Not sure what to wear to a wedding? Check out this guide with suggestions for every season, dress code, and color scheme.
Have you ever been invited to a wedding and experienced wedding attire confusion? Conventional wisdom suggests checking the wedding invitation, or wedding website, for clues about the event's dress code. But even if the wedding invitation does indicate the attire, you may still have some questions about what is appropriate to wear.
What do they mean by formal day attire or formal evening? What's casual when it comes to a wedding?
Planning what to wear to a wedding might start to feel as overwhelming as planning a wedding itself!
In this guide, we'll outline suggestions for how to dress for a wedding under every circumstance. You should find the answers to your wedding attire questions here, from deciphering wedding dress codes to seasonally appropriate styles, to other tricky cases. By the end of this article, you should know what not to wear and have plenty of suggestions for what to shop for if you don’t have something appropriate in your closet.
What to Wear to a Wedding
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 note the wedding attire within their wedding invitations or 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 means something to the couple if they designed the big day around a particular theme.
Wedding Outfit Don’ts:
It's generally considered preferable not to wear revealing clothes to a wedding. The bride and groom are the center of attention and you're technically there to focus on them, not get others focused on you and your sexy outfit.
Don’t overdress or underdress. Consider the formality of the event and make sure your outfit is on par with the event's level. It’s always better to overdress than underdress. But don’t go overboard. Wearing sequins to a casual daytime wedding will 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. Avoid any styles that remotely look like wedding dresses.
Don’t overlook cultural traditions. If you get invited to a particular faith wedding, you might need to consider cultural norms and practices to attend where a more modest dress style is required. 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 OK 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: Generally speaking, men will wear tuxedos with formal ties and black patent leather shoes, women will wear 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 (i.e. something a Disney princess might wear).
White Tie Wedding Attire: That's 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
Semi-formal Wedding Attire: This is a simple way to say ‘Go for something middle of the road.' Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear a lovely dress, but not a ball gown.
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 which can be short or long.
Beach-formal Wedding Attire: It's a hybrid dress code that describes a formal beach wedding. A lightweight suit with an open jacket and collar will suffice for men, especially in hot and humid climates. Wear something comfortable and breezy.
Festive Wedding Attire: Festive attire is virtually the same as cocktail attire. This is a fun way for couples to give their guests a 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” seldom means really casual unless you live in a culture where casual really does mean casual: In Austin, Texas, you might be ok showing up for a wedding in shorts. But that's a very specific culture.
Dressy Casual: A confusing name for an event with a medium level of formality. “Dressy,” tells you that jeans and streetwear are a no-no. Men could wear a suit, a blazer with chinos or trousers, or even just a button-down shirt.
Garden Casual: likely an outdoor wedding. Casual wedding attire could include short, breezy sundresses for women, a lightweight pair of pants, and a button-down shirt for men.
Beach-casual: This is 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 women: a lightweight, light-colored suit or dress shirt and trousers for 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.
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, silk, cotton, rayon, 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.
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.
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: Linen, wool, cashmere, etc.
Suggested fall styles: Three quarter sleeve dresses, midi dresses, bold colored maxis for women. Dark-colored suits for men.
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 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.
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 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 bad, so feel free to wear it if the vibe and formality allow. 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 wedding's formality level and vibe. 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 it's 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, 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.
We hope this guide helps you be the best-dressed guest at all the weddings you attend this year. Happy wedding season!
Jessica Bishop is the founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com, the #1 online resource to help couples all across the world plan a beautiful wedding on a budget they can actually afford. Jessica is known as a Budget Wedding Expert and has shared her money-saving tips and tricks with outlets such as Good Morning America, BRIDES, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Refinery 29, and more. She’s also appeared as David Tutera’s featured expert at Your Wedding Experience bridal shows. Jessica’s book, The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer, is a best-seller with over 150,000 copies sold.