Wedding Guest Attire: Complete Guide On What To Wear

Jennifer Skulski

Published: May 27, 2021

Last Updated: Jun 7, 2021

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Whether you’re planning a wedding of your own or preparing to attend one, you’ll need to consider your wedding attire. What wedding guests wear ultimately depends upon the style or dress code the couple has in mind for their big day. Along with the date, time, and location of the ceremony, wedding invitations will typically explain what type of dress code is expected. 

Wedding dress codes can vary between formal, casual, semi-formal, traditional, or beach formal. If you’re looking to set your wedding dress code or you’re a guest curious about what to wear, this guide has all the information and inspiration you’ll need!

Wedding Dress Codes & What To Wear

Black Tie

Black-tie weddings are one of the most formal wedding attire requirements. This dress code is most prominent for evening affairs and traditionally requires floor-length gowns as well as tuxedos or formal suits complete with a black bow ties or black ties, hence the name.

What Women Should Wear

Black tie wedding attire for women should mainly include full-length evening gowns. The style of this dress can be completely up to you, but the length is the most important aspect. A cocktail dress can also be acceptable for black tie attire, but must be considered formal and should not be much shorter in length than one’s knees.

If dresses are not your style, you can also opt for an elegant suit or jumpsuit to complete your black-tie look. The color of your dress or suit is up to you, as long as you avoid wearing white in order to not distract from the bride’s wedding gown style

Photo of black-tie wedding attire for women

What Men Should Wear

Black-tie wedding attire for men includes wearing a formal suit or possibly even a tuxedo. A tuxedo is typically considered the epitome of formal attire for men. Tuxedos differ from suits in that they feature satin details, are to be worn with a white dress shirt, are typically pleated, and come complete with a black bow tie.

Wearing a tuxedo is reserved for evening events, so if the wedding is earlier in the day, a formal suit should suffice as long as you complete the look with a black tie.

Black Tie Wedding Attire for Men Photo
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White Tie

While a white-tie wedding may be a bit less common, this dress code is actually even more formal than a black tie event. White tie is considered the highest tier of formality for a wedding. It signifies a style of grandeur and elegance. Floor-length gowns are absolutely required, but the main differences are in how men are expected to dress.

What Women Should Wear

White-tie wedding attire for women must include an elegant full-length gown. Cocktail dresses or any shorter styles would be considered too casual for this dress code and should be avoided. 

Jewels, pearls, and other accessories are encouraged for white tie. Furthermore, a pair of long white gloves can often complete your look. For married women, tiaras are also often worn. For the most elegant of dress codes, accessorizing is typically a must.

White tie wedding attire for women photo

What Men Should Wear

White-tie wedding attire for men require a black jacket with a tail that reaches to the back of one’s knees. This look should also include a white piqué shirt, a white piqué vest, and a white piqué bow tie. 

As for the pants, they should match the coat in both fabric and color. Shoes should be black with black shoelaces. Cufflinks are expected, but the addition of a black top hat or short white gloves are considered optional. 

Photo of white tie wedding attire for men

Casual

For a more relaxed dress code, the nearly newlyweds may suggest casual attire. A casual dress code is typically used for daytime or outdoor weddings. While the wedding attire may be relaxed, wearing jeans and sneakers isn’t necessarily an acceptable outfit, either.

What Women Should Wear

Casual wedding attire for women may include wearing a light dress, sundress, romper, or skirt with a matching top. Dress pants with a nice blouse can also be a great casual look. Complete your outfit with a nice pair of sandals, flats, or wedges for a relaxed yet dressed up style. 

Casual wedding attire for women photo

What Men Should Wear

Casual wedding attire for men will typically include a collared shirt with khaki pants or dress pants. You may choose to accessorize with a jacket or tie, but these additions are completely up to you. As for shoes, try wearing dress shoes or boat shoes to complete your casual attire.

Casual Wedding Attire for Men

Semi-Formal Or Cocktail

Weddings with a semi-formal or cocktail dress code offer a nice balance between formal and casual. Instead of downing a full-length gown and renting the fanciest of tuxedos, semi-formal allows for guests to dress well-polished, but in a more relaxed fashion.

What Women Should Wear

Semi-formal wedding attire for women can feature cocktail dresses, jumpsuits, or a respectable dress pants and blouse combination. While this dress code is often thought to be the most ambiguous, it also allows for guests to show off their own personal style. Consider this dress code to be a way of getting dressed up without going all out as one would with the full-length dress and accessories required for black or white tie.

The dress code of semi-formal or cocktail ultimately allows women to wear dresses with shorter hemlines and bolder prints. Opt for sandals, flats, or heels and add any fun accessories to fit your chosen style.

Semi-formal wedding attire for women

What Men Should Wear

Semi-formal wedding attire for men can feature a blazer or suit jacket with dress pants. The color of your shirt, jacket, and tie doesn’t have to strictly be black and white and instead can be a great opportunity to sport some color and let your personality shine. 

For shoes, stick with your classic pair of dress shoes and accessorize your semi-formal look with a nice tie. 

Semi-formal wedding attire for men
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Traditional

If you’re attending a traditional wedding ceremony, it’s important to understand the types of attire that both women and men should wear. Whether it’s a traditional Indian wedding, a traditional Muslim wedding, or another traditional-styled wedding, the corresponding dress codes are backed by years of history and a long-established custom.

What Women Should Wear

Traditional Indian wedding attire for women is all about bright, festive colors. Pastel colors are great for daytime weddings while jewel tones are best in the evening. A few colors to avoid at Indian weddings would be red as that’s typically what the bride wears, and black and white as they are deemed colors of mourning. 

Traditionally, women wear lehengas to Indian weddings, which is a two-piece outfit consisting of a cropped top with a long, high-waisted skirt. A sari is another traditional piece worn by women at Indian weddings. They are long garments, typically made of silk that you wrap around your body.

For a traditional Muslim wedding, women’s attire should be formal and modest. Necklines on dresses should not be overly revealing, dresses should be rather long, and sweaters should be worn alongside your attire to cover your shoulders and arms. While inside the mosque, it is often required that guests take off their shoes. Women may also be asked to wear head coverings.

Traditional Indian wedding attire for women

What Men Should Wear

Traditional Indian wedding attire for men includes wearing a sherwani. A sherwani is a long coat jacket that reaches just below the knees. This traditional jacket is fastened with buttons and typically colored cream, ivory, or gold for weddings. 

The traditional pants to complete this look are called churidars and are loose around the thighs, but gathered around the ankles. While guests are encouraged to partake in this traditional attire, it’s also common to modernize this dress code or allow guests to choose the formal attire they are most comfortable in. 

As for traditional Muslim weddings, men will be encouraged to wear respectful, formal attire. A suit with a tie will typically suffice. Furthermore, as the mosque is a sacred place of worship, guests will be asked to take off their shoes before entering. 

Traditional Muslim wedding attire for men

Beach Formal

The purpose of a beach formal dress code is to maintain a balance between elegance and comfort amid the sandy terrain of a beach wedding. While formal attire is still encouraged, elements of this dress code will be more relaxed on the beach in order to prevent discomfort.

What Women Should Wear

Beach formal wedding attire for women include dresses and jumpsuits. Breathable fabric and light-colored attire will be encouraged to make sitting in the hot sun more bearable. As for your shoes, formal sandals will be your best bet as you’ll want to avoid footwear such as heels that will make walking through the sand a struggle.

Beach formal wedding attire for women

What Men Should Wear

Beach formal wedding attire for men can either be a formal suit or a dress shirt, jacket, tie, and slacks. Again, it is important to consider the heat involved in attending a beach wedding when it comes to deciding on the fabric and color of your suit and shirt. To complete your beach formal attire, it’s best to lace up a pair of nice dress shoes. 

Beach formal wedding attire for men
wedding guest attire infographic

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Start Preparing Your Outfit

After learning about all the various wedding dress codes out there, it’s time to start designing your outfit. We hope that this guide has helped clarify all your wedding attire questions and has helped inspire your upcoming look. 

If you’re ever in doubt of whether or not your chosen wedding attire is too formal or too casual, don’t be afraid to reach out to the couple for clarification. Weddings are a great opportunity to dress up fancy and showcase your style. Have some fun choosing your attire, but don’t forget to adhere to the requested dress code.

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