So, you got invited to a wedding, what are you going to wear? There are tons of options to choose from so let us help you narrow it down. Here are the top tips and etiquette to follow for picking out your wedding guest outfit.
Everything to Know About Wedding Dress Codes & Guest Attire
Your wedding guest attire depends on the dress code, the wedding venue, and your comfort level. You should also consider the time of day, season, and weather. There is no one-size-fits-all wedding guest outfit etiquette. But, there are a few rules you should stick to if you’re nervous about wearing the wrong thing.
Breakdown of Wedding Dress Codes: Formal to Casual
Your number one consideration while choosing your wedding guest outfit is the dress code! The dress code should be specified on the invitation or the wedding website. A dress code means you don’t have to guess what the bride and groom expect you to wear. We broke down the general rules for each wedding dress code to make it easy.
1) Black Tie Wedding Guest Attire
If the bride and groom request black tie wedding attire they are definitely aiming for a classy and formal event. Women should wear a floor length gown or at least a formal dress that covers their ankles. A formal pantsuit is okay for women who don’t wear skirts. Men should be in a tuxedo with a black tie (hence the name) or bow tie. The tuxedo doesn’t need to have a tail but it definitely shouldn’t be a suit or suit separates.
2) Formal Wedding Dress Code for Guests
A formal wedding dress code gives you more options to choose from than a black tie event. Women should wear a formal dress, preferably floor length but you can get away with a slightly shorter dress if it’s really nice. Aim for fabrics that are high-quality like satin, velvet, silk, or organza. Men can wear a traditional suit or even suit separates. Aim for a dark colored suit, a white shirt, and a traditional color tie to keep it formal.
3) Semi Formal Wedding Guest Attire
Semi formal gives you the opportunity to wear anything that’s dressy and appropriate. For women we suggest a below the knee dress, a long flowy dress, or a formal jumpsuit. For men we suggest a dress shirt, dress pants, and a tie and/or jacket. This would be a great opportunity to break out a patterned tie or a non-traditional color suit jacket.
4) Cocktail Wedding Attire for Guests
Cocktail wedding attire is similar to formal wedding attire except dresses aren’t expected to be floor length. Cocktail dresses typically have a shorter hemline: think tea-length, knee-length, or midi. A midi satin dress would be the perfect choice for a cocktail wedding. You can accessorize with nice jewelry and heels to create a formal look. Men should wear a suit and tie for a cocktail wedding.
5) Casual Wedding Guest Dress Code
Don’t take a casual wedding dress code too literally. You’re still attending a wedding and shouldn’t dress like you’re going to the grocery store. Avoid sneakers, jeans, flip flops, tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, or anything too relaxed (unless the bride and groom specified that it’s okay). For women, a sundress or jumpsuit is a great idea with a pair of nice sandals or pumps. For men, consider khakis with a dress shirt and a sports jacket or a tie.
6) What to Wear to a Tropical / Destination Wedding
You should always plan your wedding attire according to the wedding venue. But, it's especially if it’s an outdoor or destination wedding. Consider the weather at the destination; if it’s hot make sure to wear something breathable. Keep the terrain in mind when you choose your shoes, you might need to walk on sand, cobblestones, or in the grass. Long sundresses are a great idea for a beach wedding. Men can wear a button down shirt and linen pants or khakis. Don’t forget that your linen clothes might get wrinkled in travel, plan accordingly!
What Colors to Wear (& to Avoid) As a Wedding Guest
You have so many color options to choose from as a wedding guest. We recommend considering the dress code, setting of the wedding, and season to help you narrow down your options.
1) Always Follow the Dress Code First
If the couple requests a certain color palette, stick within that! If they don’t, you have a lot of freedom with color. Stick with darker colors, neutrals, and solids (not patterns) for weddings that are especially formal.
2) Popular Colors to Wear As a Wedding Guest
Some popular colors are shades of green, burgundy, mustard yellow, navy blues, shades of pink, burnt orange, and purples. Think about the season, location, and time of the wedding when you choose a color. Consider wearing darker colors if the wedding is indoors, at night, or in the fall or winter. Consider lighter colors if the wedding is outdoors, during the day, or during the spring or summer.
3) Avoid Wearing the Wedding Colors (When Possible)
If you know what color the bridesmaids are wearing, avoid similar shades. You wouldn’t want to be mistaken as part of the wedding party.
4) Can You Wear Black to a Wedding?
Wearing black to a wedding was considered a faux pas for a long time. Now, many people wear black often and consider it perfect for formalwear. Most likely the bride and groom won’t care if you wear black but if you have any doubt you should go with something else. We also don’t recommend black if the wedding is outdoors in the sun, especially on the beach.
5) Can You Wear Red to a Wedding?
Bright red is fun for date night but it doesn’t belong at a wedding. Your goal as a wedding guest is to be a witness to the couple’s important milestone - not to draw attention to yourself. Stay away from any colors that are too bold and attention-grabbing, like bright red. If you love red, consider other shades in the color family. Burgundy, maroon, wine, and other darker muted shades are perfect for wedding attire.
6) Ultimate No: Can You Wear White to a Wedding?
You should absolutely not wear white to a wedding. The only reason this would ever be acceptable is if the bride specifically requests it in the dress code. Stay away from colors close to white too, like light beige, off-white, creme, ivory, etc. Let the bride have her moment and stand out in her white dress.
What Do Men Wear to Weddings as a Guest?
Men should always aim to wear formal clothing to weddings. Exactly what to wear depends on the dress code and your comfort level. Your options may seem overwhelming if you’re not used to dressing up. Below are a few tips for men picking out their wedding attire.
1) Safe Men’s Wedding Guest Attire
The safest bet for a man to wear to a wedding is a classic suit and tie. Black is the safest option for both of these and you’ll look great as long as your suit is properly tailored. Other traditional suit and tie colors like gray or blue are usually fine as well. For a black tie wedding you’ll need to wear a tuxedo. If it's a more casual wedding, you may be able to get away with dress pants and a nice shirt. For shoes: dress shoes are the safest option.
2) Getting Creative With Your Wedding Outfit
It may seem boring to wear a plain black suit with a plain black tie but we promise it’s a classic for a reason. If the dress code is semi-formal or casual you can get away with some creative options. You can opt to skip the tie or skip the suit jacket. You could also pick a fun colored suit or add an interesting patterned tie to a neutral color suit. Quirky cufflinks or suit lining are other fun ways to customize your look without breaking dress code.
3) Clothes to Avoid Wearing to a Wedding
Can you wear jeans to a wedding? The answer is almost always no. Unless you’re confident it’s meant to be a very casual affair and you spoke to the bride and groom about it, just opt for slacks or dress pants. You’ll also want to avoid sneakers or any other clothing that might make you look like you’re not taking the wedding seriously.
Wedding Guest Attire Top Tips
It may seem overwhelming to understand all of the wedding guest outfit etiquette but it really comes down to a few basic ideas. We collected our top tips for wedding guest attire to help you make your final decision.
1) Dress According to the Weather (& Whether It’s Indoor/Outdoor)
Look into the weather at the wedding’s location at the time of year of the wedding. You should also get some details about the wedding set up. You’ll want to take extra care when deciding on your outfit if the wedding is mostly outdoors. Bringing layers with you is a great way to make sure you have options as you go from indoor to outdoor and from daytime to nighttime. A cardigan, blazer, shawl, or pair of tights are all great ideas to bring just in case.
2) Don’t Wear Patterns or Colors that Are Too Bold
Bold patterns and bright colors are super fun to wear but not ideal for formal wedding guest attire. Stick with muted or dark colors and patterns that aren’t too busy. A more casual wedding, especially a beach wedding, is one exception to this rule. Tropical colors and patterns are expected by the ocean on a warm day.
3) Consult with Other Friends Attending the Wedding About Attire
When in doubt, phone a friend. See what your friends are wearing to the wedding. Brainstorm together and come up with a consensus about the vibe for your attire. Plus, this will help you avoid accidentally wearing the same thing as your friend.
4) It’s Better to Dress Up Than to Dress Down
Rule number one of dressing for a wedding: err on the side of more formal. If you’re deciding between a couple outfit options, go with the nicer one to be on the safe side. You probably don’t have very many occasions to dress up, so take this opportunity to dust off your fancy clothes. One easy way to make sure your dress is formal enough is to buy a bridesmaid dress. After all, it's guaranteed to be wedding appropriate!
5) Take the Time of Day Into Account When Choosing Your Outfit
Daytime weddings call for a different type of attire than nighttime weddings. For one, the weather is different during the day than at night. You want to be more prepared for a chilly temperature if you need to be out at night. For daytime weddings, you may consider wearing something lighter to stay cool. Consider different colors for daytime vs nighttime too. Darker colors make more sense aesthetically at night. Meanwhile, lighter or brighter colors better suit daytime weddings.
How to Choose What to Wear to a Wedding
Follow the information in this guide to make sure you choose the best possible wedding guest outfit. Don’t forget to consider everything from weather to season to time of day. Then put your own twist on the traditional wedding guest attire. As long as you follow the basic tenets of wedding guest etiquette you’ll be free to make it your own.
Still looking for something to wear? Check out some of our favorite satin bridesmaid dresses. They make perfect wedding guest dresses!