A Guide for Wedding Guest Attire!

Getting dressed for a wedding is no easy feat. If you haven’t been to many, it's normal to have questions. If you’ve been to a lot, the formality has likely varied at each, and even if it hasn’t, you probably don’t wear the same exact thing to every party.

Before you begin shopping online for that upcoming wedding that’s hung on your refrigerator door, take a look at this handy guide!

Keep in mind that not everything is covered below. Although, these rules are great starting points. The expected attire at every celebration varies based on:

  • The season

  • Time of day

  • Venue

White Tie

White tie is as formal as it gets, and it isn't very common these days. But, if you're invited to this type of event, dressing the part is imperative. Don’t worry, for us in the Midwest we don’t see this often!

Men: the dress code is strict: a black tailcoat, a white vest, a formal white shirt, and a white bowtie.

Women: opinions vary, but it's safest to stick with a long, formal dress.

Black Tie

Evening wear is most appropriate here.

Men: this typically means a dark tuxedo, a white dress shirt, a coordinating bow tie, a cummerbund, and suspenders (optional). Dress shoes, like oxfords, are suitable.

Women: can wear either a long gown or a dressy cocktail dress, heels are preferable.

Black Tie Optional (Formal)

When in doubt, stick to black tie, but if you'd rather dress a bit more casually, you can.

Men: Can wear a dark suit instead of a tuxedo and a conservative tie instead of a bow tie.

Women: A chic cocktail dress is perfect! Dressy separates are okay, too.

Semiformal (Cocktail)

On the spectrum of wedding attire, semiformal falls somewhere between formal and casual

Men: Suits can be worn with or without ties.

Women: Have a lot of flexibility, cocktail dresses or dressy separates almost always work.


Casual attire really varies, and can depend on things like location and time of day (also think of the family hosting the event)

Men: At its most formal, it entails a sport coat. Button-downs, sweaters, and relaxed pants (chinos, khakis, etc.) are usually fine. At its least formal, men can get away with polos and shorts. In all cases, footwear's less restricted (boat shoes may be worn, for example).

Women: Can wear a "less-dressy dress," think: a sundress. More casual shoes, like sandals or flats, are appropriate here.


In some cases, you may be asked to wear attire that aligns with a certain culture's customs. For example, a couple having a traditional Indian wedding might ask women to don saris. In these instances, do your research, ask for help when needed, and always dress respectfully.


No indication of what you're supposed to wear, anywhere? If you're having trouble getting answers from the couple, you have a few other options. You can look to the wedding's specifics (the weather, where it's being held, etc.) and dress according to those. Or, you can ask other guests what they're planning to wear. If you know a member of the wedding party, even better—their designated outfits might clue you into what's appropriate.