check out and choose from. Even if you haven’t found the dress yet, we’ve found some of the top looks that are on-trend for this wedding season.
What to Wear to a Wedding: Best Wedding Outfit Ideas
No matter the current trend or wedding season, we’ve found evergreen wedding dress and suit trends that will ensure you’re the best dressed.
We hope these ideas inspire you and point you in the right direction. Putting together a wedding look should also be about incorporating your personal style. There are plenty of ways to make your look unique so check out the quick tips section at the end for more ideas.
Outfit Ideas for Women
Most wedding looks focus on the perfect dress in the right color for the season. However, you should pick silhouettes that accentuate your best features, whether a dress or a high-end flowing pantsuit with lace and beading details.
These wedding ensembles for women range from super elegant and sophisticated to tastefully formal yet relaxed. What do you think? Would any of these wedding outfit ideas look good on you?
Black Tie Gowns
How black tie is it? If the invitation says explicitly black tie only and not black-tie optional, then you can go as elegant and fancy as you want–so long as you’re not trying to upstage the bride.
Do any of these styles look like the one?
Most cocktail dresses work well for semi-formal, dressy casual, or even more relaxed wedding codes. That’s because cocktail dresses are typically chosen by how well they fit your body.
Whether you choose a shorter length to accentuate your legs or a strapless halter, mid-length dress, the right dress should also be a little bit more comfortable since it’s not a floor-length gown.
Jacket or Wrap
Some weddings require a pashmina, cape, jacket, or another wrap to keep us warm on chilly evenings or respect very classic, religious ceremonies. Wedding dress stores typically have a variety of different cover-ups for these occasions.
Some of our favorites include:
Spring weddings are the most popular type of wedding. Floral prints on flowy midi dresses for garden parties happen to be one of the most charming looks for these events, but there are several ways to wear a floral print look to a wedding if you want to try something a little different.
The perfect sundress is airy and light, which is perfect for a summer wedding. However, if you’re not careful, these can look too dressed down for a wedding.
The way to dress up a sundress for a wedding really depends on the style, shape, and material. Also, stick to the classic rules of sundresses by never mixing prints and multiple colors.
What if you don’t wear a dress? You’d probably look great in a pantsuit. Some various necklines and fabrics make these sophisticated, flowing silhouettes perfect for formal or semi-formal occasions.
These are some of the best pantsuit looks and heel combinations:
Necklines for Wedding Guests
We always say the best dresses accentuate your body. However, conservative wedding events may not always appreciate a plunging neckline. These dresses give you a better idea of what necklines look best for each dress code.
Plus Size Dresses for Weddings
We’ll say it here: a good tailor is your secret weapon for plus-size wedding dresses that will fit you well.
However, we’re going to show you more than just the go-to dresses for curvy bodies in this section. These trendy looks cover the right balance between beautiful and fitted to flow and comfortably.
Outfit Ideas for Men
If you’re going to wear your best suit, a formal wedding is a right place to do it. In some cases, you’ll be required to wear a tuxedo or even tails, but this is typically reserved for white tie events.
With that said, there are a lot of ways to dress up your tuxedo or suit, and depending on the wedding dress code type, you may be able to choose from a variety of colors and fabrics.
Black Tie Tuxedo
You probably thought there was only one way to wear a tuxedo, but tuxedo styles are actually pretty unique and interesting. However, not all of these looks will work for super formal, royal affairs like white tie weddings.
Still, there is more than one way to wear a tuxedo look:
Best Dressed Suit
Suits come in all different shapes and sizes. The best piece of advice is to get fitted and look at different suit fabrics to accommodate the season of the event. Linen suits may work best for summer weddings if you’re looking for a relaxed yet sophisticated look.
Here are some different ways to wear a suit for a wedding:
Blazer or Sport Coat
When the wedding dress code relaxes a bit, men have way more options. Partnering the perfect dress pants with a stylish blazer or sport coat can ensure you’re comfortable. However, you don’t want to dress down your wedding look too much.
Here are some modern and sophisticated blazer or sport coat looks for weddings:
Suit Colors or Patterns
The patterned suit isn’t always welcome to formal weddings, but depending on the suit’s fabric and shape, different colors and patterns may actually add a little flair.
Choosing a darker suit color in the fall, like maroon or midnight blue, may even be the best choice. These are a few ways to wear different suit colors and patterns:
Even if you have only have one suit and multiple weddings this season, you can use different ties, lapel pins, pocket squares, and other accessories to dress up your look. It’s always a good idea to have one or two collared shirts in different colors that align with your suit choice as well.
Take a look at these suit and accessory combinations for weddings:
Linen or Cotton Suits
Linen suits are best for semi-formal or tropical destination weddings. However, cotton can be lightweight as well. These suits weigh the least and will be the most breathable in hotter wedding seasons.
Take a look at the differences:
Two or Three-Piece Suit for Weddings
Whether he’s into fashion or not, every man has thought about the differences between a two-piece or three-piece suit. These are defined by the decision to wear or not wear a waistcoat. When done right, both suit types are dapper and perfect for formal or semi-formal wedding events.
Ties for Weddings
The tie is a big piece of any wedding ensemble for men. Your tie’s fabric, color, pattern, and shape can say a lot about your personal style. These are some of the ties that work for different wedding dress codes.
Bonus. Tips for Matching Your Date to a Wedding
Finally, have you got a date for this upcoming shindig? If you want to coordinate with your plus one for the special day, then there are a few ways to match without going overboard. Depending on the season and type of wedding, you can uniquely define your look while complementing your date.
Yes! Someone will be with you to share in all the fun and stories out of your next wedding event, but have you thought about your style game plan? If headed to a wedding together, the pair of you should aim to match in a way that’s stylish and not like going to an old-school prom.
Here are some tips for nailing your wedding fashion with your date:
Coordinate, But Don’t Match to the T
You don’t want to match your date exactly. It’s better to use accents and slight touches of color to complement what your partner is wearing stylishly. His and her looks don’t work for most people but Sonny and Cher.
In this case, you’ll want to coordinate on a few similar touches and fabrics. For example, maybe she’s wearing a fuchsia dress, so why not pick it up in a pin-dot tie with the same color? Pocket squares, ties, socks, textures, and styles are fun ways to compliment without being too matchy-matchy.
Here are some coordinated looks with color for men and women:
One Rule to Remember
If your date is in the bridal party, then you shouldn’t wear the same color of dress or suit and tie that this special dress code is for. That denotes you’re part of the bridal party too. These people are on duty at weddings.
Match the Little Details
The embroidery on your suit can also match the dress she chooses, or maybe it’s that you coordinated on matching your cuff links and jewelry in gold, silver, or platinum. In other cases, she may carry a bag or clutch that matches your tie. These little details make all the difference.
Should Colors Match?
Color coordination isn’t always a bad thing, but if you do plan to go with the same colors, it’s best to try contrast or neutral looks. You can also go a shade lighter or darker to match without it being exact.
Summary of What to Wear to a Wedding
Wedding dress codes should always give you a definitive sense of what you’ll wear so that it’s a matter of just picking the right fit and color to match the occasion. However, there are so many wedding looks to choose from!
In each chapter, we looked deeper into wedding fashion for guests. These outfits work for wedding guests who have various events that range all dress codes, but we also wanted to include the dos and don’ts of wedding guest attire for those who aren’t sure what to wear.
These wedding ideas cover almost any type of wedding dress code, from three-piece suits to off-the-shoulder flowy midi gowns.
Here are some of the most common rules of wedding dress codes:
If not specified in the invitation, look up the location and venue to see the “formal” dress level.
Never wear white or try to upstage the bride and groom.
Besides white, red dress colors may not be appropriate for Asian ceremonies.
Pick the right shoe for the occasion and setting, such as sandals for beach weddings or wedges for garden weddings.
Forego the floral boutonniere in the suit packet, but pocket squares in various patterns or colors work great for most wedding dress codes.
When in doubt, go overdressed instead of underdressed.
If you’re having trouble picking out the right wedding outfit, you can also use our outfit ideas for more inspiration. It’s also okay to talk to the bride, groom, or someone at the wedding party if you want to make sure your dress or suit is appropriate for the occasion.
In Chapter 1, you learned all about the different types of weddings and the importance of the dress code. With each chapter, we gave you more ideas on how to pick out the perfect ensemble based on any wedding, whether the dress code was specified or not.
For men and women, options can be clearly defined by the wedding dress code, but you don’t always have to stick to a semi-formal or casual attire. Weddings are a time for a celebration, so wedding guests should always dress their best with the venue and theme in mind if you feel like dressing up with a formal gown or tuxedo.
Review our ideas in the last chapter if you have any doubts about what to wear to the next wedding. You can also put together a Pinterest board with terms related to the dress code, adding by style of gown or suit that you want to wear.
Lastly, comment with any questions to get help from our wedding experts. You can also share this post just by clicking below.